“I’m quite certain there are companies that are not certified properly and are not putting in place the required precautions, and customers don’t care. They’re certainly not willing to pay for it,” he continues, making reference to the EPA lead-paint regulations many remodelers found vexing in 2011.
Kantar doesn’t see the influx of inexpensive and inexperienced competition slowing in the near future. Although unprofessional, price-cutting rivals have long peeved established remodelers, Kantar notes municipalities have been forced to cut budgets and jobs, eliminating police and fire department jobs, to cite just one example, and creating new entrants into the carpentry and handyman market.
“That means professional remodelers who employ the best technology and methods are going to continually get squeezed,” Kantar says. “I don’t know if I have a remedy for the situation because economic conditions are a very tough opponent. I think as an industry we need to remind our clients more than ever of the dangers of cutting corners and see if we can persuade them to reduce the scope of their jobs a little [to avoid compromising standards].”
Finding a Niche
Nevertheless, Kantar sees opportunity and change on the horizon. “I think continuing to push energy efficiency, taking a more holistic approach, looking at how families use energy and developing expertise in energy saving is a growth niche,” he says.
“I think as the economy improves, the cost of fuel is going to go much higher and there may even be a carbon tax, which will cause fuel prices to rise, as well. That will create demand for real energy performance. Remodeling contractors who understand how to deliver it in a cost-effective manner will have a real leg up on others,” Kantar adds.
Commenting on a recently proposed home-performance-based tax credit (see “Overview,” page 6) that could replace the expired 25C energy-efficiency tax credits, Kantar says it will mean “professional remodelers who take their work seriously and who are educated in the process will be able to provide an alternative to less informed companies who may claim to be green but are, in fact, less knowledgeable.”
Differentiating themselves from the competition, recognizing opportunities and preparing for change are what successful remodelers have always done; so although numbers shift and players may change, that strategy is likely to remain a constant.