I am the son of an upholsterer. My dad, like others in his trade, spent
his lifetime learning how to make anything covered in fabric look and feel awesome – again. I say “again” because upholsterers are not only laborers, they are artists in refurbishing. Their skills are developed and honed by listening to customers to understand and then create that person’s vision for the finished product.
In upholstery there is no rule or code book. Upholsterers make their own signs out of vinyl and paint their names on their delivery vans themselves. And oh, the things they find in old furniture! If you can think of it, my dad pulled it out of a 10-year-old couch: coins and other money, buttons, pictures, food, bills, pencils, pens, socks, dead bugs – even boogers. Especially boogers.
As a boy, I helped my dad. One of my jobs was to assist with delivering furniture to people’s homes. I recall so many times that we delivered a chair or couch and the homeowners were just overjoyed, as though they were seeing an old friend that was fixed up and happy again.
I remember one delivery when I was 7 years old, in the 1970s, of a chair and couch done in diamond pintucks – but in different colors. The chair was rose and the couch was red. The foam inside was super stiff, and I remember thinking to myself, “Did Dad use the wrong fabric and foam? They don’t match and both are NOT COMFORTABLE.” I sure was wrong. The customer loved them, was in tears and gave a $50 tip. That was when I learned you don't know what you don't know.
And it was moments like that – delivering the desired product to a delighted customer – that my dad worked for. He became friends with his clients and his single purpose was making them happy. Getting paid was the bonus. And the referral to the next person was the blessing.
Because the truth is, upholsterers are typically underappreciated, overworked and underpaid. The same is true for so many other craftspeople who work in trades across the spectrum of home improvement.
My last 15 years as a real estate broker provided me the incredible opportunity to meet more than a hundred of these workers – artists like my dad. I even have a contact list I call my “A-Team,” made up of amazing folks who know everything about real estate in their specific field of expertise. While they go by many names and labels – plumbers, sheetrockers, roofers, carpet cleaners, lawn mowers, mold specialists, escrow officers, mortgage brokers and more – out of respect I now call them all home professionals, whether they work in the field or in an office.
I’ve learned that there are many levels of care, compassion and quality that professionals deliver. The secret to success in connecting homeowners with the right home professionals is quality communication that clearly states expectations.
To me, it usually comes down to the concept of know, like and trust. First, you have to know of the professional’s existence, be it from advertising, seeing signs or trucks around town, or word of mouth. Then you have to interact with them, to determine whether they’re likeable and whether you trust them. And these don’t always go hand in hand. You may really enjoy chatting with a prospective tree pruner, but decide he doesn’t seem knowledgeable enough about your particular variety of tree to trust him with the job. Or he may come across as gruff and unfriendly, but he has extensive experience with raywood ashes and even though you don’t really like him, you trust he’ll do great work on your tree. You have to weigh like and trust and decide what matters most to you and your specific project.
And it goes both ways. While you’re sizing up the professional, they’re forming an impression of you, as well. They want to work for people who are a good fit for them, and most home professionals genuinely care about your success and happiness. They want you to be confident your sink leak was fixed correctly, excited your new deck was installed according to your plans, delighted that your new home loan was closed on time and overjoyed that your favorite lounge chair will last another 10 years with new cushy foam and the upholstery of your choice – even if it’s mismatched diamond pintucks.
But finding that right person can be tricky. That’s a big part of the inspiration behind Majordomo – connecting homeowners and professionals to make life easier and more enjoyable for both. So next time you need some work done, take a little time to assess what strengths in the professional and their service are important to you. Consider the following topics to help you decide who is best for the job:
Project goal: Know what you want/need to accomplish, whether it is a small or large job and what your timing is. Be clear with yourself before you contact the professional and then after you describe your needs, stop and listen to what they have to say.
Quality of work: Who is their typical customer? What is their favorite type of work? Where do they rate themselves in terms of quality and experience compared to their competition?
Communications: What is their preferred form of communication and does that work for you? How quickly should you expect responses?
Timing: What would help the professional evaluate this job? When could they start? How long do they expect it will take? What could cause delays?
Price: How do they charge for their service? Do they perceive themself as the low-price leader, average, or more expensive? Whatever answer you get, ask why, then stop and listen.
Why ask these questions? There are more than a hundred different specialties and thousands of home-related tasks. You are looking for the best fit for you and your project. Just because you decide one professional is not ideal for your needs, it does not mean they are not perfect for the next job.
Here are a few of the key lessons I have learned in my decade and a half of managing more than a thousand real-estate transactions: Many of these amazing people have been practicing their art for five, 10, 20 or even 40 years (like my dad). Pay forward the respect. They are not always quick to use or understand new technology and communication systems, and sometimes they have archaic estimating and invoicing systems. Work with them. Remember, many truly are artists with hard-to-find skills and we all communicate differently.
The term professional has typically been reserved for doctors, attorneys, accountants and others. The next time you need a home professional, I challenge you to think about them on this level. When you find home professionals that help you accomplish your goals, tell them how much you appreciate them, give them online endorsements, refer them to friends and family, pay them what they are truly worth and, most importantly, hug and hold! As your home’s Majordomo, you want them on your A-Team – and it is always good to have a new friend.
Lee recognized a few missing puzzle pieces in real estate transactions after spending 16+ years as a top producing real estate broker participating in 1,100+ transactions: the understanding of a property's condition, the story of a property, why it matters, what to do next, and who to call to for help. As CEO, Lee oversees the company vision, manages sales and marketing, and exploring business models. "Let's improve the owner's relationship with their home."
Majordomo created the Domoreport.
The Domoreport is the most in-depth report on a home’s condition ever created, yet it’s easy to read and you can quickly figure out exactly what your buyers need to know. It’s the new standard for helping home buyers quickly understand the condition of their home with local and highly accurate repair estimates based on their inspection.
The Second Half of the Home Inspection