Communicate Your Expectations
The best thing you can do to make that process flow easily is communicate your expectations in terms of your desire for return communication. Each time you send anything to a contractor, that communication should include a mention of what you’d like to receive next — and when.
For example, when you first reach out to a contractor for a bid, be specific. Include in your work order a line like, “Please provide a rough date for when you can provide an estimate, and approximately how long it will take you to complete this job (understanding that both are flexible by nature).” This line has a lot going on. First, by asking for a date for the estimate, you ask the contractor for a commitment. You can put the day after that into your calendar with a note that says, “Remind the contractor you need an estimate on X job.” Furthermore, it requires that the contractor get back to you with the date. This establishes a pattern of communication.
Keep Things Moving Forward
When you follow up with the contractor the day your calendar reminder pops up (because very few contractors will get back to you), you’ll reinforce the pattern by requesting that they get back to you again.
The email you send out in response to their estimate and completion time (after you’ve approved the estimate) should include a similar line that says, “Please confirm when you can start this job.”
Also, if you’re working with anything less than large-scale, corporate-level contractors, warn them now that you’re going to require them to submit pictures and/or video of the completed work for your records.
Tracking the Job to Completion
Once the work starts, you’ll want to monitor progress. If you don’t, you may get stuck last on the contractor’s priorities list. This is where you want to be careful — no one likes to be micromanaged, especially contractors! Use the completion time they submitted to determine if it makes sense to check in once or twice per week. You may end up just checking in once at the end if it’s a short job. Set yourself a new calendar reminder each time you check in with the contractor. This way, you don’t get busy and forget.
Once the job is nearing completion, politely remind them that they agreed to provide you with video or pictorial evidence of the quality of their work (and that you will be holding off on paying the invoice until you receive them, if necessary).
Once you have their evidence (and their invoice), you can send the final — and in some ways most important — of the messages to the contractor. That’s the one that says, “This is how I felt about working with you.” And if that feeling is positive, “and if you felt similarly about working with me, I’d like to continue to offer you occasional work in the future. Would you be willing to take my calls?”
Because ultimately, an ongoing relationship with a good contractor is one of the best things a landlord can have. It’s worth all of the effort put into effective communication.