What should we expect when the remodeling market returns? I disagree with much of what I have been reading and hearing, so be careful about reading further as this could be hazardous to your wealth. On the other hand, it might be worth considering. Here’s my case.

Who is the ‘new’ client?
Everyone is trying to forecast what the new remodeling client will be like — buying habits, budgets, preferences and the like. That is a healthy thing to do, if there is such a thing as the “new” remodeling client. OK, from one year to the next the “new” client tended to get smarter, more conservative, more computer savvy, more value oriented, but definitely not a new client psychologically. What has the recession done to the psyche of that “pot of gold” we once knew? You know, the one that trusted our judgment, listened to our recommendations and didn’t haggle over who had the Roquefort?

They still believe
Trust me, they still believe in remodeling, maybe more than in the past because of prices of new construction and difficulties of getting mortgage funds. Are they scared, afraid they’ll spend too much, afraid the “green police” will stage a raid at 3 a.m., afraid Alan Greenspan will be lurking around the interest bushes? I wouldn’t call it fear, but they’re certainly concerned. The most sound of clients will attentively listen to the benefits of building green but will almost always asks about the “value,” the what’s in it for me, and they still will in my opinion. The same concept will apply to everything but necessary maintenance. Self-indulgence is probably a thing of the past.

What kind of business?
So what kind of business should we go after — green, aging-in-place (CAPS), low price, small or everything? Since the client really isn’t new but is just smarter and better informed, use the same methods of attracting them back as you used to get them in the first place. Be a current company — technologically up to speed, not to impress but to function better. Investigate the job and the products more; check into reliability before touting a new product.

Builders may stick around
Custom builders ventured into remodeling to keep their doors open when the axe fell. Many did a good job but charged too little and diluted the market. That will have to be overcome, but price selling always failed in a sound remodeling market, and it will again. Be aware also that some of the builders who became builder/remodelers will continue to work on the “ReDo” side,
but they will have learned how to price.

Product is the only variable
I have seen no persuasive arguments that my customers will expect more or be willing to settle for less service than they ever did, so that means product is likely the only variable in the recovered marketplace. It is always good to try to be prepared for what is new and different, and this is no exception. Be careful, though, not to assume that after this three- to four-year struggle the principles of sound remodeling are somehow different. Homeowners will continue to prefer to do business with contractors with character rather than with ones who are “characters,” while you’re here . . .

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