Meet The House Whisperer.

Elaine Schultz the House Whisperer
Elaine the House Whisperer

Meet Elaine, one of a small group of professional House Whisperers. And what’s a House Whisperer? Read on…………..

Warning to Homeowners!   Don’t Put on the Hard Hat!

Carla is a savvy real estate agent, knowledgeable about everything it takes to prepare a home for resale. In this case, Carla was updating her own home, which was built in the 1970s. At first blush, the overall project scope was straightforward: the house would need a new master bath, new kitchen cabinets, window replacements, exterior and interior painting, new carpeting in the bedrooms and refinished wood floors in the family room and hallway.

Since Carla wasn’t knocking down any walls or adding any rooms, no plans were drawn up. She hired a handyman/builder, a friend of her brother’s, as well as the sub-consultants.  She purchased all of the cabinetry, counters, sinks and fixtures from a large building supply store. Carla also decided to live in her house during construction.

Things started to go awry shortly after the work began, although I won’t describe in detail all the troubles that came up. Suffice it to say that, by the time I received her desperate call, the contractor was long gone, the electrician wouldn’t leave, and the plumber had totally botched the master shower (trying to plumb for fixtures that were not compatible with existing pipes). Carla, who was by then living in what resembled a “war zone,” had lost all track of what work had been completed and how much money had been spent.

Since Carla’s contractor was indeed gone for good, I asked one of my colleagues to take over the project. The new contractor, whom we will call Mr. W., walked through the house with Carla.  After taking notes on all the problem areas and making a list of tasks to be performed, he then gave her a fee estimate and a timeline for finishing the work.

Carla and I also sat down and reviewed her original “to do” list; checking off the completed tasks/payments, and reconciling that new list with Mr. W.’s proposed task list/costs. Carla would assume responsibility for the interior and exterior painting, and for purchasing some of the cabinets and light fixtures (that were pre-approved by Mr. W.). While I can’t say that things ran perfectly smoothly, (there were problems with the paint contractor, and the new kitchen cabinets were warped), the major problems were solved. The project was successfully completed with the utmost quality and care. Carla put her home up for sale (at the onset of the economic downturn last fall) and it sold immediately, for well over the asking price. Interestingly, several of the homes in her neighborhood remained on the market, many months later!

So, now you know Carla’s story. And, the moral is: It’s never too late to “right” the course!

Let me point out a few things that may help to eliminate some of the nightmares Carla experienced:

Refrain from hiring “a friend of a friend” to work on your home remodel project without conducting a thorough interview and investigation of his/her background and experience.
Don’t take on the responsibility of the General Contractor unless you are prepared to drop most, or all, of your other regular duties.
Pack up and move out of your house if there is considerable work to be done. Or, place all your belongings in a “sealed off” room(s) that will not be affected by the construction.
Have your say, then “get out of the way.” Let the Contractor supervise the work. However, if problems arise, call your remodel coach and solve them together.
And above all…hire your remodel consultant as Step #1…BEFORE YOU HIRE THE PROFESSIONALS!

About Elaine

Elaine Schultz has been training for her home remodel consulting practice for over thirty years, starting as an administrative aide for the Mayor of San Jose, CA; interfacing with the planning, building and public works departments on many major civic, commercial and residential projects. She moved on to become the business and marketing principal for three prominent architectural firms in the Bay Area.

For the past twelve years, Elaine has run her own Business + Marketing Strategies; consulting with major architectural, engineering, construction, and associated professional firms, helping them to form and grow their businesses.

Elaine’s primary focus, as a home remodel consultant, is working with homeowners on pre-project planning… setting overall goals, conducting an existing conditions assessment, determining the project scope and developing a realistic budget!

Her professional colleagues appreciate the fact that she delivers educated clients to the table! She “doesn’t want to get in your way…she wants to pave the way…to a successful project outcome for everyone involved. It’s a new approach to project planning that benefits both homeowners AND the professional team members. As part of her services, she conducts private consultations, public seminars, tele-classes and, when she comes up for air, she works on her book, “Remodel without Remorse’!

Elaine Schultz
Home Remodel Consultant

P.O. Box 385
Ross, CA  94957
tel. 415.482.6150
fax 415.482.6125 Schultz

“Enlightening the homeowner…
Eliminating the nightmares”


  1. I know Rory knows, I too am building a “consultancy” biz (for lack of a better word). Responding to this, “Who needs another expert when you already hired a pro?” The point is — at least with me, and maybe with the other PCCs out there . . . I don’t necessarily look at myself as a “remodeling expert.” While I certainly can add insight and value to the work itself, I look at myself instead as a process expert (hate the word expert). And because of the position we take within the build process — the client can receive a practical, creative, and sometimes emotional perspective that they oftentimes can not achieve in a traditional homeowner/contractor relationship. that’s it — thanks for the coverage on our kind. jb @BMoxieBMore

    • JB.
      I also hate the word “expert”! As author of the article, “Warning to Homeowners…”, I am encouraged to hear that you embrace the idea (and need) for the “process” manager. My challenge is, most homeowners ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and most of all they don’t get the term “process manager”. I am focusing on the pre-planning aspect of a home remodel in hopes that I can do some up-front tutoring and distinguish myself from the ‘project manager’. Would like to continue this dialogue…

  2. Hi Elaine. I was responding to thread that Paul started in the forum (can never take the time to login so I just left the comment here) and to give Paul justice his post was favorable — thanks Paul . . . . We probably have a slightly different take on this, and I wish that I could at this point define more clearly the difference between process manager and project manager. I use process here to mean — the homeowner isn’t just handing the project off, rather — they/we are engaged throughout the process. Last two posts, as with most posts, on my blog deal with the challenges I face (prob. not too disimilar from yours). I’d love to continue this discussion; I’ll email soon and keep up the good work. jb


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