3 Compelling Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Triple Bid on Construction Projects

A quick Google search on the best-practices for getting contractor bids will return numerous results on why consumers should “triple bid.” The argument is that the consumer will be able to find the best contractor at the best price, leveraging bids to their advantage.

But, while this has been the standard of practice for decades, it has become an outdated model that really doesn’t serve the best interest of consumers —or contractors. There are a growing number of reasons why consumers shouldn’t triple bid on construction projects. Below, we’ll look at just a few reasons why we believe everyone is better off avoiding it.

#1. Service Disadvantage

The entire triple bid process revolves around finding the cheapest option. But, in the construction world, the lowest bid does not always mean the highest quality service, materials, or workmanship. The consumer who is simply looking for the best financial deal may find that the contractor has to skimp in certain areas to be able to fulfill the terms of the bid.

If you’re doing a minor home maintenance item like pressure washing your driveway —where not too much can go wrong— then it might make sense to find the cheapest option. But on a home renovation or remodel where there are many moving parts, focusing on price alone could mean that your expectations for service, quality, or timing are sacrificed. Which leads to the second point …

#2. Takes Focus Off Relationships

When consumers triple bid, it takes the focus off of the relationship between the contractor and the homeowner and puts it on the price. Is this really the way to start a relationship with someone who will be in your home for weeks or months helping you make improvements to your biggest investment?

Having price be the driver can send the wrong message when you’re making such a big investment in your home. Our argument is that more weight should be placed on the relationship between contractor and homeowner —on communication, respect, trust and workmanship.

For all the same reasons that you wouldn’t want the cheapest surgeon operating on your body, you shouldn’t want a contractor who offered the lowest bid to work on your home. You should set out to find a contractor that you feel you can openly communicate with, who understands your vision for the project, whose reputation is impeccable, and who can help you execute with ease. You may not find this if you’re focused predominantly on price, which is the message you’re sending to the contractor when you solicit multiple bids.

#3. It Really Costs More

It may seem counterintuitive, but triple bidding your project actually ends up costing more in the long run. Simply put, it’s expensive and time consuming for contractors to create a bid. There are materials to source, labor costs to confirm with third parties, dumpsters and trash pickup to estimate, plumbing and electric bids to outsource, and more. Creating a pricing matrix for all of these moving parts can take 40-80 hours depending on the project —and two-thirds of the contractors who create the bid aren’t going to get the business.

The time to create the bid is a sunk cost for contractors. So when they incorporate the costs of doing this for each project, even though they’ll only win a third of them, they have to charge more in other areas to maintain a livable profit margin. As a whole, the industry is working these costs into their overall cost structures, which includes their time, the bidding software, and more.

What’s the Alternative …

If the triple bid process is not effective in finding a contractor based on service, quality and cost —what’s the alternative? We would argue that the best method for selecting a contractor is to call, meet and interview your prospects. There’s nothing wrong with asking friends and family for recommendations and for doing your due diligence online, but once you’ve narrowed it down to a few prospects … meet them!

In your face-to-face meeting you’ll be able to gauge their ability to communicate effectively with you, as well as their ability to “see” your vision. Don’t be afraid to trust your gut instincts regarding their professionalism. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Most quality contractors are able to value engineer the budget to work with your needs.

Remember, it doesn’t cost anything for you to do your homework!

 

 

Five Reasons Your Website Needs a Renovation

As a custom home builder or remodeler, you know that the internet can be a great marketing tool for your company. The cornerstone of your internet marketing program is your website. However, if your website is something that was created a couple of years (or in some cases over a decade) ago, it may be time to think about a website renovation.
We’ve gathered some of the more common signs that a site may be due for a revamp. Do any of these sound familiar?

1.) Your Content is Outdated

Don’t just look at your site, read it. Is the content interesting, engaging and designed for both readers and the search engine? Take this opportunity to re-do your existing content to make it more engaging for readers, but also make it keyword-rich, so it will rank well on the search engines. Also, remember that NEW content is important too, so perhaps scheduling a regular blog post or other content is in order.

2.) Your Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly

The biggest game changer in the internet world over the past few years has been in the surge of mobile browsing. What does your site look like from a tablet or smartphone? If it is hard to read or navigate, your site isn’t mobile-friendly, and you are likely chasing away customers.

3.) You Rank Poorly on Search Engines

When you search for topics related to your company on the search engines, how do you stack up? If your competition is coming up for common keyword searches, and you are not, something is wrong. Making your site rank well for search engines takes work and time, but it will pay off when you see how many new customers you can reach.

4.) Your Site Doesn’t Encourage Action

So, what do visitors do when they visit your site? If they are just reading, and not acting, there may be a problem. Make changes to your site to encourage action. Add links or even buttons that help visitors to navigate your site and know what they should do next. Adding action elements will help you turn visitors into leads—or even conversions.

5.) You Aren’t Taking Advantage  of It

If you aren’t capturing information from your customers through your website, you are missing the chance to reach more leads and make more action. Ask for an email, get visitors to connect on social media or even consider offering a giveaway as a “lead magnet.” No matter how you choose to do it, take advantage of the opportunity for lead generation your website offers.
As you can see, the signs of an outdated website are not always straightforward. Keep an eye on your site and be proactive about making updates. A modern site is an appealing site—and one more likely to rank well on Google, Bing and other search sites. Making changes to modernize and streamline your site will keep it at the top of the search engine results and will help you get ahead of the competition.

Built to last: How keeping up the builder–buyer relationship can lead to future business

(This article originally posted on Construction Dive.)

Builders know that investing in a relationship with a client today can lead to more business down the line.

“You always want your company’s name to be viewed well in the public eye,” said Nicole Murray, chief operating officer of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “Most builders do feel a very strong sense of what they do and how it affects people and how it contributes to the American Dream.”

As a result, most stay in touch with homebuyers through the warranty period to help tie up loose ends, resolve major issues and provide a basic roadmap for taking care of what could be the largest purchase they’ll ever make. But that relationship is typically short-lived — at least relative to the life of the home and how long owners typically stay there.

Today, however, more builders are exploring ways to continue that relationship, and they are relying on a mix of tried-and-tested and high-tech methods to get there.

New tech for relationship management

Builders have long used personalized emails and phone calls as well as general print and digital direct-marketing campaigns to keep in touch with clients and reach new ones. Glasshouse, a new, consumer-focused CRM, wants to change that.

The cloud-based software platform launched last fall to help owners maintain contact with builders, and vice-versa. As the products and systems that make up homes today become increasingly complex — such as through the inclusion of LED lighting and internet-connected controls — owners often aren’t as able to troubleshoot basic fixes as they used to be, Glasshouse founder and CEO Shannon Bloemker said.

“Nobody knows your house better than your builder, so what better person to help you manage it?” she said.

Glasshouse partners with general contractors, who use the software to manage project work. While it is meant to be the single point-of-contact for their clients, the software can be used to create a paperless homeowner’s manual, deliver custom email newsletters and automate routine client visits. It also provides mobile work order administration and online payment processing, and houses a product database that gives builders information about a home’s appliances and materials.

Glasshouse is designed for use managing client relationships
Credit: Glasshouse

Homeowners, in turn, can purchase a subscription to the software and access their account through a desktop computer or smartphone. They can also use the service to reach out to the builder by submitting a task request or messaging them directly.

“I wanted to have a way of being able to keep track of the work that has been done on your house,” Bloemker said. “It’s better to have this cloud-based system with all this information than to have a shoebox full of receipts and owner’s manuals.”

Glasshouse software can also act as a useful reference tool when the owner sells the home or does a major renovation. The builder can store documents such as appliance warranties, building material information and even the deed to the home in the system, making the house’s specifications and maintenance history readily accessible and protected from physical damage.

Jed Daoust, founder and CEO of Oakland, CA–based Daoust Design and Construction, uses Glasshouse to check in on clients quarterly and to schedule routine maintenance jobs. He said such technology can provide “risk-relief” for the homeowner while offering his team the opportunity to pitch the client on a larger project down the road.

Daoust said he measures the value of any client outreach in the number of referrals it brings in.

“It’s about making sure the customers are so happy that they talk about the service,” he said. “We don’t need to promise to be all things to all people, and we’re not saying we’ll take care of literally everything. We’re just going to help make sure things aren’t broken.”

Where technology fits

Glasshouse currently operates on case-by-case basis, with some builders on a tiered pricing program and other, typically larger, firms paying a monthly fee. For new builders, Bloemker said, the cost is roughly 2% to 5% of the firm’s gross receipts from business generated through the system — meaning if the builder isn’t making money, Glasshouse isn’t either.

Still, not every builder can afford to use subscription-based software and others are content to stick to existing digital methods, like social media and email, or traditional pen-and-paper.

Glasshouse can be used on a mobile device
Credit: Glasshouse

For Daoust, social media also plays a role in extending the builder-owner relationship beyond the length of the contract, from befriending clients on Facebook to placing advertisements on popular social networking websites.

Allison King, division vice president of Cary, NC–based Garman Homes, said her firm looks to maintain the builder–​buyer relationship by reaching out at the 45-day and 11-month marks to make sure products and systems are working properly and to cover issues that have come up in the interim.

To ensure builders and homeowners are on the same page when it comes to their home’s upkeep, Garman gives buyers a printed owner’s manual at closing. The manual acts as a kind of roadmap for the buyer, providing them with a maintenance schedule, detailed care information, a warranty request form and an infographic about the sales, construction and warranty process, which also lives on the company’s website.

Garman Homes uses an infographic to help clients understand the closing and post-close processes
Credit: Garman Homes

Most of Garman’s work is covered up to one year, with a 10-year structural warranty. Still, the company encourages owners to contact them with questions regardless of the timeframe.

“We have not only inspected homes over eight years old, but we have completed repairs as a courtesy past our one-year mark on many occasions,” King said. “It’s about the relationship and the issue that is being addressed.”

While Garman doesn’t have a formal process for checking in with owners, the company’s warranty manager currently uses software developed in-house to schedule monthly check-ins with existing owners. King said the company is setting up a CRM that will allow their builders to check in with homeowners after the sale, either as needed or at set intervals. As the company grows, she added, it could consider software that adds a layer of automation to the builder–buyer relationship.


“The client doesn’t want to feel like an item on a punch list.”

Shannon Bloemker
Founder and CEO, Glasshouse

She attributes the firm’s successes with repeat sales and referrals so far to creating strong client relationships and maintaining them through an active presence on Facebook and Instagram, and through personal responses for email and phone communication.

“We look at each buyer as a lifelong relationship,” King said. “Hopefully, we can grow or downsize with them as their life changes and their home needs adapt.”

While there’s no precise set of best practices when it comes to checking in on clients after the home is sold, being proactive about staying in touch is critical, Bloemker said. Periodic email check-ins and mini-home inspections to scout for major structural problems or leaks, for example, can be of huge value to a client.

“Even if [the client] didn’t do the service-plan element, there are things to keep in touch with to make the client feel they weren’t just abandoned after the builder got that last paycheck,” she said. “The client doesn’t want to feel like an item on a punch list.”

 

This article was written by Mary Tyler March. Follow her on Twitter.

[INFOGRAPHIC] What Is Sustainable Building?

Green construction involves the design, construction and/or operation of buildings in ways that reduce any harmful impact on the environment and/or on human health. Some of these include:

  • Reducing the carbon footprint of manufacture.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of materials transportation.
  • Reducing habitat loss.
  • Preserving and/or improving air and water quality.
  • Reducing materials waste.
  • Minimizing toxic emissions.
  • Increasing energy efficiency in building operations.

Sustainable building also can be economically beneficial. Using green materials and practices often benefits local economies, and the focus on energy efficiency frequently results in significant savings for property owners. The following infographic highlights 10 green building materials to consider for your next green building project.

green-building-materials

This infographic is courtesy of Accurate Perforating Company.

4 Lessons Learned from Tackling a Green Building Project

Although green building is a trending topic in the construction industry, it hasn’t really evolved from an industry niche to a widely-accepted best practice. Education —both on the industry and consumer side— continues to bring green building into the light, yet there is still a wealth of mystery around the subject.

Shannon Bloemker, Founder of Glasshouse, recently sat down with Builder and Developer Magazine to chat about her experience transforming her mid-century modern Piedmont, California home into a LEED Platinum certified green home (the first in Piedmont and only the third in the San Francisco’s East Bay).

Whether you’re a consumer thinking about tackling a green building project or a contractor or builder who wants to segway into green building, here are four lessons that she learned from tackling that project.

1.) Get Your Squad Together

Tackling a green building project is no small feat. There is the environmental impact to consider, but also the cost, user experience, maintenance, design and more —and you’ll be hard pressed to find an expert that specializes in each of these areas. To make any green building project come to life, be sure to enlist the support and collaborative effort of a team of experts.  

From the onset —even during the research and planning stages— start building a team. Choices that are made for a certain design aesthetic could create high installation costs, for example, or a decision on building materials could impact design. When the homeowner, architect, builder, and subs are working toward the same end goal (your awesome home!), the result is a terrific design with a reasonable scope at a cost that everyone understands.  

2.) Brush Up On City Codes

Code restrictions, homeowners association CC&Rs and LEED certification requirements (among others) will have a huge impact on your green building project. During Shannon’s project, she found that the city had an array of ordinances (viewsheds, lot coverage, garage requirements, and design restrictions) that impacted the project. Her team needed to develop plans to make the vast majority of changes fit within the home’s existing footprint to maximize the existing space, including converting the garage and carport areas into living space.

As you begin your green building project, make sure to brush up on any codes, ordinances and restrictions that might impact the project. It might not be easy to design with these items in mind, but the alternative can be unforgiving.

3.) Be Patient When Sourcing Materials

The difficult and time consuming process of sourcing green materials can be a surprise for those tackling green building projects. In her interview with Builder and Developer Magazine, Shannon reflected on the material-sourcing process.

“The LEED Certification team I worked with was excellent at making sure materials used in the project contained no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and wouldn’t off-gas any detrimental materials into the home’s interior. This is more challenging than it sounds considering “green materials” extend into multitudinous categories from the glue used to adhere various surfaces to types of plywood, paint, carpet, shelving —everything you can think of inside a home’s interior.”

The lesson here is to remember to be patient, to think outside the box and to work with a team that shares your vision so you can effectively source quality green materials that bring the project to life.

4.) Don’t Forget the Interior

One of Shannon’s professors used to say a building is only green until it’s occupied. Meaning, what you bring into the building and the behavior of the inhabitants (cooking, showering, etc.) can change a healthy building into a sick one.

As you begin any green building project, don’t forget the interior components. From furniture and bedding, to plants and interior design features —sourcing eco-friendly materials in these areas will ensure that your home is not only built with sustainable principles in mind, but is also healthy to live in.

12

Making Green Building Work For You

If there’s one key takeaway to learn from Shannon’s experience, it’s perseverance. Because green building is still a relatively new concept, it’s takes perseverance and persistence to get to the finish line. Having a team on your side, understanding the parameters of what’s possible, sourcing materials effectively and looking at the project holistically can help you get there.
Have you recently tackled a green building project? We’d love to hear from you! Whether you’re a builder or homeowner, share your green building experience with us on Facebook. Together we can help bring green building further into the mainstream.

Money in the Gutter

Gutters are often an afterthought for homeowners on roofing or siding projects

While scrolling through his company’s Yelp reviews a few years back, a San Francisco roofer came across a one-star entry bristling with irritation and complaint. The homeowner claimed to have water entering the house from a roof that the company had installed less than five years prior. The roofing company owner tracked down the customer and offered to come out to the house to inspect. Sure enough, water entered every time it rained. The reason? Gutters and downspouts, never cleaned, were plugged full of leaves and debris. “I told him it was a maintenance issue,” the company owner says. The review was upgraded to five stars.

Don’t Walk Away

Maintenance is a must when it comes to gutters, which is something some homeowners only discover when water is dripping from their drywall ceiling. Beyond that, homes with failing roofs often have gutter issues as well. No surprise there. Metal gutters have about the same lifespan as a shingle roof. They just fail in different ways.

Even gutters that are regularly cleaned of plant matter and debris will rust, leak, sag, or pull away to the point where they can’t do what they’re designed to do, which is shed water and direct it away from the house. Gutter issues are easier to spot than problems with a roof, contractors point out. “You don’t really know the exact roofing issues until you get up at eye level,” says Ron Hall, sales manager at Russell Roofing, in Oreland, Pa. With gutters, you can see installation errors from the ground, he says, and they often have to do with skimping on hangers, which causes sag. And when they’re a problem, they’re a problem that even a brand new roof isn’t going to make go away. Which is why, at both Russell Roofing and All County Exteriors, in Lakewood, N.J., roofing salespeople routinely include an estimate for gutter replacement in re-roofing proposals. “We’ve elected to make gutters part of our mix,” says All County’s sales manager Russ Dorrycott. The company has its own gutter crews and its own machine for forming seamless gutters on site (see a gutter machine in action here).

When it comes to gutters, roofing companies have choices. Since gutter replacement may add as much as 30 percent to the cost of the total job, one option is to simply ignore gutter problems. Another is to address gutter issues, recommend replacement, and include the cost as a separate number. Hall notes that many customers, seeing what they’d pay to replace gutters and downspouts and being aware that that cost will be more later and if done separately, quickly change their minds. Kelly Roofing, in Naples, Fla., similarly includes gutter replacement in its scope of work and generates enough gutter replacement to sustain its own installation crews. “I don’t want to sell something to someone who doesn’t need it,” president Ken Kelly says, “but if I go to the house and see that the foundation is eroding and they need gutters on one side, why should I walk away from solving their problem?”

Photo: Flickr user Eric Schmuttenmaer (CC by-SA 2.0)

In-House Crews

New gutters can add anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to the cost of a roofing job, depending on the size of the house and complexity of the roof, and it takes, says Tania Goodman, president of Majestic Exteriors, in New Jersey, three or four hours to form and install gutters, a process she insists is as necessary for her company’s re-siding jobs as it is for a re-roof. Majestic also uses its own gutter crews, operating a gutter-forming machine the company bought five years ago for $11,000.

Having your own gutter crews takes a certain volume of work for roofing and siding companies. It also takes some management assertiveness. For instance, Kelly Roofing partnered with its gutter supplier to send some of its roofing installers to South Carolina for gutter installation training. Bringing gutter work in-house was a commitment, and Kelly says there is a basic principle underlying any such decision. “I will not take on a product line if I can’t pay off the investment in two years,” Ken Kelly says. Kelly Roofing paid off its investment in the gutter machine in less than a year. But he has another reason for making gutters part of a job whenever called for. “It costs a certain amount to acquire a client,” Kelly notes. And when you acquire a roofing client who also needs new gutters, you’re not paying that cost.

Subs Who Specialize

Many roofing companies prefer to sub out gutters to contractors specializing in just that, which is fine with specialty gutter companies. “Here’s what we tell roofing companies,” says Tim Brown, president of Rain Gutter Specialties & Exteriors, in Salt Lake City, which specializes in gutters. “Here is what we’d charge the customer. You charge the same thing and we will give you a discounted rate. So they don’t have to do anything and they still make 20 or 30 percent.”

Rain Gutter Specialties doesn’t do roofing, so that if its estimator arrives at the house on a gutter appointment and determines the roof is shot, standard practice is to recommend replacing the roof first. “We probably hand 50-plus leads a year to roofing contractors,” Brown says. That’s because if the roof is compromised, new gutters won’t solve the problem, though homeowners don’t actually know that. “Seventy to 80 percent of our callbacks have nothing to do with the work we did,” Brown says. “They’re problems we didn’t know about. The homeowner will call and say: ‘There’s water dripping behind the gutter. It never did this before.’” At which point, the company dispatches a service tech to perform a water test to trace the leak, which almost always is found to originate in the roof, often from faulty flashing.

Referral Relationship

Gutter specialty companies typically split their energies between subcontracted installations for roofers and builders and gutter jobs they sell to individual homeowners. But experience teaches them to choose clients wisely. “We still work for roofing companies,” says Ryan Parsons, of The Brothers That Just Do Gutters, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., “but only the ones whose values align with ours—the ones that are organized, show up on time, return calls, and care about the client experience.”

Still, The Brothers far prefer working for homeowners rather than roofers. Payment is one reason. Parsons estimates that “one in 300” homeowners might stiff The Brothers at the end of a job; something that would happen far more frequently with roofers. So although The Brothers do subcontracting as well as get referrals, it’s the referrals that are most prized, since the company can sell and install the job on its own terms. Since The Brothers—which also franchises its operation—mounts its own formidable marketing effort, it’s in anywhere from 75 to 100 homes per week, and is in a position to recommend roofing contractors to homeowners who obviously need more than just new gutters.

Dedicated Subs

A roof keeps rain from entering the house. Gutters carry the rain off. But not every roofing company wants, needs, or can afford to be in the gutter business. “We look at the holding cost of the machinery,” says Mark Watson, owner of Exterior Medics, a $10 million roofing company in Northern Virginia. “There’s the cost of the machine, the coils you have to stock, the maintenance, and, frankly, if we manage and maintain a good, healthy relationship with a subcontractor, then there’s no need to do it internally.”

Exterior Medics salespeople look at both roofs and gutters, since often enough even if gutters aren’t failing they may have other problems. For instance, being undersized (4-inch gutters on a big roof), or not properly pitched (say a vertical 1/2 inch for every 10 feet of horizontal gutter). Gutters—today usually 5-inch or 6-inch—may all look alike, but estimating the right size and the corresponding number of downspouts comes from calculating square footage and roof pitch, that is, how much water running how fast. “You want to see how much of a run you have, what’s the distribution, and what are the allocation of downspouts,” Watson says.

Often homeowners looking for a new roof have never even thought about gutters, which is why All County Exteriors reps have a five-minute, 10-slide presentation for the iPad that reviews common problems and solutions for gutters. “We’re there to discover the issues,” Dorrycott says. “That includes gutter issues. And when our estimators talk about roofing options, we will also talk about gutter options.”

About the Author

Philadelphia-based writer Jim Cory is a senior contributing editor to Professional Remodeler who specializes in covering the remodeling and home improvement industry. Reach him at coryjim@earthlink.net(link sends e-mail).

(This article originally posted on Professional Remodeler


If you’d like to learn more about roofing and gutter maintenance, check out these posts:

5 Home Improvement Trends for 2017

Spring is in the air and that means DIY and home improvement projects are on the mind. Whether you’re a homeowner, builder or contractor, it’s always fun (and important) to keep up with the latest trends in home improvement. As a homeowner, this will help you get cued-in to what improvements will keep your home up-to-date and desirable, and for contractors and builders, it will enable you to stay in-tune with the desires of your clients.

We’ve put together the top 5 home improvement trends for 2017 to help you stay in-the-loop. Which trends are you most excited about?

1. Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle

It might not sound like a home improvement trend, but it is. A recent Houzz study found that ⅓ of homeowners report leading a healthier lifestyle after a kitchen renovation. And, the push for a healthier lifestyle is creating an entirely new market in the home improvement and products industry.

Indoor gardening, for example, was quite popular at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Tower Garden, edn, and others have been growing in popularity —and homeowners are looking for new ways to incorporate indoor gardening in their homes. This home improvement trend doesn’t stop here. We’re also seeing things like food recyclers and compactors being added to high-end kitchens.

2. Incorporating Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology has come a long way over the last few years. Companies like Ring have broadened their product offerings, as homeowners continue to show interest in ways to protect and automate their homes. Ring not only offers video doorbells, they’ve added the world’s only motion-activated HD security camera with built-in flood lights, a siren alarm and two-way talk.

Some smart technology is worth the investment, but do your research to make sure the products live up to their promises. For example,  all of GE Appliances’ WiFi-ready models feature a digital assistant called Geneva that communicates with Amazon’s Alexa, making hands free communication a breeze. However when we tested WallyHome, the home sensing solution failed to detect a leak even though the sensor was sitting in pool of water.

If you’re taking on a home renovation, it’s a smart idea to include smart technology!

3. Smaller, But Fancier

According to a recent Consumer Reports article and US Census Bureau data, for the first time since 2009, the average size of new homes built in 2016 went down from the prior year, to 2,634 square feet. But, with all the smart home technology they’re getting more modern.

Because they’re not splurging on McMansions, homeowners are able to splurge in other areas like kitchen appliances, high-end design finishes and other upgrades that may have previously been considered unnecessary.

4. Keeping Easy Cleaning in Mind

Homeowners are also keeping the ease of cleaning in mind when remodeling or upgrading their homes. From surfaces like tile and granite that are relatively easy to keep in good condition to high-tech appliances like this self-cleaning toilet (yes, you read that right), we’re looking for upgrades that will help make life a bit easier.

Touchless faucets and smudge-free stainless steel appliances are other examples of this trend coming to life.  

5. Color, Color Everywhere

Another easy-to-do yet popular home improvement trend for 2017 is color. We’re seeing everything from jewel-toned kitchens and bathrooms to color used as an accent to increase the depth and visual appeal of big, open spaces.

Painting is perhaps the easiest way to DIY your home improvement, and can easily be modified as trends change.

Making Home Improvements That Count

These home improvement trends offer insight into the many ways homeowners are advancing their living spaces this year. As a homeowner or construction professional, achieving any of these trends will bring your home into the 21st century —keeping it up-to-date and appealing should you decide to sell.

Whether you’re aching for the latest smart home gadgets or are planning a big remodel, 2017 is the year to modernize and live better. Spring is a great time to get your home life on track, and, if you’re still a bit behind the times, consult the smart home gift guide to see what you’ve been missing.

3 Accounting Tips for Contractors

Construction accounting differs greatly from general accounting. Your projects involve a lot of moving parts. As such, accounting for the costs and expenses associated with projects that may go through change-order after change-order, stretching over several months or even years, takes special skills. Whether you’re a general contractor or specialize in a certain area of construction, these accounting tips will help you gain a clear understanding of your business finances.

1. Choosing the Best Projects

The lure of the mighty dollar can be hard to resist. You are thinking about submitting a bid for the biggest project you’ve ever tackled for the most money you’ve ever made. Before you say yes, are you sure this is the best project for you?

Weighing the Costs

Can you cover the costs of the proposed project? What about the risk factors associated with the project? Will you need to rent equipment, hire more workers, and front more expenses? Before you choose a project, create a simple profit-loss spreadsheet and calculate the additional costs and risks associated —especially with bigger projects— to make sure you’ll come out ahead.

2. Making More Effective Quotes

If you take them time to calculate the feasibility of taking on a project, you will be able to provide better, more effective quotes. Here are several cost comparison methods contractors use to provide effective quotes.

Methods of Cost Comparison

Cost Comparison: The cost of materials, permitting, licensing, and general expenditures is going to vary from job to job. When calculating costs to include in a quote, be sure to include cost comparisons with previous or similar jobs for an accurate picture of the costs.

Work Comparison: How long and how many workers it will take to complete the job should factor into your quotes to make them more effective. Consider if hiring more people will change those numbers at all and be as transparent as possible.

Cost Accrual: You may eat the costs up front and bill the customer on the backend for additional labor and materials instead of charging those up front; a good method for winning bids. You will still be reimbursed but you must be sure to accrue your costs so that you don’t shortchange yourself at the close of the project.

Methods of Calculating Billing Milestones

Completion Percentage: Your method of billing should also be spelled out in your quotes to make them more effective. One method is to set up milestones where you are paid a percentage of the total for a certain percentage of work that has been completed to-date. You can set these up for weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly milestone payments.

Contract Completion: Another, more risky method, is to do all of the work, eat all of the expense, and then bill your client at the completion of the contract. If you choose this method, it’s wise to insist on a deposit so that you aren’t completely shafted after the work is completed.

Cash Payment: It’s not exactly legal but some contractors pay their workers under the table in cash. This is a shady way to run your contracting business so just avoid it. On the other hand, if you are taking on small projects that allow your customers to pay a couple hundred bucks in cash for their convenience, that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure to give and keep receipts and to record it as income on your balance sheet.

3. Utilizing the Best Resources

Few contractors have the expertise to handle their own accounting from beginning to end and why should you? Your job is to get the job done, so one way to make sure that your contracting business is doing it the right way is to do like most; hire a CPA and tax consultant.

From closing your accounting periods to filing your taxes with the IRS, having an accounting professional’s help with your books is a no-brainer for most contractors. Whether you hire a CPA on your payroll or you contract their services throughout the year, it’s just smart business to utilize the best resources available to you.

Accounting for General Home Services Contractors

General home service contractors often get paid on the fly, carry around wads of expense receipts, and hire people on a moment’s notice. Plumbers, electricians, roofers, HVAC installers, all have to take special care to track and record expenses for proper accounting.

Recording Expenses Properly

Simply spending money does not an expense create. Expenses have to be used specifically toward a paid job. That includes any money you spend on travel, licensing, hiring, materials, etc. Those are project expenses which must be kept separate from G&A (General and Administrative) expenses which include:

  •      Marketing Costs
  •      Health Insurance
  •      Payroll Expenses
  •      Business Licenses
  •      Certifications
  •      Insurance

There are instances where general expenses can be deducted for instance, expenses for your work vehicle. The IRS also allows businesses to deduct 50% from meals and entertainment expenses with proper documentation.

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4 Ways to Gain and Retain Business from High-End Clients

For contractors and builders, gaining (and retaining) high-end clients can make or break your business. However, there are specific ways you can appeal to high-end clients to ensure that you’re not only staying in contact after the job is completed —but that you’re also fostering a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

Whether you’re just starting out or already have a bank of high-end business, here are four important ways that you can gain and retain business from high-end clients:

#1. Remember the First (and Ongoing) Impression

We’ve all heard that first impressions are vital in business —and the contracting and building fields are no exception. But, when you’re appealing to high-end clientele, there’s more to it than just a friendly handshake.

Make sure that you and your team sport professional attire, are well groomed and represent your brand —always. A well-branded team will showcase the professionalism and credibility that high-end clients look for.

The same is true about punctuality. If you are running late from another project, don’t wait until the appointment time to notify your next client. Give them a heads up as soon as you are aware that your schedule has changed and offer to reschedule if your tardiness will become an inconvenience. Being punctual and respectful of the client’s personal time throughout the project will speak volumes about your dedication to the client and their business.

#2. Keep Constant Communication

By informing the client every step of the way, you’ll demonstrate how tuned-in you are to clients’ needs and will keep the communication lines open. From the initial consultation and bid to after-the-sale follow-up, don’t give your high-end clients the opportunity to wonder what’s going on. A client that feels they can openly communicate with their contractor anytime is a happy client —and those are the ones who bring repeat and referral business.

#3. Pay Attention to the Details

By maintaining a well designed and organized worksite from the start, your attention to detail will further illustrate your expertise. Your high profile clients expect you to protect the worksite from damage, respect their property and clean up after yourself when it’s time to go.

Spend extra time at the start of each day preparing the worksite with protective sheeting and tarps over flooring and sensitive surfaces. If the jobsite requires a porta-potty, make sure to cover the exterior with a decorative lattice so as not to offend the homeowner or their neighbors. And place trash receptacles or dumpsters in discreet locations.

Make sure your team is on top of the physical worksite throughout the build. Your top-notch clients expect your team to be professional and polite, so make sure everyone wears protective clothing (i.e. shoe covers), keeps tools and equipment away from delicate finishes, and behaves professionally at all times.

#4. Give Service After the Sale

While going your separate ways after completing a job used to be the nature of the business, luxury homeowners expect a higher level of service from their contractors.

Start by sending out monthly e-newsletters with maintenance tips, smart home & conservation news, and upgrade ideas, you’ll illustrate how deeply you care about their home —even after a job is completed. Given that you’ve already worked hard to earn their respect, lock in future business and referrals by staying in touch.

Word of mouth is the key to success when it comes to high-end clients, so it pays to consider ways to cultivate their business. Start earning additional clients and securing former ones by partnering with Glasshouse. Our modern home care platform and done-for-you newsletters enable you to continue to serve these valued clients and grow your business. Connect with us today to learn more!

Decoding a Home Inspection Report: What Buyers Need to Know

The home inspection is a critical step in the home buying process. It generally confirms the buyer’s favorable impression and perhaps identifies a few issues that should be part of negotiations. In some cases, however, the home inspection can uncover real problems that can throw the entire deal into question.

For the typical home buyer, it can be difficult to interpret a home inspection report, know which points are especially significant —possible deal breakers— and which are common and easily addressed. It’s a good idea to get familiar with some of the components of a home inspection report and to know what sorts of questions to ask along the way.

The Big Red Flags

The purpose of a home inspection is to verify that the home’s structure and systems are in good shape and working order. It protects the buyer from inheriting problems that weren’t obvious in touring the home, and is absolutely a necessary step, no matter how pristine the property appears. Generally, a few minor issues won’t derail a deal, but there are some things that should give the buyer pause, and definitely indicate some re-negotiating, at least.

Forbes recommends watching for these home inspection red flags:

foundation-cracks

1. Problems with drainage or grading

This can cause a multitude of problems ranging from rotting wood frame to the shifting and/or cracking a home’s foundation over time. A good inspector will notice possible signs of foundation movement. If this is noted on a home inspection, understand that repairs will be costly.

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2. Worn out roofing

Watch for any mention of signs of aging such as cupping, curling, blistering, lifting, splitting, insect damage, cracking, rotting and missing granular/sections. These symptoms of an aging roof may be warning signs of future water intrusion unless a new roof is installed; and once again there is a hefty price tag to this sort of project.

Wondering how to maintain a roof? Here are some tips.

Broken electric cable.

3. Unsafe wiring

Defective electrical wiring is a common cause of residential fires. Also, be aware that the number of electrical outlets in the home is significant. Too few outlets can lead to the overuse of extension cords, which places too much stress on the electrical system. You should also be mindful of any exposed wires. Remedying any of these problems will require a professional and the associated costs.

Plumbing

4. Faulty plumbing

This can indicate substantial problems that may even necessitate replacing the entire system. Pay attention to the smallest leak, since the potential for damage is considerable.

Other signs of trouble include mold, water damage, foundation damage, or insect infestations. All of these can be the result of poor maintenance, which has a negative effect on the property as a whole.

What to Do With the Report

Once you’ve received an inspection report, what’s the next step? Be sure to reach out to the inspector if you have questions or if you feel that information is missing. How you handle the report has a big impact on your actual purchase price and on the condition of your new home.  Here are some tips for how to proceed:

  • Discuss it with your real estate agent

Share the report with your agent. They see dozens of reports, and will be able to quickly identify any areas for concern.  They can also recommend contractors to handle needed repairs.

  • Get an estimate for repairs

Have the contractor come to the house and share the inspection report. Make sure that the estimate you’re given covers the specific repairs called for in the inspection. Get a firm timeline for when the work could be accomplished.

  • Negotiate with the seller

Based on your meeting with the contractor, decide which repairs are most important to you, and what issues you may not be interested in addressing. Discuss the inspection report and required repairs with the seller. Negotiate how those will be covered: the seller may make the repairs or may provide compensation for repairs that you arrange.

The ideal scenario is a clean inspection, although it’s rare that a home has no issues at all. A favorable inspection boosts buyer confidence, as it should. It indicates a home that has been well cared for, and helps deals move forward more quickly.

Improving Value with Glasshouse

If you’re selling your home, being able to demonstrate meticulous maintenance is a big plus. Our Glasshouse customers have 24/7 access to detailed maintenance reports on their property, and can document that their home has been on a comprehensive maintenance schedule. We like to think that we make the inspector’s job easy.

Whether you’re thinking about selling your home or simply understand the importance of preventative maintenance, connect with our team at Glasshouse to learn more about our preventative maintenance service.