Dream vs. Nightmare Clients - A Contractor’s Perspective

It’s important to understand that things like delays or changes in material costs are simply out of everyone’s control. (Submitted photo)

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 the characteristics of a nightmare client?”

Interestingly there was a theme! Here are three qualities that can make you Dreamy.


to be Informed

“These clients have taken the time to ask enough questions to have a general gist of expectations about how construction works.” ~Contractor

It’s important to understand that some things about building and construction, like delays or changes in material costs, are simply out of everyone’s control. A big part of being informed is regular communication. Return phone calls promptly because your contractor or designer may have had a hiccup and needs your input in order to keep the ball rolling.

To achieve:

• Schedule regular face to face (if possible) meetings

• Expect hiccups (there always are)

• Plan for costs to increase, not the other way around.

• Return calls, emails, or texts frequently

Does homework

“I love it when I give a materials list to my clients and they complete it before it’s due back!” ~Contractor

In a nutshell? Don’t procrastinate. It will take far longer than you might expect to make these selections. Many clients find it overwhelming and don’t know where to start.

I can’t tell you how many panicked calls I’ve received from clients who thought tile selection was a cinch, so they headed to the city to do on their own. Clients find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the number of choices! These calls always make me smile. Homebuilding is adding a part-time job to your schedule. This is where a designer can save you scads of time (and panic).

To achieve:

• Select materials ahead of due date

• Be prepared. Take trips to Portland and local stores to get a feel for what you like.

• Break choices into categories (plumbing, lighting etc.)

Stay organized and know the due dates from your contractor. Your goal is to stay weeks ahead of them. If you’re not already a Type A highly organized person, take note and get some help.

Money Mindset

“Money can be a huge stressor for people. One of the most fun jobs we worked on was where the owner had a very realistic expectation of costs. He even budgeted for unexpected increases in materials! It can be disheartening for a contractor to go to a client whose budget is tight and tell them material costs just increased.” ~Contractor

To achieve:

• Schedule regular update meetings with your contractor (you can see if you’re staying on budget)

• Plan for costs to go up, not down (material costs are out of everyone’s control)

Do you have to gush money? No. Some projects stay pretty close to the budget! But know, in the back of your mind, that some things are out of everyone’s control. Unexpected costs will inevitably arise.

I recommend budgeting 15 to 20 percent 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. That’s no fun for anyone.

Designing and planning a new custom home build is time-consuming, costly, and exciting! Recognize your time availability early on and keep the beautiful end-product in mind. Save your sanity, save time, go kiting, and hire a professional.



(Ashley Neff-Hinkle is a local White Salmon designer. Her goal is to make homes and businesses both beautiful and functional by listening to her client’s needs and incorporating their wishes into the design.)

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