Orem, Utah-based Xactware offers a suite of software tools like XactRemodel and Xactimate that are loaded onto a hard drive and accessible from laptops, iPads and smartphones. XactRemodel can send forms, visual information or work orders through the remodeler’s network. “If one job is delayed, the scheduling portion of the software helps contractors move people around within your network. You can send assignments and supervise who is doing what, where and when,” says David Luse, project manager for Xactimate.
Most software programs offer tiered levels of access for different users. For example, sales reps can tap into certain data while homeowners can view all information. Compatibility with other computer programs and the ability to customize information also is common. For instance, some programs allow remodelers to import suppliers’ materials costs directly into the software. Pricing updates are populated throughout the program and updated through time.
Occasionally a software program geared toward one aspect of the business has additional built-in advantages. Jud Aley, owner of RJ Aley Building Contractors, Westport, Conn., signed on for Turtle Creek Software’s estimating program but found that it had many project-management functions included. “The to-do list function was one of the biggest things to transform my business,” Aley remarks. “It offered a far superior way to track everything from project punch-list items to small projects within my company.”
Closing the Deal
An added benefit of current software’s remote access is that sales reps can provide on-the-spot estimates. “I keep a printer in the back of my car,” Applegate says. “I just access my Internet database, work up a quick estimate, print it out and hand it to the homeowner.” The polished forms produced by software can make an independent remodeler or small company appear more professional.
Xactimate, for example, allows contractors to “sketch” a before-and-after rendering to show homeowners the proposed remodel as a floor plan or in 3-D. “Most problems come from misunderstandings between the structure’s current condition and what it will look like when you’re done,” asserts Jeff Taylor, assistant vice president of Xactimate. “The most important thing in marketing your business is the interaction with homeowners, and this software helps them clearly understand what you’re offering.”
Thrush says software also can provide contractors with protection if questions arise after the job is done. For example, C.H.I.P.’s photo specifications page gives direction about when to take work-progression photos and which photos to take. These photos can provide critical evidence work was properly performed.
Where to Begin?
“A website can make any software look good. Take a test drive on the demos companies offer,” Kolva advises. “What’s important is the quality of design and how it suits your needs and your day-to-day use.”
Aley also notes software comes with a learning curve. “You can’t expect to buy software and have it work smoothly within your business. You really need to take the time to do the tutorials and learn how to customize the software to how you do business. Spend the time poking around inside the programs and find out all that’s available to you,” he says.
Still, enterprising contractors may decide to create their own software. Builder’s Dashboard was developed so Monmouth Custom Builders could manage the company the way its owners wanted. Builder’s Dashboard provides employees with increased responsibilities but maintains management sign-off. Levy says he’s always updating it, but developing Monmouth Custom Builders’ own internal program was worth it.
“I can delegate work to field managers and project managers and check on their progress and client sign-offs at the click of a button. That’s what makes our business efficient and profitable,” Levy says. “This software saved us tens of thousands of dollars.”
KJ Fields writes from Portland, Ore., about remodeling and design.
Review the following companies and the software features their programs offer:
H.I. Technologies LLC
C.H.I.P. (Complete Home Improvement Program)
- Controls job costs, including estimations, total invoicing, work-order and labor sheets.
- Incorporates RRP record keeping, contingency contract, photo specs, estimate status and envelope printing capabilities.
- Stand-alone and corporate versions are available.