Steve Rehder of Rehder Construction, in Los Gatos, Calif., had heard about remodelers struggling in different parts of the country, but he had a strong year from October 2007 to October 2008. However, since then, sales have been flat. “The phone still rings, but nothing is happening,” he says. “I did not think it would be this bad.”

Rehder says that past recessions built up slowly, but that the current slump was a sudden drop. “We’re in more of a survival mode than profit mode right now,” he says.

This is the remodeler’s fourth time dealing with a recession in his 30 years in business. “But it feels different [this time] — it’s deeper, longer, and more severe,” he says.

Though Rehder works for affluent clients with discretionary income, now, he says, “they are being discretionary about that income.” He recently finished three large jobs which were the majority of his volume last year, so he is actively pursuing leads by keeping in touch with the homeowners.

“We politely stay in touch, trying to provide a higher level of service and educating them on the value of the service we provide,” Rehder says.