John Drew says that his company’s sales volume is down 40% compared with last year. The owner of Drew Construction says that home values in Boise, Idaho, where he works, have dropped considerably over the past two years so that although homeowners want to remodel, they don’t have the equity in their homes to be able to borrow money. Unlike in the past, most homeowners are planning to stay in their houses and are not as concerned with cosmetic items for quick sales.

“We used to tell [homeowners] that the immediate resale value of what we put into a house was 78%,” Drew says. “[But] so many houses are sitting empty and there are so many houses for sale — we can’t do that anymore.” In August, he says, there was a slight increase in home sales. He is waiting for more positive signs like that to restore consumer confidence.

Some consumers view Drew’s design/build model as providing more value. “We do design on a retainer basis and credit that fee if they hire us,” Drew says. He also provides advice on choosing energy-efficient products and systems that will help homeowners save money, including on-demand electric and gas water heaters, whole-house water filters, and windows. “Those are big items,” he says, “but people are looking for things for the long term.”

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.