Assumptions are dangerous, especially when it comes to sizing up prospective remodeling clients. If you habitually assume that the woman on the line is a Mrs., you could be missing out on an enormous slice of the market.

Since 2005, for the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by The New York Times. Indeed, with 59.9 million women widowed or divorced, single or cohabiting, it may be time to abandon paternalistic thinking for good.

You might follow remodeler Leslie King, whose broad range of clients includes single women as well as lesbian couples. Her sensitivity to household nuances begins with the initial conversation. “The prospective client will speak in singular or plural, so you can immediately tell whether there are one or two decision-makers,” says King, of Greymark Construction, in Houston. If she hears “we,” King asks the name of their significant other. This works regardless of marital status and includes married women who use their maiden names.

For single women, security is key. King asks them “to input a special security code on their alarm system just for us. I tell them I do not want their code,” she says. She builds more trust by telling them she's worked for a lot of single women — an assurance that works for gay clients, too.

Respect women's intelligence, and be prepared to answer questions. “They may not know the correct terminology, but they can be very specific in what they want,” King says. “I get a lot of projects because I listen to their wants and needs,” which, she notes, are two separate matters.

Also critical to Greymark Construction's strong base of female support: cleanliness (always wear booties), and using the client's last name until told otherwise. Finally, “I somehow bring up the subject that workers on their projects will keep their shirts on,” King says. “This is a small thing, but most women do not enjoy looking at men without their shirts on.”

These and other steps add up to a good vibe, King says. “If their intuition says you are the right remodeler, then the project is yours to lose.”