Sal Alfano
Sharpe + Harrell Photography Sal Alfano

In each of the 24 years we’ve published the Cost vs. Value Report, the data has always changed. But the impulse to remodel is a strong as ever, albeit a bit less urgent. Here are a few suggestions on how to use our data to help your clients with the emotional ROI.

  • Forget resale value. For many home­owners, a sluggish market for existing homes has made the move-or-remodel debate irrelevant, at least for now. All things considered — low house prices, the hassles of getting a loan, and the cost of moving — a lot of people are opting to stay put.
  • But all of the reasons for considering a move — the need for more space, new space, better space — are still there. It doesn’t take much to see how the prospect of living with those issues for years to come makes remodeling look like a pretty good option.
  • Expect trade-offs. Your clients’ remodeling projects won’t match the generic versions in our report, so make sure you understand the differences. Be prepared to offer cost-saving trade-offs — most people will accept something less in one area to get something more in another.
  • Phase it. Budgets are tight, so if you can’t get the whole job, get part of it. Something is always better than nothing, both for you and for your clients. But make sure you plan both phases up front. That way, completing the first phase gives your client some of what they want now, plus it helps them commit to doing the future work because they’re paying now to prepare for it.
  • Phasing the work can also enhance the “Diderot effect.” Named for the French writer who first described it with regard to a new wardrobe, this is a phenomenon whereby newly remodeled space makes the rest of the existing space look shabby, which leads to more remodeling. The effect compounds with each project, including phased work, because the completed portion is a constant reminder that the future work remains undone.
  • Execute. Make sure your performance blows them away. You only get one chance to impress a client, regardless of the size of the job. Make sure that everything you do — not just the fit and finish of the final product, but all of the process that supports it — exceeds your clients’ expectations. There’s a whole crowd of remodelers waiting to take your place, so don’t give anyone a reason to think twice about hiring you again.

Remember, remodeling is an emotional investment. It’s up to you to make sure the ROI is always more than 100%.
—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING.