As remodelers we spend a lot of time helping clients and potential clients overcome their concerns and fears about embarking on home improvement projects; concerns and fears that have an impact on their decision-making. In today’s real estate market, a common fear is whether or not the homeowner will receive a return on the investment they are making by remodeling their home. Just as consumers look to financial advisors for advice on the types of stocks in which to invest, they look to remodelers for advice on investments in their home, which is, more often than not, their single largest asset. This is a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly. Build Trust
I have found that the Cost vs. Value Report — published by Remodeling, in cooperation with Realtor magazine and available online at costvsvalue
.com — is a great place to start in helping clients understand estimated cost recovery.
However, it’s crucial that you delve deeper, asking clients a range of questions to help determine whether the projects being considered are prudent investments: How long do you plan on staying in your home? What improvements have your neighbors made? How will you pay for the project? What trends are you seeing in home values and resales around you? Is your comfort more important to you than market value?
As a professional remodeler, you have an opportunity to build trust during these discussions by using a proper balance of up- and down-selling. For example, you might recommend that your clients wait until they have enough money saved to remodel their entire kitchen rather than installing new quartz countertops on top of old cabinets. Or maybe you recommend a higher grade of windows for their porch enclosure, to be consistent with the quality and appearance of their existing windows.
Phrases such as, “Most of our clients haven chosen this because ...” show that you have enough experience with similar projects to know that the homeowners are not doing something unusual or out of character for their home that might diminish its value. It is also important to point out those things that will diminish home value if they are not addressed, such as rotting doors and windows. In all cases, clients will appreciate that you are looking out for their pocketbook not just for a single project but for as long as they intend to live in that house.
Interestingly enough, even in this troubled economic environment, there are still many clients who are not shying away from more expensive upgrades such as higher-quality cabinetry, luxury plumbing fixtures, and professional-grade appliances. This is especially true for those clients who have no intention of selling their home in the foreseeable future. They value comfort and lifestyle over what value the improvements may have in the current real estate market, and thus are less sensitive to the budget implications of these upgrades. It’s important to recognize what they value early on in your discovery of their wants versus needs.

Plump Your Pluses
Now is not the time to stick your head in the sand hoping that the economy will improve, or to give in to the temptation to cut marketing and training expenditures. Instead, adapt to the sensitivities of today’s consumer, and define what makes your company unique. Maybe it’s your team’s level of experience, your reputation for professionalism, or the range of services you offer. Or maybe it’s your ability to show that you recognize and can address clients’ fears about making investment decisions. Whatever it is, make sure you highlight it in your marketing message and in your sales presentation.
If your clients hesitate about spending what they believe is too much on their home in this uncertain real estate market, consistently maintain the message you’ve chosen — regardless of the current state of the economy. Improvements made to the home — if made with the advice of a professional remodeler — are safe, smart long-term investments.

—Brad Little is president of Case Handyman and Remodeling of Charlotte, N.C., and a newly appointed member of the Case Franchise Owners Advisory Council. [email protected].