why don't contractors call back?

roxanJanuary 8, 2010

I need a new roof and called 2 contractors and set up appointments for estimates. First one came and said he would send me an estimate that evening with a follow up phone call next day. It has been 4 days and no email, no phone call. Second guy comes and gives me a written estimate on the spot. I want at least 2 or 3 estimates before I hire the contractor but 3 other companies never called me back to set an appointment. I have one appointment pending but am not sure at this point if they will show up.

Does anyone have any insight as to why people don't want the business? I live in a fairly nice neighborhood and the job is a normal tear down and full re-roof on a one story (3500sf). I don't want to hound them and figure if they want the business they should call back. Am I wrong? What am I missing here? Thanks.

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OMG - I've been wrestling with the very same issue!!
In fact when I prompted one with an email after 2 weeks (when he promised an estimate in 2 days) he came back with an excuse that he had broken his leg! I sympathised and called him back for a follow-up since I had no other leads - again no phone call as promised; but on prodding he came back saying his brother had to be admitted to the emergency room with a stomach virus and there was no one to take care of his sister! I still continued but wasn;t able to close the deal, because I was promised a final revisiion christmas week, and I'm wondering whether I was just being given the run along - calling again will be pointless.
Meanwhile others came with good references and came to take measurements/ but no call back with estimate!!!
I've been at this from Thanksgiving!!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 9:38PM
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It seems that business is picking up again. I hope a contractor will respond to this and let us know, because it is getting frustrating. I've heard that they *know* we just want an estimate and they might not get the job, so they give it a low priority.
I hate the excuses, though. We gave up with getting estimates and went through Angie's list last time we needed plaster work done. I told the guy that he was my only choice, and it worked. But I don't want to have to do that for the porch renovation we are trying to get bids on now - it's much bigger.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 10:52PM
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Small hint, if a contractor doesn't call you back when you are offering to pay money, you sure as heck wont hear from him once you give him money.

Call other roofers roxan, a full re-roof on 3500 sq feet is not just a patch job. Real roofers would be begging for that job.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 11:47PM
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Why won't roofers call you back?

Here are some possible reasons:

1) Is your roof covered with snow? Hard to estimate the condition of a roof without seeing the actual condition of existing shingles, to be able to count the number of existing layers, or to be able to spot other factors like lack of ventilation or rot that could affect an estimate. Call back in early March and see what happens.

2) Its winter. Depending upon where you live, most roofers in cold climates simply don't work in winter. Many plan their limited vacations in January and February. Some may be opened for some emergency repair work only but with most of their seasonal staff laid off. Some offices close for the winter entirely.

3) They do not need the work. Even in sluggish economies, some trades like roofing, plumbing, and heating still do ok.

4) Do you live in an area recently affected by severe weather? New Orleans and parts of Florida may still be experiencing lack of professional roofers. In cases like these, the guys who DO call you back and give you a fast estimate may be the ones to avoid...because these are the ones who can't find work even when work comes calling for whatever reasons like: Word is out about them for being crooks, drunks, illegals...

5)Job is more than they can handle. A small 1 or 2 man roofing outfit may not want to take on a rip-off of existing shingles on a large roof. Too much liability for damage.

6)Something about YOU the roofers don't like. Maybe they think they will have a hard time getting paid. Maybe word is out about YOU. Trades people share horror stories about bad customers and word gets around about bad customers too.

Just some random thoughts...

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 8:22AM
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Well, a lot of times a contractor won't get back in touch with someone he percieves isn't in touch with reality on the price, or someone who isn't specific enough about the job that they want done.

In your case, your written bid specs should contain:

removal of old shingles
replacement of up to XX amount of felt underlayment
replacement of up to XX amount of damaged sheathing
WR Grace Ice & water shield for XX inches above eaves
copper (or aluminum) flashing for roofing valleys and chimneys
Specific style of shingles (3 tab architectural shingles, standing seam metal roofing, builder grade 4 tabs)

If you aren't specific enough in your requests, then contractors think you are pie in the sky price shopping rather than a serious customer. If you think that you can do all of the above on a 5K budget, then you are going to be a difficult customer to deal with because of sticker shock.

I'm not saying you are guilty of any of the above, but one way to get better responses is with the above. Be specific with your requests, and expect to pay for a quality job. Also, it takes time to work a bid, so set a realistic goal to hear back from a contractor. In a non emergency job, you should say, "I will be making a decision in the next two weeks, so I need your bid by the first of next week. Are you intersted in the job enough to be able to get back to me within this timeframe?" If they say yes and don't, then it's worth one phone call to followup. Life does happen. If you don't receive the bid within 48 hours of that followup, drop them from consideration.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 8:33AM
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Ask friends, family, co-workers for referalls. If you personally know anyone in most any trade or in the building materials business, that might be another decent route for referalls.

Another route is if you see a roof going on a house similar to what you are after, knock on the door and ask the homeowner how it's going with that particular outfit.

Most important is when you find a reputable roofer, make sure they are licensed, insured, and will warrant their install coinciding with the mfgr's warranty of the materials. They will know what is code and needed in your area concerning underlayments, flashings, venting, etc., and should offer options that are upgraded above code minimums such as flashing types, underlayments, grades of roofing types, etc.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 9:53AM
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That's a BIG problem in the Catskills. Contractors are notorious for not calling back. One advertises in the yellow pages "will return all calls," as if it's a big thing. Maybe it's a problem elsewhere too.

I don't think it's that you, the customer, have a bad reputation. I had that problem right after I moved in and was trying to get bids on a roof and a painting job. It turned out to be a serious problem because I did not get multiple bids on the roof, and the guy who I did hire stank.

I think it's that they just don't need the work. Some do, have more pressing financial needs, and will get back to you.

The guy who did get back to me on painting turned out to be cheap, efficient, and terrific. He also does odd jobs. See, he needs the work. Has a growing family. But a roofer who I contacted, a guy with a great reputation, just isn't that hungry and never returned my calls.

A painter did get back in touch with me. This was the fall. He couldn't start till the spring and he wanted half paid six months in advance!

It's a question of supply and demand. A good roofer/contractor/painter would do well in the Catskills, even in this economy.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 11:39AM
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Stephen Costa

I think any contractor who has a front-office, or any business development side to their business will do a lot better at responding to quote requests (and being responsive to all the follow-up questions on the quote).

However, the flip-side is that contractors with office and project management help will cost more. Sometimes it's worth it...

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 11:36PM
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I think it is the problem of dignity and self-respect. Unfortunately many contractors lack it. It's uprooted deep in the culture to not keep one's promises. Where I came from to keep one's promise is very important and those who don't keep their promises are left to rot and never make their living.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 12:38PM
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