Kyle T. Webster

Stacey Dean, vice president of Grayling Construction, in Anchorage, Alaska, has a tough time selling design/build services in a place that’s either all about architects or all about do-it-yourself. To find ideal clients, she asks the usual questions — but she does a little extra sleuthing for other information that might help her and husband and business co-owner Cody Lee make decisions about which clients to pursue.


A home’s age. Pre-1978 will mean additional costs for lead safety.

The homeowner. What they do for a living clues Dean in to possible income. She also looks at whether they sit on a corporate board of directors, have a business license, or are sole proprietors.

Tax records. Is the house in trust? Is there a mortgage? In one top neighborhood Dean discovered that less than 10% of homeowners have mortgages, which means they have equity and could probably get a line of credit fairly easily.

The house and lot. Using Google Earth, Dean can see the type of roofline, which gives her an idea of the home’s age. She can also measure the distance to the lot line and see if there are any other structures on the property. The street view lets her see the house and driveway condition.

A whole neighborhood. “If people’s homes are different, it’s easier to put money into [the house] and get it back than if all the homes are the same,” Dean says.

Property tax cards. These tell her about zoning, lot size, the home’s heating system, and its last remodel.

Court records. Dean has steered clear of more than one less-than-ideal client, she says, such as “one who seemed to make a living out of suing contractors.”

She lets prospects know that she’s finding out background information about them. While they’re on the phone with her, she tells them she’s viewing their home using Google Earth and, she says, “they’re [usually] excited that I’ve taken the initiative.” Homeowners will often ask Dean for the link to their property tax card, which she sends after getting the homeowner’s email address.

Red flags include suing another contractor, suing a business, and domestic violence. Dean leaves those prospects well enough alone.

Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

More REMODELING articles about pre-screening clients:

Customer Checkup — Do you run background checks on your clients?