Editor’s Note: Before COVID, After COVID

authors Patrick O'Toole | December 2, 2020

Many remodelers tell me how fortunate they feel today. Not only did their businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, but they are thriving. After a very scary March and April, demand shot up. Every industry touching homes and home improvement is getting the same lift.

But the ground we stand on is not quite settled yet. In fact, because we see that lead flows are strong and our backlogs are growing, many are missing the change around us.

Here’s a quick analogy that we’ve all heard: When you cut down an old tree and count its annual growth rings, you can clearly delineate the good years from the bad. If we look at 2020 as a growth ring and compare it to those of the last 20 years, it will end up looking good, a reasonably fat ring for remodeling. It will not have been a super fat-ring year like 2006 and 2007 or more recently 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Next year, 2021, is setting up to be equally strong, but not for all remodelers equally. Before COVID, a small local remodeler could still make a living on word-of-mouth alone. Many of you enjoy operating that way. You keep it simple with a static website, a cell phone, an office/workshop, and that’s it. But stay-at-home orders and the rise of virtual meetings have rapidly accelerated the adoption and use of technology in home services.

After COVID, it will be increasingly difficult to maintain a solid flow of referrals without a full embrace of technology that facilitates easier interactions for your clients. After the technology leaps of 2020, clients will strongly prefer and demand smartphone efficiencies in their home improvement purchase interactions.

It’s really about speed and decisiveness. Before COVID, really excellent remodelers with solid reputations (built up over many years) could get away with a 24-hour lag between inquiries and their response.

After COVID, clients will not wait for your call. They will fill out a form on another remodeler’s website. That information will immediately hit the smartphone of another owner or manager, and within seconds, they are talking. Good remodelers will always have work, but slow responses will be incredibly costly in 2021.

Before COVID, you could be a great craftsman and technician without paying too much attention to product innovations. Your craft allowed you to be a late adopter of the latest building science. That is less likely to be the case after COVID.

Very low mortgage rates and the impacts of the pandemic spurred many thousands of renters in the 25-to-40-age group into homeownership this year. Millennials are now the biggest cohort for remodelers at more than 80 million strong. This group, and all homeowners generally, today are more focused on energy efficiency than ever before.

After COVID, remodelers need to rapidly increase their knowledge of building science and a big influx of improved building materials that make homes more efficient and more comfortable. (Yes, this includes solar.)

Last, after COVID, we will continue to see a very young generation of remodeling entrepreneurs assert themselves in this industry.

As you will read in this month’s profile of Power Home Remodeling Group, very young owners are transforming this industry. They are attracting younger employees. They are indeed making the building trade cool again. (We all know it never was uncool, but you know what I mean.)

In what ways will they gather and network? As tech natives, how will their communication strengths relegate the old and bring in the new?

Our industry has fared well during COVID. We are lucky. But rapid transformational change is upon us. QR

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