What a difference a few months makes. I remember talking with company owners back in March when COVID first hit the remodeling market. There were massive layoffs and furloughs—especially on the home improvement side—and a palpable sense of doom. “We have spent our life building a business and it’s heartbreaking to dismantle it,” the owner of a large window replacement company told me in April.
And then the leads came back.
Contractors are regaining confidence
Consumers stuck at home realized that certain aspects of their houses were driving them crazy, and now was the time to upgrade. Many remodelers sold more home offices to serve the needs of professionals living the new normal. A friend who works in the swimming pool market told me that the industry’s biggest challenge right now is meeting demand.
Industry data backs up what I’ve been hearing anecdotally. According to NAHB’s most recent Remodeling Market Indicator (RMI), contractors across the country are regaining confidence. The RMI asks remodelers to rate the market and creates an index from their answers. Anything above 50 shows that most respondents perceive conditions as good over poor. In Q2, all components of the RMI saw major increases with every one well above 50.
One unsurprising aspect of this is that small remodeling projects had an index of 83, while larger ones were much lower at 70. That figure is actually higher than I would expect given what I’ve heard from design build companies specializing in higher-end projects. They report much more of a struggle, with one business owner saying it was like “a tale of two cities” between firms such as his as compared to the off-the-hook- busy replacement contractors.
Change is in the air for the remodeling industry
But change is still in the air. One of the trickiest, most frustrating things about the pandemic’s effect is that it’s a moving target. Just as we saw an about-face between March/April and later in the spring, we will no doubt see more big changes ahead. What that will look like is anyone’s guess.
For that reason, it’s critically important to retain the lessons learned from when the bottom fell out earlier in the year. Back then, remodelers talked about how the crisis forced them to rethink leadership tactics, operating cash, expenses, business operations, and attitudes toward using technology to sell projects. In the midst of that disastrous time I heard many inspiring stories of personal and professional growth. And again and again, I heard the phrase, “If I get through this, it will be a blessing in disguise because my company is much stronger now than before.”
Today, I don’t hear that message anymore. Instead, it’s more like, “We can’t keep up with demand,” or “I’m trying to hire more people.” While those things are, and should be, top-of-mind, retaining the core lessons so painfully learned in recent times will set you up for strength in a future that remains largely unknown.