Trust, responsiveness, versatility and money-saving opportunities are keeping some remodelers busy this spring, according to Urban Referrals. The company personally matches homeowners in the Washington, D.C., area with prescreened contractors, and its recent call volume suggests that a little extra effort can nudge homeowners into gear on their remodeling projects.

“In the past two months, I have seen a few trends starting to happen,” says Erin Lawler, operations manager. “People are beginning to take advantage of renovation loan programs, such as the streamlined 203k and energy tax credits” offered by localities and the federal government, through the economic stimulus package. This creates demand for contractors who understand the programs and offer the wide range of services that the programs affect.

Interest in sustainable remodeling is also way up at Urban Referrals; “green leads” have risen 25% since mid-2008, Lawler says (the company’s website now has a helpful “Your Green Home” section).

While noting that homeowners are taking much longer to sign contracts, Lawler points out that her most successful contractors these days are those who follow-up quickly and clearly with prospects and clients. “We strongly recommend a follow-up call and e-mail after any estimate is sent,” she says, as well as further touchpoints at regular intervals -- e.g., a few times during the first month and once a month or so thereafter.

Finally, she’s seeing the advantage shift to those who negotiate. One contractor client has “Fire Sale Fridays” at the end of each month. “They pull all open estimates and call each client with news of a ‘hot’ sale,” Lawler explains. If the client signs within two days, he or she gets a few hundred dollars off.

“It works,” Lawler says. “They are making money, their crews are always busy, and the customer gets a fabulous deal. Everyone wins.”