Out-of-the-ordinary gestures can help remodelers stand out in a buyer's market. In Bakersfield, Calif., DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen is the only remodeler around that makes available two “mobile kitchens” — understatements, as they're actually recreational vehicles — to clients whose kitchens are being remodeled.
“It's a courtesy to relieve some of the stress of remodeling,” says Patty Gray, co-owner and general manager. It's also a highly visible marketing concept. Each of the RVs (one 18 feet long, the other 19 feet) resides in a client's driveway for an average of six weeks for a full kitchen remodel. One sports the company logo and phone number, making it clear to neighbors and passers-by that a professional remodeling company is at work in the home.
At $15,000 apiece — purchased new because “we wanted them to be pristine,” Gray says — the mobile kitchens cost less than some forms of advertising yet are more versatile than the typical mini-kitchen some remodeling clients rely on while their home is under construction. Equipped with a table and a sofa, they're a quiet escape from the messy progress taking place next door.
Clients are told of this unusual perk at the pre-qualification meeting. They pay nothing to use an RV (DreamMaker builds them into costs, treating them like other overhead expenses), though there's no guarantee that one will be available during their remodel. The RVs can hook up to the homes' water supply, and propane tanks supply power for their appliances.
There are, of course, limits to the mobile kitchens' use. Some neighborhoods don't allow them. Their bathroom doors stay locked unless the project also involves a bathroom remodel. DreamMaker also puts locks on the wheels, to prevent thieves from towing them away.
But the benefits seem to outweigh the risks. Above all, clients appreciate them. “We just did a very expensive kitchen for a family, and they used it every day,” Gray says. Employees sometimes borrow one for the weekend as well, on the rare occasion that a client hasn't claimed it.