"Fueled largely by the rebounding housing market, home improvement spending is projected to reach $155 billion this year, surpassing the peak set in 2006, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. At the same time, the construction industry is in the throes of a massive labor shortage, having shed more than 2 million jobs since 2007."
Demand for home renovation work is swiftly outpacing the supply of qualified professionals. “It’s gotten to the point that I’ve had to tell clients that it might be a few months before I can take them on,” says LuAnn Fabian, a general contractor based in Hermosa Beach, Calif.
"Though the number of remodeling pros has declined, there are still less experienced—and less scrupulous—ones out there, according to a recent survey of 300 general contractors from around the country conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center," Daniel DiClerico writes. "Among the shady industry practices general contractors reported are contractors using unskilled laborers to carry out their work, and winning jobs with lowball bids and then jacking up the cost later with “unforeseen problems.”
This provides an opportunity for the reliable home remodelers to advertise how they are different! Stand out from the shady competition with television (over-the-air, online, mobile or tablet) spots. AudienceSCAN reports 47.6% of Major Home Remodeling Project Starters took action after seeing a commercial in the past 30 days.
Consumer Reports' home renovation survey asked the crucial questions you might not know to ask, such as: How much wiggle room is there in the estimate? (Hint: more than you may think.) What are the biggest homeowner mistakes? How long do projects really take?
The Planning Phase
"Proper planning is the best predictor of satisfaction and will also minimize the number of costly changes you make once the work is underway. So before you even think of looking for a contractor, you’ll need to spend time gathering ideas and taking a hard look at your own budget. A 2015 report from Houzz, a home-design website, found that half of homeowners who renovated their kitchen gathered ideas for six months or longer."
“Its always best to have the architect and the general contractor working together right from the start,” says Dawn Zuber, an architect based in Canton, Mich.
"Whether you opt for an architect or a designer, insist on 3D drawings: They’ll help you visualize the remodeled space better than flat elevations will. Cutting-edge design pros are beginning to use virtual reality software to create “immersive” spaces that clients can experience by wearing a special headset. The technology isn’t widely available but could soon significantly reduce remodeler’s remorse."
Remodeling businesses definitely should advertise their ability to do 3D drawings. Try showing this off with a daily deal. AudienceSCAN found Major Home Remodeling Project Starters are 71% more likely than average consumers to take action based on one.
“It’s those big decisions made in the first 10 to 15 percent of the design process that have the most impact on cost,” says Marc Truant, president of a Boston-based design-build firm—the term for remodeling businesses that provide both the design and construction work. “An experienced general contractor will help you head off things you can’t afford before you pay for finished drawings.”
"Check credentials. Even if they come with a glowing review from your sister-in-law, you still need to check the bona fides of every professional on your short list. In our survey, almost a fifth of general contractors lacked either a state license or the proper insurance, and 9 percent lacked both. Though proper credentials aren’t a guarantee of quality, they’re a good sign that the general contractor runs a reputable business. What’s more, our survey found that fully accredited general contractors are better at holding down costs when unexpected problems arise."
Contractors need to publish their certifications in marketing, as well as make it known to consumers that they offer a discount on repeat business. This can be done effectively through emails. AudienceSCAN reports 63% of Project Starters took action based on emailed ads or newsletters in the past year.
"Keeping the business of a repeat customer was the biggest reason to haggle, cited by 75 percent of general contractors, who reported offering a median discount of 10 percent. So if there’s more work coming down the line, be sure to mention that during negotiations. Combining projects could also save you in the long run: Two-thirds of general contractors said they offer discounts on jobs involving more than one room (10 percent was the median discount offered on multiroom projects in our survey)."
"Cover your assets. Nine out of 10 general contractors in our survey say they provide a written guarantee for their work, so insist on one in the contract. The median time period was 15½ months, with 14 percent of respondents promising more than three years of coverage."