Lupberger: Working in the new economy

There is an evolution taking place in the remodeling industry. As the market changes, smart business owners are adapting to the new economy.

November 17, 2012

There is an evolution taking place in the remodeling industry. As the market changes, smart business owners are adapting to the new economy. For example, you may be aware that the biggest online contractor referral company, ServiceMagic, is changing its name. ServiceMagic is becoming Home Advisor! The company is responding to changes in the marketplace and wants to be a service provider addressing these three primary homeowner needs:

• Repair

• Maintenance

• Home improvement

Regardless of your experience with ServiceMagic (the new Home Advisor), the company is responding to a trend in the  market that provides homeowners with one  primary resource to address all of their home-related needs.

As an established remodeling or home improvement contractor, you have a “leg-up” on any Internet-based service provider. You have relationships with past clients that no supplier, sub-contractor, or online service provider has. You have been in their homes, worked with the owners, and met the kids and dog. If the project went well, they trust you! You have relationships that others can only dream about. If you have been in business for any amount of time, you have a list of past clients that you have worked with before. Understand that your first sale will always be the hardest. That’s when you had to work hardest to sell yourself and your company.

Also understand that homeowners have ongoing service, repair, and maintenance items in regards to their homes. Here is my key takeaway from this column—when the project ends, your relationship is just beginning! You proved your skill and professionalism when you completed that first project. Build on that first sale by creating a plan to reconnect with past clients, helping them with any home-related project that they might need help with. Become their home advisor!

There are numerous market trends that will support this proactive business model. Due to the depressed real estate market, homeowners are staying in their homes longer. In addition, if we add the aging baby-boomer market, we will have more homeowners seeking appropriate aging-in-place recommendations that will allow them to stay in their homes as long as possible.

Let’s continue with this. As energy costs continue to rise, providing your clients with cost-saving energy solutions is a wonderful value-added service that you can provide. Providing home performance audits (some states actually subsidize these audits) will not only reduce energy bills but make the home more comfortable. Here are some interesting statistics from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS). Of 113.6 million homes in the United States:

• 64 percent are not well insulated. Most of these were built before 1980;

• 47 percent are drafty at least some of the time;

• 42 percent have single-pane windows; and

• 96 percent have not had an energy audit.

If you don’t do home performance energy audits, partner with someone who does. These are the things your clients will want to know more about. But it doesn’t end there. Maintaining a home requires a village:

• HVAC maintenance

• Interior maintenance

• Exterior maintenance

• Electric improvements

• Plumbing improvements

• Interior updates and improvements

I could continue to add to the list above, but you get the idea. Homeowners both need and want help finding qualified contractors to assist them with their homes. Most homeowners don’t feel qualified researching and hiring a good contractor. You already have this network. As their home advisor, they not only get access to you but to your professional network of qualified service providers. Homeowners want and will pay for these services. They already have a family doctor, dentist, and car mechanic. You become their home contractor.

The primary benefits are below:

• Recurring work

• Ongoing cash flow

• Building a strong referral network

• Moving your customers to a true client-for-life business model

• With this relationship, small jobs lay the groundwork for larger jobs.

We have a growing marketplace of homeowners who will be looking for the services needed to maintain and improve their homes. They visit their dentist and doctor every year. Who is providing them with their annual home checkup? Who is more qualified to do this than you? Manage these relationships, and the work will follow. PR

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David Lupberger has been in the remodeling industry for more than 20 years and is author of Managing the Emotional Homeowner, the Remodelers Turnkey Program, and the Home Asset Management Plan. You can reach him at david@davidlupberger.com, or at 303-442-3702.

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