3 Signs It’s Time to Turn Away a Client

Taking on the wrong remodeling job can hurt your profits and company morale. But how do you know when a project isn’t a good fit?

March 15, 2019
know when to say no to a remodeling client

The prequalifying questionnaire also provides an opportunity to preview homeowners’ communication style

You want to push the envelope and take on projects that grow your business, but not every job fits the bill. Saying “yes” to the wrong ones can hurt your bottom line. There are three major signs that you should say “no” to a project:

When Personalities and Attitudes Clash

We use a prequalifying questionnaire to guide the conversation with potential clients and determine if it’s a good fit. We want discussions to feel natural, but having preset questions helps make sure all the boxes get checked. Some questions include:

1] What’s the motivation for your project? Why now?

2] Are you speaking with any other contractors? Where are you in that process?

3] Have you remodeled before? What was that experience like, and why aren’t you using the same contractor again?

4] Was there something that stood out about us that led you to reach out?

We once took on a kitchen remodel where I met with only the wife before agreeing to the project. She assured me her husband wouldn’t be involved, but a week into the project, he was there, micromanaging my team. It hurt team morale. This project comes up from time to time as a reminder to stick to our process and make sure we can work well with all parties. Had the husband answered our questionnaire, it would have quickly become obvious that it wasn’t a fit. 

When the Budget Can’t Be Reconciled

Using the questionnaire as part of every initial client meeting also helps both sides figure out if the customer’s budget and our company goals align.

When saying “no,” be upfront. Let the customer know that based on your conversations, you won’t be able to deliver the project and experience they deserve.

We take on a wide variety of projects, priced from $25K to $700K-plus, with an average of $170K. Often, it’s less about the minimum or maximum, but if we find that a customer’s budget and our ability to make a profit don’t coincide, we politely decline the project.

When the Project Will Hurt Your Workflow

Timing is critical. Depending on the scope, we’re equipped to take on three or four projects at a time and still provide the same high-caliber service to each customer. We closely monitor the overlapping schedules each day to ensure that nothing impacts our production timeline. If taking on a new project will stretch labor too thin, we decline and give them a rough timeline of when we may be able to accommodate their project.

When saying “no,” be upfront. Let the customer know that based on your conversations, you won’t be able to deliver the project and experience they deserve. It’s not easy, but people respect you when you are honest with them. If we decide the scope of work is too small for our company or is outside our expertise, we refer them to another better-suited business, if we have one in mind. If we don’t, we direct them to the NARI website

About the Author

About the Author

Botond Laszlo is the owner and president of Dallas-based Marvelous Home Makeovers and past president of NARI North Texas.



As an Architect I had the same problem. After 18 months, when a client asks for the total redesign and permit drawings of a very large (2000 sq ft addition) for the fourth time, that's when I had to say "goodbye and good luck". I gave him the CAD files, a letter allowing for someone else to finish the drawings, etc. A year later they're still not done.

Our Team had worked up front with a client for over 14 months diligently with an array of idea shifts by the prospective client. After approximately 8 different estimates (all) adjusted in some shape or form to accomadate the clients unique mindset (and the fact that they had clearly stated that they were a "lean Six Sigma") We , as a Team finally agreed that this was completely counter-productive to our company goals and ironically enough, had included to much waste and the number of variations without commitment were a drag to both our bottom line and Team morale. The client was completely dumbfounded when we dropped them however, it was a galvanizing moment for us all as we felt that we could then pursue other clients/opportunities with traction.
It wasn't easy as we certainly try hard to support creativity from our clients, however in this situation, it was the right thing to do for all of us including the client.

I have to agree with this and unfortunately over the years have had a couple I should have walked away from and some I did. The last one was just a few weeks ago. Had a customer contact me that I worked for in 1996. That project was a simple kitchen cabinet upgrade, countertop, trim and floor leveling. At the time there were a few red flags because he was a perfectionist not unlike myself and it worked out fine but he was working at that time. This time he's retired and it started off with an addition in the $300K range. We started the design and charged $2000 for our design aggreement. His controlling attitude came out shortly thereafter and wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing and if we could even handle a job of this size. I assured him we could but it was kind of a slap in the face to me. From February to June we went through 8 design changes with 3 being major. He wanted to get another designer involved so I gave him a few numbers but he found out quickly that they were going to charge a lot more than us. We choose to not make money on the design but make money on the build so we can save the customer some money over an architect or designer. Last email I gave him I referred him to another designer and said I had exhausted the money he paid to do the initial design and with all those changes. He has not contacted the other designer yet and as far as I know he's either not doing the project or he's getting other quotes. If he reaches out again I will decline and let him know why it's not a good fit. On a side note he always seemed to talk over his wife and control her feedback which doesn't set well we me either. We would've made good money on this but money is not that important where stress is concerned and I'm getting too old to babysit customers.

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