A few things I like to do:
- We have good relationships with the agents we've done business with before (agents who've brought us buyers). A few days before we're ready to list, we send an email to these agents offering them a preview of the house before it hits the market. They know our product and how easy we are to work with, and we often get buyers this way before the houses hit the market. In fact, in 3 of our last 5 sales, the house was under contract in the middle of renovation because the agents called us to see what we had available. (We don't normally show houses before they are 100% complete, but we'll sometimes make an exception)
- When managing the subs ourselves (the times we don't use a GC), we are clear on our schedules upfront. We try never to have a down day (when no-one is at the house working) and we try to optimize our schedules so that we can have multiple contractors working simultaneously without dependencies or getting into each others way.
- We provide incentives to our contractors. First, we try to give them as much business of our own as possible, but we also refer them out AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. This means they have other jobs waiting, so the sooner they finish ours, the sooner they can move on to the next job -- whether ours or someone else's. Also, we like to give bonuses when a job goes smoothly, finishes under budget and/or under schedule, etc. A couple hundred bucks isn't much to us on a project, but can make a big difference to our contractors; this lets them know we appreciate the hard work.
- We don't rehire contractors who don't perform well. If a contractor is doing something that consistently keeps us behind schedule, we just don't use them anymore.
- We let all of our contractors know upfront what the schedule is, and I make everyone aware of the date on which my wife want to move the furniture into the house to stage (i.e., when the house needs to be 100% complete). While my contractors aren't the least bit scared of me, they really don't like to upset my wife... :)
- We communicate often with our contractors. If they know that we'll go out of our way to not waste their time, they'll do the same for us. For example, if our painters are scheduled to start on Monday and it looks like we *might* not be ready until Tuesday, I'd rather tell the painters well ahead of time to just plan on Tuesday. That way, they have time to fit in another 1-day job as opposed to getting to the house on Monday morning and finding out the house isn't ready. They appreciate us looking out for them and always return the favor -- if they have a scheduling conflict, they'll let us know instead of just not showing up.
- We know how our contractors like to work. For example, our painters are amazing. If they have the house to themselves, they can do all sheetrock/siding repair, prep and paint on both the interior and exterior in three days. If they have to share the house with other contractors, it messes them up and can take twice as long. They don't like that because it means they are losing days where they could be doing other projects. So, we *ALWAYS* ensure that the house is empty of other contractors when our painters are working -- things get done faster and everyone is happier.