From pricing to scheduling to selections, all of remodeling is a negotiation. With homeowners still wielding the bulk of negotiating power, you must be able to plant your feet — diplomatically — as the economy gains strength.

“A paradox of negotiation is that one party never feels satisfied if they get what they ask for,” says Chip Doyle, a Sandler sales trainer who works with many remodelers. He offers these suggestions:

  • Prepare. Before sitting down to a negotiation, clearly establish your limits and requirements: for example, you’ll bill them monthly, meet with them weekly, handle change-orders this way ... .
  • Avoid surprises. Explain what needs to happen, by when, and the repercussions, such as scheduling delays. Be empathetic and upbeat, e.g., “You’re going to feel some angst over choosing the granite color, but don’t worry. It’s going to look great.”
  • Smile. “Facial expression and body language convey more than the words you use,” Doyle says. Remodeler and former Sandler trainee J Steele of Black Diamond Builders, in Lake Forest, Calif., agrees. “If they get the feeling that you’re working toward a common goal, and you respect and honor them as a person, they will rise to the level of that expectation.”
  • Write with care. Tone is difficult to read in e-mail, Doyle says, and a smiley emoticon is not very professional. He recommends weekly in-person meetings instead. “If you absolutely have to send something in writing, read it several times or get someone else to read it,” he says.

Steele points out the “huge difference” between making a request — of anyone — “with a smile and positive attitude versus being demeaning or condescending.”
—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.