Qualified Remodeler's editors spent last week at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., attending meetings, talking with industry leaders and visiting manufacturers. Here are some of their overarching thoughts about the week.
From Rob Heselbarth, editorial director:
After spending two full days in pre-show board and committee meetings with builders and remodelers, it is clear to me that confidence is higher than a year ago. The conversations I had with these NAHB members had an intangible positive element that was different--more concrete--than last year. Clients are pulling the trigger now as opposed to kicking tires. The majority of builders and remodelers I spoke with expect growth in 2012, even if only a little. On the show floor, the exhibitors told me the builders and remodelers coming to their booths are looking for products for specific projects in progress. At the same time, manufacturers continue to deliver new products at a healthy pace. The economy has slowed down but manufacturers at IBS have not. And it’s not just products they’re delivering, it’s services, too. Manufacturers are developing behind-the-scenes support systems and specific services for their builder/remodeler customers. Services include special warranties, pricing, financing options and more not available to non-customers. This is the time to differentiate, and suppliers are there to help.
From Christina Koch, QR's editor:
There was a lot of positivity surrounding the show. The remodelers I talked to are already forecasting a much better 2012 compared to 2011 based on the contracts they have signed this early in the year. Many of them admit to doing many more smaller jobs or jobs they wouldn’t have considered taking five years ago, but they see an upside to this, namely they have expanded their skills and their contacts by taking these jobs. I also thought there was a lot of optimism on the show floor. Manufacturers are innovating and offering products that not only help remodelers sell but also help homeowners take some of the guesswork out of completing a remodel, which is a win-win. A lot of technology was showcased in many of the booths I visited, particularly websites and apps that help homeowners visualize what their home will look like with a new roof, windows, siding, porch, etc., as well as better understand what improvements need to be done to their homes to save energy. When making a big investment, such as a home improvement, I think it helps a homeowner to finally decide to pull the trigger when they can fall in love with a visual or see the hard numbers of an energy-efficiency retrofit. Overall, it was a great show that really got me excited for the year ahead.
From Laurie Grant, QR's managing editor:
After being on staff at QR for nearly seven months, I was excited to attend my first IBS to put a face to so many names I've spoken with and to learn more about this industry. Before the show, one remodeler likened a first trip to IBS like facing a firehose. The waves of information that came at me were informative, inspiring and, I believe, the beginnings of a wonderful year ahead. Although no one was jumping for joy about the state of the building industry, almost everyone I spoke with talked of their optimism and hopeful signs for a recovery. A fitting introduction was Aron Ralston speaking at the opening session. Ralston is known for amputating his own arm in 2003 after being pinned by a boulder in a remote Utah canyon. Last year's movie, 127 Hours, starring James Franco was based on his story. Ralston spoke of being in the darkest circumstances imaginable, yet in the midst of that he found the strength to do the unimaginable so he could keep living his life. Ralston's story has a happy ending, including meeting his wife and having a son. Similarly, the building industry is figuratively pinned in a canyon, but is fighting a winning fight to get out and will come out on top. Our story also has a happy ending. Manufacturers are introducing new products, many relating to technology, and are creating products that marry beauty and functionality, such as the hurricane-resistant decorative glass Hy-Lite introduced. This year's IBS was the beginning of a wonderful return to the top. I look forward to seeing to what heights the industry will ascend.