In today's complex world, people experience a lot of uncertainty. Take personal health, for example. Every day we hear about new studies that call into question long-established assumptions about what foods we should eat or what medications are safe to prescribe. The global warming debate introduces anxiety about the future of our environment, and reports of terrorism and political conflicts across the globe make us more uncertain about our personal safety.
Lately, some of this uncertainty may have begun to seep into your business life. This is especially true of speculation in the national media about the state of the housing industry and its prospects for the future, which may have undermined your confidence in your plans or caused you to hesitate or delay important commitments.
Not To Worry In my opinion, however, a lot of the stress you may be feeling is unwarranted. As I see it, the planets are very well aligned for a successful future in the remodeling business. The first place to look for signs of future prosperity is with your clients, the homeowners. Statistically, homeowners today have less free time and are less handy than ever before, and so they are less likely to undertake remodeling projects themselves. Fortunately, they also have more disposable income, and they tend to hire professionals to assist them with their remodeling needs.
Another indicator of a strong future for remodeling is the house itself. Houses in the '50s and the '60s were smaller and were built with simple materials like aluminum siding, asphalt roofs, and mill finish aluminum windows. There weren't as many choices, nothing was too complex, and not much could go wrong. Today's house, by contrast, contains many times the number of distinct materials, has more complex architectural details, and requires more specialized labor than ever before. Between expanding and upgrading older housing stock and maintaining newer homes, there will be plenty of remodeling activity to go around.
Staying At Home Then there are mortgage interest rates. Remodeling takes advantage of low interest rates, but also of creeping interest rates. In other words, when rates start to rise and new construction slows, more people turn to remodeling because the loan amounts are smaller and the terms are shorter. Interest rates have recently been at historic lows, and although I don't have a crystal ball, it looks like the rate will rise very slowly over the next few years. Plus, a great deal of money has been pulled out in refinances, and census data shows that more than one-third of cash-out refinance money goes back into the house through remodeling projects.
The final reason I believe you should feel confident about the remodeling industry's future is the renewed focus of Americans on their homes. Since the horrific events of 9/11, people are more focused on themselves and their families. This is reinforced by the lack of confidence people have in the stock market and the very strong appreciation in housing values. Today, people see their homes as both a lifestyle vehicle and an investment strategy. What could be better than that for the remodeling industry?
Focus On You Any one of these factors taken by itself should make you feel better, but the effect of all of them together should help you look ahead with confidence. Your success will be a product of your skills and your decisions, not the environment or the political climate. You need to focus on getting better as a business person, not worrying whether there will be another project for your crew. It isn't easy, but there is plenty of opportunity, and anyone who works hard and smart can be successful at it. —Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling and Case Handyman Services, Bethesda, Md., and author of 30-Day Remodeling Fitness Program. 301.229.4600; firstname.lastname@example.org.