As remodeling expenditures grow, as both new and existing home sales continue to be strong, and as the size and use of the home increases and changes, remodeling as an industry becomes more complex. With expenditures estimated at $185 billion this year, the market requires many different types of companies and skills to meet burgeoning demand. One result is that companies are specializing in certain types of work or on specific projects. Here are some examples of trends and the specialized types of remodeling they are popularizing in the market.
Design/Build. The most significant change in the remodeling industry in the past 20 years is the concept of design/build. This approach is directed primarily at the top 10% of the remodeling market. Recent research from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard shows that 9% of the population is responsible for 52% of the remodeling market, so the concentration of effort in this segment of the population is well-rewarded.
Design/build is directed at eliminating the bid approach. When homeowners seek out a design/build firm, the company doing the design almost always handles the construction.
The size and scope of design/build jobs are also growing. With the move of empty nesters and others into the city, many projects involve total gut jobs that amount to virtually re-building the house. Specialization has taken over in this type of project, because most contractors don't have demolition experience or the desire to work in the inner city.
Handyman Services. One of the obstacles that's kept the remodeling contractor from growing is that up until the early '90s, the average homeowner stayed in a home only six to seven years and then moved. Today, the average is 11 to 12 years, and it's often longer. Because the trend toward DIY is reversing rapidly--Harvard numbers show only 13% of remodeling is DIY -- today's homeowners depend more on contractors to keep their houses in shape.
Many contractors have indicated that their past customers are calling and demanding that they perform handyman work, with service calls averaging three to five a year per customer. As a result, these contractors are either setting up a handyman division or allying themselves with a handyman company. Handled properly, every client for handyman work can be a customer for life.
Home Offices. More and more, people want to work at home. Building additions to provide office space as part of the home, or the conversion of a family room or basement into office space, is a growing enterprise. If the home business has outside visitors, the project usually requires meeting zoning requirements, providing a new outside entry, adding a separate powder room, and wiring for computers and cable. Soundproofing is a must. In the next few years, contractors who specialize in this area will flourish.
In-Law Suites. As people live longer, the need for families to take care of parents and grandparents is rapidly increasing. Using universal design in these projects is critical. This means widening doors for wheel chairs, adding grab bars in the tub and shower area, and changing out hardware.
Second Homes. A significant trend in the building and remodeling market is the increase in the number of families who have purchased a second home -- either to use as a vacation property or as a place to live after retirement. Opportunities exist not only for renovating that second home but for maintaining, on a contractual basis, either the second home or the primary residence.
It's readily apparent that the remodeling market is so large and has so many different types of customers that even the biggest remodeling companies can only concentrate on a small part of the industry. The good news is that every contractor, regardless of size, can analyze his market and select a segment or several segments in which to excel. --Walt Stoeppelwerth is a publisher of management and estimating information for professional remodelers. (800) 638-8292; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.hometechonline.com.