You have an idea for a home renovation project. Now you need a contractor to do the work. But you've called around, left messages for several contractors and no one is calling you back. What gives?
Chances are, it's not that nobody wants your business. There are a wide variety of reasons your contractor might not be available to talk. Here's a look at why you might be having trouble getting a contractor to call you back and tips for establishing contact.
Reason #1: They're busy. Very busy.
Homeowners are spending record amounts on home remodeling, and many contractors are having a hard time finding enough skilled labor to keep up with demand.
“I would say that half of the time, it is not that contractors are ignoring your calls, it is simply that they are busy and they forget," says Teris Pantazes, founder of Settle Rite, a Baltimore, MD home improvement contractor focused on inspection repairs for homeowners. “During the day, time is money. When you call, we're working on a roof or in a basement and your call is sent to voicemail because we are focused on the task at hand."
Pantazes says he often listens to his messages at the end of the day when it's too late to call back and then the call slips his mind.
What you can do: Try following up your call with a text or email, that way your contractor can respond after hours. “I respond to texts and emails all the time during off hours – at the end of the evening or even in the early mornings when I'm at the hardware store and waiting for my trucks to load," Pantazes says.
Reason #2: You don't have a budget.
Many homeowners find it difficult to start budgeting for a home remodel because the cost of completing a project can vary widely depending on the size of the job and materials selected. You may assume the first step in budgeting for your renovation is to call a contractor for a free quote. But if that's what you're after, you might have a hard time getting a callback.
“One of the hardest parts of our business is providing free estimates because they aren't actually free for the contractor," says Jeff Neal, a Project Manager for PennCoat, Inc. a painting contractor headquartered in Landisville, PA. “It can take hours to measure out a house, so I need to be strategic with my time and make sure I have a high probability of selling the job. If the customer doesn't have money and is just kicking tires, then I have no incentive to engage in further discussions."
What you can do: Get a rough estimate of costs by talking to friends and family members who've done similar remodels or researching online (Kukun has a great project estimator) Then evaluate your financing options or set aside enough cash to cover your renovation before you start making calls.
Reason #3: You aren't clear about what you want.
On any home renovation project, there are a lot of decisions to make. You need to decide on the scope of your project, the look and style you want to achieve, colors and finishes, and possibly fixtures and appliances.
If you aren't clear on what you want, your contractor has to do extra hand-holding through all of those decisions. Many simply decide that's not something they have time for.
What you can do: Get specific about the work you want done. Zach Hendrix, co-founder of GreenPal, a platform for connecting homeowners to lawn services, recommends getting your contractor's email address and send them pictures of the area you want to renovate and what you want your finished project to look like.
“Do as much sketching up and mock-ups of the project as you can and research the materials you're going to need for your project," Hendrix says. “Compile all of this into a clean request for proposal and email that to a few contractors. This will save the contractor tons of time in preparing a proposal and figuring out if your job is worth the time or not."
When you call a contractor and don't hear back right away, don't take it personally. Most good contractors have more work than they know what to do with and just don't have enough time to return phone calls as fast as they'd like. If they have great reviews and do good work, have patience and use some of the tips above to get to the top of their call-back list.