Remodeling is an abstract process. Traditionally, we take a set of plans and we assist homeowners with creating a space they will enjoy and appreciate for years to come.
There is fear and uncertainty that goes along with this process. Homeowners can see a set of plans, but they can’t see the finished product. Communication can be tricky because, as human beings, we don’t always remember everything that is said in this changing environment. A key point: Contractors don’t just sell a project—we also sell an experience, and it is our job to manage that homeowner experience.
In the design and planning for most projects, you will be involved in a series of meetings with your clients. To make sure communication is clear, I recommend the “homeowner notebook.” This notebook guides communication and maximizes involvement by providing homeowners with documentation for each step in the remodeling experience. The homeowner will have a written record of every decision concerning the project, laid out in chronological order.
Provide your clients with a nice three-ring binder with dividers that create five specific sections for various documents. You may add additional sections for their convenience, but start with the following:
Section 1: A signed copy of the construction contract. This section should contain every part of your contract with the homeowner including proposal, general conditions, specifications and construction schedule.
Section 2: Progress meeting summaries. Set a schedule for weekly progress meetings and, once the project begins, be sure to take notes at every progress meeting and provide the homeowner with a copy.
Section 3: Change orders. Because change orders are so important and potentially controversial, they should be documented separately in their own section. Make sure everything is dated and there is consensus on what has been ordered. Make sure you and your clients have identical copies of change orders, detailing what work is being done and what it will cost.
Section 4: Home construction and product warranties. Make sure you provide your clients with all warranties applicable to their project. Review them all with your client before the project is finished.
Section 5: Miscellaneous documents and pictures. Include a section for information that doesn’t fall into the other sections. A good thing to add here are digital pictures you have taken during the course of the project. This provides your clients with a nice visual diary of their project on a weekly basis.
This notebook will document communication, and the weekly progress meetings will allow you and your clients to deal with potential issues before they become a source of disagreement. Done properly, weekly meeting notes are a great tool to document progress and assign responsibility. Develop the practice of providing homeowners with short notes summarizing the events of every meeting, and any discrepancy or omission can be dealt with immediately. As a result, upset clients will virtually disappear from your business.
One final point, when the job is all finished and everybody has gone, this notebook will become a construction diary that your clients can revisit. Every time your clients see this notebook, they will think of you. If placed in a decorative leather notebook, this becomes a memento of a well-executed experience and a great company-marketing tool!
David Lupberger is author of the book, "Managing the Emotional Homeowner." To receive your free copy, contact David at David@RemodelForce.com.
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