Letting Clients Buy Materials – An Accident Waiting to Happen

by Patrick OToole

How many homeowner clients are asking if they can purchase materials when negotiating their agreement with you? They are asking because they think it will save them money. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case.

In my remodeling career, I wanted to always be flexible and to work with my clients when possible. Remodeling is a service business and I always want to be of service. I usually said yes to their requests even if I knew better. I wanted to keep them happy.

This was a bad habit.

David Lupberger, CR

In any remodeling project, the key to effective project management is control. It took me around 15 years in my remodeling career to learn how to say no.  What I saw time-after-time was that when clients purchased materials, issues inevitably followed.

  • The new kitchen faucet arrived without all the needed parts.
  • The cabinets they ordered were missing key fillers.
  • The foyer light-fixture arrived damaged

Those are three simple examples. But I’m sure that you can relate to them. Let’s face it. Homeowners watching home-improvement shows are usually not qualified to source these materials. That is nothing against home improvement shows. The result for the remodeler, is lost time and lost control of the project you are managing. It is frustrating to see happen, but many of us we are letting our clients make these decisions.

I decided to change this. In response to these ongoing requests from my remodeling clients, I decided I needed to educate them. I needed to spend time highlighting the benefits of my supplier relationships that provide the project security my clients want. I decided to put together a “response” to those clients who were asking if they could purchase or manage some element of their job.

The Materials Purchase Script

Here is a simple review of what I tell potential clients when they ask purchase materials.

I charge a 25 percent mark-up on all materials. Due to my long-term relationships with suppliers, I ask that you let me source, review, and install all the materials for your project.

Let me highlight the benefits of my existing supplier relationships. I have worked with many of them for years and have a contractor discount. Due to past sales, I have a relationship that they value. When there is an issue, I can make one call and get the issue addressed based on my working relationship with them. When there is a mis-order, they will work with me, again based on my working relationship and past sales. When there is a warranty issue, they respond quickly—they know that this response leads to more sales.

When clients purchase their own products, they usually do not have the contractor discount that I do. They do not have the working relationship that I have. If you have a problem with a vendor, you do not have the leverage or past relationship that I do. When there is a warranty issue, they will respond, but without that working relationship there may not be a sense of urgency. They are not as compelled to act and respond quickly.

When source, review, and install all the materials on your projects because when I purchase the materials, I warranty all those materials and products. When a client purchases product, I cannot give that same warranty so when there is an issue, that warranty follow-up falls on the client. I do not want that to happen to you.

Take advantage of my contractor discount and working relationships. This is why my clients hire me. I manage and oversee all aspects of the project and material and product purchases are part of the project. You may not save money as you hope, and you will not save time. Let me do this. This is part of the service that we offer. That is how I give you the lifetime workmanship warranty on all of the work that I do. Let me do my job.

How To Present the Script

Using the information above is not straightforward. There is a certain way to present it. When someone asks if they can purchase materials, I do not say, ‘no’. I let them know that there have been problems in the past when I have done that. Then, I then ask them if I can send them some information regarding their question. They always say, ‘yes’. I send them the materials purchase script above and when we meet next, I ask them if they’ve had a chance to read my note. After reviewing the information above, we can more easily have a good conversation regarding the various pros and cons with their purchasing project materials.

All the content in the script above it true. Good clients cannot argue with this. It makes sense and I want to review this with them in an objective manner. Because my clients may want some kind of purchase concession(s) in our contract negotiation, I may concede any purchases that arrive before I start work, or after I am gone. That gives them a small win if needed.

For example, with some guidance, they may want to do their own project demo. I can review needed tasks with them and plan on some potential clean-up when the job starts. I can also let them order their own appliances that can arrive upon project completion. With that said, in both cases, they need guidance. That is why they hired you.

If you would like my full materials purchase-script in a Word document so that you can edit and put that onto your own letterhead, please let me know. I can send that to you and review how to present this properly. Contact me at david@remodelforce.com. QR

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