USAToday has found a couple in the San Francisco suburbs who had a contractor come knocking on their door offering to remove a tree -- at a discount.

"[Darien} Destino and her husband, Don, recently had their 3,000-square-foot home painted by the same contractor who bid 40 percent more for the job two years ago. The pine trees crowding the front yard were removed for half the cost requested in 2007."

By waiting two years, they got both projects done for 40-50% less than the cost they were originally quoted.

Plus, if a contractor has already done an estimate on your place, it's easier for them to assess what the job is worth to them in terms of keeping their workers busy, cash flow, etc. If you have an old quote, you may want to call that contractor back and see if they are willing to do the same job for less.



Also, Ms. Destino says that the contractors were very punctual, showing up on site to do the job the day after the quote, so obviously the work is getting done more quickly because there is less work to go around.

"There're a lot of hungry contractors out there," says Mark Scott, owner of Mark IV Builders in Bethesda, Md.

Scott estimates remodeling costs in his region are down 15% from two years ago. He's laid off 16 of 26 people.

Nationwide, the home improvement market is expected to shrink 12% this year to $217 billion for owner-occupied properties. That's after a 10% decline last year, says Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

If you are interested in finding a contractor to do work on your house, you can fill out a lead form at AOL Real Estate for our provider, ServiceMagic. A pre-screened contractor will be matched with your service request.

Brett Widness is an editor with AOL's real estate channel. Find homes for sale, foreclosures, home values, home finance and apartments at AOL Real Estate.

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