Dream vs. Nightmare Clients –

White double vanity with long mirror

A Contractors Perspective

One of my clients is starting their first custom home build. Exciting! They met with a few contractors and asked, among other questions, “What are some characteristics of an Ideal Client and characteristics of a Nightmare Client?” 

In the Home & Garden section of the Hood River News, I wrote about three key attributes that when combined, can create a Dream Client for a contractor or designer. This is the flip side that you want to avoid.

While my clients know that they’re paying for work expect to have things done well, they also know that they have a hand in creating a good work environment for the people they hire.

It pays to have people want to come to your job site! Here are three Nightmare Client characteristics we can easily avoid.

Being Under-capitalized

“When clients don’t have enough money to purchase the items they are really in love with, it creates a stressful work environment. It feels they don’t trust me because they start to look over my shoulder and starts to feel like I’m a crime suspect.” ~Contractor

It’s tough, when people have a floor plan, dream finishes, and start the building process only to realize the costs are adding up quickly and are well over their budget. Towards the end of a project some people can really start to penny pinch. This is not only frustrating for the client, but also the builder and designer. The finish materials are the things you will see everyday and will take the wear and tear of everyday life.

To Fix:

  • Know Costs per Square Foot. Does that include a garage? (Usually the answer is no.)
  • Figure in Landscaping Budget
  • Plan for Unexpected Costs. There are always things that come up that are not budgeted for.

I recommend budgeting 15-20% over to stay on the safe side. It’s better to not be strapped for cash in the middle, or toward the end, of construction.

When Clients are Jerks

“We had a client who came to the job site most every day to look things over and would hover, complain, and nitpick. He wouldn’t lift a finger. Ever. We don’t expect the client to pick up a broom or swing a hammer. There was an arrogance and entitlement to this person and when he came around, my workers would make themselves scarce. A little gratitude goes a long way.” ~Contractor

Who wants to work for someone who doesn’t value what you do and is arrogant? Definitely communicate how you want things done. (Your designer can do this for you.) It’s your home and you want to love the finished product. Talk to your contractor and designer regularly. We can help solve problems early on. (Don’t like where the window is located?  If the house is being framed, NOW is the time to make the change.)

Select a builder and designer who you respect and trust, then let them do their jobs. That’s what we’ve trained for and are good at.

To Fix:

  • Pitch in on Occasion!
  • Joke on Jobsite when Mistakes are Made (they will be!)
  • Expect Delays. (I’ve never ever been on a project where people move in early. Never heard of it, never seen it. Ever.)
  • Compliment People – maybe drop off donuts on occasion.
  1. Not Being Prepared

“It slows the job and costs time and money when clients don’t have items chosen ahead of time. There are so many choices, often people don’t realize the hundreds of little decisions they have to make for their build. It’s really like having another part time job.” ~Contractor

To Fix:

  • Make Material Selections Ahead of Due Dates (they will take longer than you think!)
  • Get help.

It takes SO much time to figure out style, layout, interior, and exterior finishes. Do you need another part time job? Let the pros help you. We can save you tons of time, money, stress, and help you to enjoy your new construction project.



Image: One of my dream clients- Master Bath- photo credit: Gorge-Us Photography

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