For contractors, finding leads is a lot like fishing: you’ll get more nibbles than you will bites. It makes it even more disappointing if you feel something on your line, spend valuable energy pulling it in, only to find that it swallowed your bait and got away.

fish “$10,000?! I have to put four guppies through school, you know!"

The same situation comes up when you provide a quote for a promising client, only to find out that they aren’t able to pay for it. It’s not an ideal situation, but there are some things for you to consider to make sure that fish doesn’t get away just yet:

Whether they can apply for a loan.

Contractors know it best - home renovation projects are rarely cheap.

According to, the average kitchen remodeling project costs nearly $20,000, while building a deck costs almost $7,000 on average.

Considering this, your customer might not be able to pay in cash. Luckily, there are loan options available that they might not know about. Three possible choices are:

  • Paying with a credit card
  • Taking out a home equity loan
  • Applying for a home improvement loan

It’s very likely that they won’t want to rack up credit card debt. At the same time, home equity loans use the homeowner’s house as collateral, which puts the homeowner at risk of foreclosure.

The best option, then, might be a home improvement loan. A home improvement loan is a type of personal loan that is paid back in installments or monthly payments, with a fixed interest rate and a lower annual percentage rate (APR) than a standard credit card loan.

Overall, this is a stable option for a buyer to finance their home improvement project, because the interest rate stays the same during the lifetime of the loan, which lasts for about 3-5 years. Most home improvement loans are for about $12,000, according to

And there are some great options for home improvement loans, too! Here is a comprehensive list from Investopedia, which provides more details on home improvement loans.

Whether they have received lower quotes.

You want to figure out why your customer can’t pay for the project. Is the project too expensive, or are they getting a better quote from another contractor? You’ll want to ask them about the other estimates they’ve gotten, because it’s likely they’re shopping around before making a final decision.

If they are getting a lower quote, see how you compete. Do you offer better services? Do you have a better record? See how you can raise your bargaining power if they seem open to budging on their budget.

If you can negotiate pricing.

If the customer isn’t open to taking out a loan, see if you can negotiate the price. Perhaps you’re a subcontractor or a material supplier, and you have the option of being paid by them directly instead of going through a contractor. This option will help bring down how many people they’ll pay for the job.

You can also ask the homeowner if they are able to provide any of the materials that are necessary for the job. You may have a supplier you go to every time, but it’s possible that the customer has a material source or connection that could provide them the necessary supplies for a cheaper rate.

You can also examine your quote for where you labor can be offered for cheaper. If its better in your budget to take a cheaper project than no project at all, then it could be worth your investment to lower your rate.

If you can negotiate scheduling.

Most contractors are at their busiest during the summer. You may have some availability to work in the off-season, when jobs and scheduling isn’t so competitive and you can offer a cheaper price.

Again, taking a cheaper job may be better than not taking it at all, especially during a time that’s normally difficult to find work. Considering this, you might ask the customer if they’re willing to have the project done in the winter when your schedule frees up and you can work for a cheaper rate.

If you can negotiate the project.

You’ve prepared a comprehensive quote to get your price, taking into account every task that’s needed to get the project done. Maybe there are some jobs you have included that aren’t absolutely necessary. Does the door really need a new coat of paint? Perhaps you don’t have to include a stone wall against the new deck?

Working with a client who absolutely cannot afford your quoted price will take some adjustments, which includes the project itself. If it’s necessary to save a contract, however, then you’re better off seeing where less is more for your client in the long run.

ー Negotiating in contracting is a delicate process because you’re dealing with big dreams and tight budgets. In any case, understanding the financial difficulties that a client may have going into a project shows them that you value their perspective, and want to find a way to make it work. It may feel like a loss in the short run, but building these connections will help craft a reputation for you and your business for years to come.