Very few remodelers will look back at the first half of 2009 fondly. It was a time when, for many, the phone stopped ringing and existing clients trimmed their budgets or withdrew altogether. For firms with any kind of overhead, cutting began in earnest during this period. Fortunately, the remodeling market is improving, if not fully recovered. Where will your focus be for the remainder of 2009? Marketing and sales should rightly comprise the bulk of your bandwidth, but you will need to be more specific than that. Here are several areas worth more study and action.
Stimulus Package. It is a bright spot for the rest of 2009 and beyond. Your firm needs to understand and present the home improvement tax incentives that accompanied the stimulus package. You will also need to study new state and local government programs that have been layered on top of the federal money. Go to www.QualifiedRemodeler.com/stimulusbrief to access a printable summary of the federal offering.
Energy Audits. In our January issue, we previewed the stimulus package in a story titled “The Rise of the Energy Audit.” A good way to seize the stimulus opportunity is to offer energy assessments or even more formal energy audits. Should your firm get into the business of energy audits? Many remodelers, like July NAHB Remodeler of the Month, Mark Elia of Mark of Excellence Remodeling, are opting for certification as building envelope specialists via courses from the Building Performance Institute (www.bpi.org). An investment is required, but homeowners have never been more willing to seek energy-saving improvements.
Multifamily Remodeling. Higher demand for rental housing is pushing rents slightly higher, particularly in buildings with six or fewer units. As a result, multifamily improvements are identified as a key bright spot in a biennial report on remodeling from the Joint Center for Housing Studies, The Remodeling Market in Transition. Go to www.jchs.harvard.edu for a copy of the report. What steps is your firm taking to market itself to building owners and managers?
Lead-safe Work Practices. This is less of an opportunity, but is certainly a matter that needs your attention. By now you’ve heard that a new EPA rule requires lead-safe practices for remodelers working in pre-1978 buildings occupied by children. The rule takes effect in April 2010, but few remodelers know that since last December remodelers working in such places have been required to provide their customers a copy of the EPA brochure Renovate Right. Both the NAHB Remodelers and NARI have been out front on this issue, and both offer information on their Web sites about the requirements for remodelers. To comply, you’ll need to prepare your team now. Go to epa.gov/lead to get started.
Vision. It is the one thing that is going to help you most in weeks and months ahead. The topic is well covered in our Lessons Learned video series found at www.QualifiedRemodeler.com featuring Mark Richardson of the Case Institute of Remodeling. Richardson rightly points out there is a tendency in tough economic times to focus on the short term. Leaders of companies, however large or small, need to steer for the long-term destination. Your entire team benefits from knowing that these goals are being kept in focus. It also signals your confidence that the company is positioned well to benefit from the eventual economic turnaround.