The remodeling industry has a growing problem on its hands that must be addressed immediately.
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|By Bruce Isaacson, President, Homestore.com, Inc. Home Services
There are many interesting predictions concerning how our lives at home and at work will change in coming years. For remodelers and contractors, the future is exciting, confusing, and maybe even daunting. Will we be able to keep up with new skills, new information and new customer needs? Will progress in automation and production change our methods for communication at work and at play?
Homes will certainly be different. In its report "Housing at the Millennium," NAHB provides some clues. The NAHB suggests that new homes in the future will have innovative amenities and features that make them safer, more comfortable and energy efficient. Homes could be commonly built or upgraded to include high-speed data access and modular wiring, advanced security systems, multiple telephone lines, energy management technologies and lighting control mechanisms. As more American workers return to the nest -- an estimated 20 percent of the population is expected to work at home by 2005 as compared to just 5 percent last year, according to American Demographics, June 2000 -- contractors and remodelers may find themselves swamped with requests for home office additions.
Whether based at home or at company headquarters, the office lives of those working in home improvement on the Internet or marketing on the Web will have to adapt dramatically and quickly. Already, our industry is changing significantly thanks to new online marketing tactics. Today, 37 percent of homeowners use the Internet as an information source for their home search, according to The 2000 National Association of Realtors: Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, and many are returning later to the Internet to learn about remodeling.
It took radio 38 years, television 13 years and cable TV 10 years, to reach the same number of people the Internet has tapped in five short years -- 50 million (Real Trends). And according to Cyber Dialogue, by 2002, almost 100 million Americans will be actively online. E-commerce revenues worldwide have jumped astronomically over the past few years, with the United States boasting almost $200 billion last year (Forrester Research). As it grows, the Internet is going mobile, palm-ready and easily portable.
Some of these changes aren’t so far away. Legislation signed by President Clinton in early July gives the electronic signature the same validity as one marked with a pen. Very soon, the days of paper trails will be gone. All your work will be duly recorded, sorted and filed on a screen smaller than your computer mouse is now. Indeed, in the home and real estate industry, my own company, Homestore.com, Inc., has taken drastic strides to develop an electronic real estate platform to ease the process of all the document signing and paper transfer involved in buying a house. Eventually consumers will purchase a house with online signatures, and the major home remodeling contract is not far behind.
More and more contractors -- small, family-owned, medium and large-scale -- have staked out territory on the Internet, and have profited from a clean, user-friendly Web presence visited regularly by their best customers and prospects. Efficiencies of online advertising through innovative technology tools provided by category leaders like Homestore.com and other companies have added value to remodeling and contracting professionals at a cost-effective price. By 2005, however, contractors and remodelers will likely be handling everything electronically -- planning, bidding, designing, estimating and ordering inventory, drafting and adapting plans and talking with customers via-video conferencing from a keyboard or handheld device.
For the remodeling industry, this progress -- from the home to the office, and in the short to long term -- will mean more opportunity and efficiency in our line of work. But for that to happen, we will need to keep an open mind, an open hand to possibly hold the latest wireless trend, and a trained eye to edge the competition. Today is the time to plan how your business cannot only keep up with, but profit from tomorrow’s endless possibilities.
Homestore.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: HOMS) is the leading network of sites on the Internet for home and real estate-related information. Homestore.com, Inc.’s family of web sites includes the Homestore.comTM, REALTOR.com®, HomeBuilder.comTM, SpringStreet.comTM, Remodel.comTM (Home Improvement) and HomeFair.comTM web sites. Homestore.com’s remodeling area covers home improvement needs for both consumers and remodeling professionals.