flexiblefullpage - default
Currently Reading

How to Track Your Trade Contractors

billboard - default
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

leaderboard2 - default

Related Stories

Business Management

How 2023's Housing Market Conditions Are Affecting the 2024 Market

Last year ended on an optimistic note, but persistent headwinds still exist to keep 2024 from getting the housing market back to pre-pandemic levels

Business Management

How to Create a More Inclusive Workplace for Women in Construction

Consider these tips and techniques to attract and retain more women in your home building company and reap the benefits of a more diverse workforce

Business Management

AI in Home Building ... What Now? What Next?

Artificial intelligence is coming to home building. How can builders use AI in new-home construction? Start with this primer

boombox1 -
native1 - default
halfpage2 -

More in Category

Home builders can maximize efficiencies gained through simplification and standardization by automating both on-site and back-office operations 

Delaware-based Schell Brothers, our 2023 Builder of the Year, brings a refreshing approach to delivering homes and measuring success with an overriding mission of happiness

NAHB Chairman's Message: In a challenging business environment for home builders, and with higher housing costs for families, the National Association of Home Builders is working to help home builders better meet the nation's housing needs

native2 - default
halfpage1 -

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.