Over the years I have become a bit of a remodeling evangelist, speaking every chance I get not only to the industry but also to consumers. This self-appointed role is good for my ego, but my primary motivation is to fill the information void and correct misconceptions, as well as a genuine desire to help keep homeowners out of trouble and have a more successful remodeling experience.

After conducting hundreds of consumer seminars, plus Web-casts, home shows, and 10 years of radio broadcasts, I continue to be amazed how otherwise smart, sophisticated homeowners can put themselves and their biggest asset at risk during a remodeling project. If the remodeling community can become better at educating clients about the risk, then the better companies will not only be more successful, but the media will have fewer disaster stories to tell.

RISK ADVISER I believe that every remodeler needs to become a “remodeling risk adviser.” The trick is to make your point without scaring people away from the idea of remodeling. Here are some effective ways to communicate about the subject of risk.

The first step is to pay close attention to the language you use and the questions you ask. Think of yourself as a therapist who is not just asking about project details but who is also probing behind those details in an effort to uncover motivations and biases. Ask about the homeowners' previous experiences with remodeling, what their concerns are (cost, quality, or time), and what their risk tolerance is. Use analogies and metaphors that communicate difficult concepts in terms that are more familiar.

For example, you might compare a major remodeling purchase to buying a car, so that you can discuss the importance of choosing a well-known brand over a no-name brand, and the value of buying from a dealership instead of from a local gas station that has a sign in the car window.

Or you might compare remodeling to major surgery. Which cardiologist would they prefer to use, one who performs just one or two heart operations each year or a practice that specializes and does one each week using the latest technologies?

Or you can compare their investment in a remodeling company to the investment in a financial portfolio. Some investments are higher risk, such as oil futures or small cap stocks; other investments give a modest but more predictable yield, such as CDs , bonds, or lower-risk stocks.

APPLES TO APPLES Another way to discuss risk is to explain the three types of remodeling companies. There are the boutique companies with high prices and a signature design approach (about 5% of all companies); the established remodeling companies (like your company) that make up about 15% of all firms; and the small “dog and truck” outfits that enter and leave the business as the market adjusts.

This last group includes some genuinely nice people, but they tend to have trouble maintaining schedules, retaining a crew, and returning phone calls. They are often underinsured, and if someone gets hurt during a project, the homeowner's investment may be at risk. Your goal is not to bash competing remodelers, but it is your responsibility to educate your prospect about the fact that not all remodelers are equal and therefore the pricing structure is not “apples to apples.”

Remodeling sales is a numbers game. If a discussion of risk leads to your signing one additional contract out of 10 prospects, then you have increased your batting average by 100 points. That batting average is the difference between making the all-star team or being cut.

PRICE VS. RISK When the discussion is only about price and not about risk, it is easy for homeowners to go with the lower cost because they don't fully understand what they are getting for their money. Remember, all of the industry fundamentals are strong. Adjusting your selling approach slightly will help you achieve positive results even in tough times.

—Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling Inc.; mrichardson@casedesign.com.