Since the end of August, Mark Elia at Mark of Excellence Remodeling has seen an increase in leads and closed a few jobs including a large kitchen project. The summer in Freehold, N.J. is usually a slow time. “We are in a shore community, so summer is quiet,” he says. However, this year the up tick in calls started in August, which is a few weeks earlier than in past years, and stayed strong through September.
He thinks consumers are looking for a reason to spend and finding it in good news in some key industries in the economy. “They’re seeing a glimmer of hope and saying, ‘ok, let’s go’,” he says. Alan Greenspan used the phrase “irrational exuberance” in 1996 to describe a market that might be overvalued. Elia says he does not see his clients returning to that “irrational exuberance” with their remodeling spending. “They are not throwing all caution to the wind,” he says, noting that clients are more concerned about value for their investment now than they have been in the past year and a half.
After an unpredictable year with a budget he describes as a “moving target,” he expects to have a “decent” third quarter. “In past years, we would meet in the 4th quarter to plan for the coming year. Now, we’re doing ‘rolling quarters’ where we look at budget after each quarter and revise it as needed,” Elia says.
He is also enthusiastic about New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program which includes Home Performance with Energy Star and offers homeowners a home energy assessment valued at $300 for $125. If a house meets the criteria, homeowners also received up to $1,000 worth of air sealing, and also receive cash rebates and low to no interest loans if they pay for additional energy-related remodeling up to $20,000.
Mark of Excellence recently became a certified contractor for the program and plans to run the energy audits through its home maintenance division. “It’s one more offering that will set us apart from competition. We would love to combine it with a whole-house remodeling project,” Elia says. He and his staff will promote the plan through social media and the company’s web site. He hopes the generous incentives in New Jersey’s plan extend beyond its 2010 deadline.