Currently Reading

How to Track Your Trade Contractors

Custom Builder

How to Track Your Trade Contractors

Custom builders can use this checklist to make sure their trade contractors are keeping their end of the bargain

By Tom Stephani February 29, 2008

One of the biggest challenges custom builders face is finding and keeping the best trade contractors. Custom builders have a different agenda than production builders when it comes to choosing their trade partners. From the builder's perspective, quality, service and price are the three key components of the relationship, with service and quality trumping price when choosing trade contractors. There are several questions you need to answer when evaluating your current and prospective trade partners:


  • Were they on time with their bid response? Did they deliver a complete and clear bid based on the plans and specs?
  • Do they answer their phone and respond to messages and questions promptly?
  • Can they go with the flow and understand that custom homes have changes to scope and schedule?
  • Do they respect the work of other trades? Are they personable with clients?
  • Do they present solutions rather than just point out the problem?
  • Do they respond quickly to resolving issues with their work both during and after the project's completion?


  • Do they monitor their field personnel closely?
  • Do they do what they promise when they promise it?
  • Do they provide an adequate number of people to do the job?
  • Do they keep the job site clean and safe?
  • Do they make every effort to provide a zero-defect job?


  • Is their price fair and defensible?
  • Is their price high enough to keep them interested in working for you yet low enough to keep them competitive and within budget?
  • Are they fair about what they charge for change orders and upgrades?
  • Will they work with you when times are tough or if a particular job is tight on budget?
  • Do they submit invoices on time and clearly spell out options and changes?

How Custom Builders Can Get and Keep the Best Trades

Remember that while you're evaluating trades, they're also evaluating you. To get and keep the best trade contractors on your team, you need to:

  • Provide complete and accurate plans and specifications.
  • Provide a clear scope of work.
  • Have a fair trade-contractor agreement.
  • Give them adequate time to bid the job.
  • Work with them to gain their input.
  • Provide adequate lead time and a firm schedule to help them plan their work.
  • Give them respect and appreciation.
  • Make sure that the job is ready for them. If it isn't, tell them as soon as possible.
  • Issue written (rather than verbal) change orders.
  • Pay on time.
  • Be available to answer questions and give direction.
  • Properly manage and staff the project.

Some custom builders use the same trade contractors for years, but there comes a time when a replacement is necessary. If the relationship begins to sour, find out why. If you haven't been living up to your part of the bargain, try to improve the areas that aren't working well. If the trade contractor doesn't respond to your concerns about their performance or price, it's time to find another before it becomes critical to your ability to serve your customers.


Tom Stephani, MIRM, GMB, MCSP, and CAPS, is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer who specializes in custom homes; infill housing; light commercial projects; and developing commercial and residential land. You can reach him at tom@custombuilding.com, custombuilding.com


Related Stories

Sales + Marketing

Sync Sales and Marketing for a Better Brand Experience

Get your sales and marketing teams together to create and deliver a consistent brand message from start to finish

Business Management

Industry Strategies for Weathering a Market Correction

Home builders, BPMs, and real estate investors are adjusting their business strategies to overcome a market slowdown. Here's what they're doing differently... 

Business Management

How These Female Business Leaders Foster Trust in the Workplace

Four female panelists discussed strategies to create a healthy and inclusive workplace at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit last week 


Top Articles


More in Category

COVID-19 may be easing its grip on the U.S. after a disastrous two years, but lingering supply chain disruptions have builders holding onto their pandemic business tactics

An archive of NHQA-winning companies that represent home building's best in Total Quality Management

Don’t let the current hype about single-family B2R communities obscure the need to create long-term sustainability and asset value


Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.

Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.