The one quality that sets tradespeople above the rest

In preparation for buying a house in Maine, selling one in Massachusetts, and moving, I’ve dealt with a bunch of people who offer home services. One thing matters more than any other.


This is so obvious. And yet people still don’t get it.

At the top of my list of standout communicators is Olympia Movers. This is a complicated move — 21 years worth of stuff, across state lines, in two parts (half of our stuff went into storage before the showings here, the other half is going later). But the communication has been outstanding. The customer experience representative answers the phone on the first ring, responds intelligently to every question, and is clearly in communication with everyone else involved to get things on track. It’s a huge load (literally) off my mind to have help like this.

One real estate broker who hoped to help sell our house was very aggressive and failed to listen — he insisted on going into detail about his research about a feature of the house, even after we told him we didn’t want to emphasize that. We picked instead a team of brokers who sell a lot fewer houses than he does — but they’re people we trust, and they listened. We sold the house in three days for well above the asking price.

On the Maine end, the buyer broker that hooked us up with kept showing us houses to buy that lacked a feature we insisted on. I complained. He stopped doing that. He made a nice commission on the house we eventually bought.

I hired ProTek Painters to paint the interior of my house. They had already done the exterior a few years ago. The scheduling was tricky, but they stuck with us. We kept finding new bits and pieces that needed doing. I was very pleased with the result.

The people who cleaned the house and cleaned up the landscaping, Nauak Able Hands, did a terrific job on exactly the schedule promised.

And the mortgage broker, Bangor Savings Bank, was extremely responsive and helpful, even though a shortage of appraisers in Maine was potentially going to cause us to miss our closing date. I’d recommend them to anyone.

Finally, a quick shout-out to Enterprise Truck Rental, those guys were incredibly helpful. Way better than U-Haul.

Not everyone was so helpful. The people who redid our kitchen floor prior to the sale did it for an affordable price. They also lost part of our dishwasher and when I asked about it, failed to communicate for weeks. The cable company in Maine, Spectrum, was opaque about pricing and forced me to wait in line for an hour to pick up the equipment I’d “reserved.” And the seller’s broker in Maine was clearly making up answers to questions we had, later she nosily asked about our mortgage interest rate at the closing (none of your business, lady!).

People who are moving are under incredible stress. Large amounts of your net worth and all of your possessions are in flux. It’s a time you need to trust people.

Doing stuff cheaper might get you the business once. Communicating clearly will get you the referrals that enable a business to grow. Put the effort into communication. It may not feel natural for people who make their living with their hands, but you’ll be better off working on that and getting referred, rather than attempting to sell to people who’ve never heard about you . . . or heard you were a pain to deal with.

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  1. I’ve said for years that the one thing contractors could do to boost their effectiveness — and reputations — would be to hire a project manager, even part time, to stay in frequent touch with all clients to tell them exactly what to expect and to alert them to any delays. It’s the unexpected delays that make clients crazy.

  2. I completely agree about communication. A few years back, our roof had to be replaced because of significant hail damage. We chose a contractor we thought would do a good job. The biggest problem we ran into with them is that their communication with us about our project was almost non-existent. When they did communicate with us it was only because we had initiated contact. Since that project was completed, there have been numerous occasions that we’ve explicitly told people to avoid the company simply because the communication was so bad.

  3. Interesting reading… As a Realtor, I’ve built my business on referrals and repeat customers doing business in a price range that most people would find affordable… I always return calls, texts and emails and have built a list of dependable service people to recommend if needed… It’s all about making the experience of buying or selling as stress free as possible for both the client and myself.

  4. A great post – could be very helpful to everyone. I have worked in a government office for the last sixteen years. Over that span, all of my suggestions and requests (memos, one hour training sessions. . .) were dismissed in one second or less. Oh well, the pay, benefits, and paid days off are very good.