Over the years, I've made some interesting observations about the psychology of the homeowner decision process. One thing I've discovered is that, out of 10 homeowners who contact a remodeling company about undertaking a remodeling project, two will proceed very quickly with a "Yes " (everything's clicking); two will say "No" (budget concerns or just not the right chemistry); and six will say "Maybe" or "Let me think about it."

I think many homeowners say "Maybe" out of fear. They're afraid of being disappointed and worried about cost overruns. They're anxious about being overwhelmed with options and nervous about making the right decisions. And believe it or not, they are fearful that you might not live up to your reputation, that you might make a costly mistake, that you might not be able to keep to the schedule, or that you might withhold important information from them.

These fears sometimes have their source in a previous remodeling experience. Often they are reinforced by disaster stories most homeowners have heard from friends and relatives. The fears are then magnified in their imagination as they contemplate their own project.

Homeowners fears are not always obvious, but they do exist. Ignoring them just makes things worse, so you need to become a kind of "therapist" who can help to relieve these anxieties. Because many of your customers' fears will only multiply if they postpone the project, one solution is to create a sense of urgency for your prospect to act now.

There is a sensitive balance between being too pushy and getting them to commit. But the alternative is costly to both sides when you consider the amount of time everyone will have wasted by leaving a project in "Maybe Land." Besides, postponement doesn't really serve your prospect's best interest -- after all, they initially called you with energy and excitement about doing a project.

Here are a few good reasons for your clients to commit now:

Avoid price increases. Historically, remodeling costs go up 5% to 10% a year. If this seems high to you, go back and study your own numbers, including subcontractor costs, material prices, and labor rates, plus insurance and other overhead.

Lock in the "best" crew. Some lead carpenters are better suited to the type of work or to the clients. Even a brief postponement now may lead to a longer delay if a crew is committed to another job in the interim.

Mark Richardson
Mark Robert Halper Mark Richardson

Lock in subcontractors. A job that requires several sub trades is difficult to coordinate under any circumstances. Early commitment ensures that the subs you need will be available. Beat the weather. In many parts of the country, frost or the start of the rainy season make it more difficult and sometimes impossible to complete exterior work. Seasonal changes will also affect the cost of heating or cooling the house while work is being done. Plus, the homeowners may be less comfortable during the project -- if installation of the HVAC system, for example, is delayed until after the start of the cooling season.

Increased value to homeowner. The sooner the project is started, the sooner the homeowners can start using the remodeled space. And the remodeling project will add to the home's value sooner, enhancing its investment value.

If you are a masterful listener, you will "hear" prospective customers tell you what is relevant to building their sense of urgency. And the value to you is substantial. Imagine the time you'll save -- and the profits you'll gain -- if you can improve your batting average by moving one or two of those six prospects in "Maybe Land" into the "Yes" column. --Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling and Case Handyman Services, Bethesda, Md., and the author of 30-Day Remodeling Fitness Program. He can be reached at (301) 229-4600 or mrichardson@casedesign.com.