Make Lemonade From Other's Lemons

Five years ago, BOWA Rescue was launched to help homeowners who are left in a remodeling lurch.

February 28, 2003

Five years ago, BOWA Rescue was launched to help homeowners who are left in a remodeling lurch.

"We get numerous cries for help each year where homeowners end up in remodeling nightmares," says Josh Baker, president of BOWA Builders Inc., McLean, Va. "At first we thought about these as lose/lose situations, but then we decided to recognize these calls as an opportunity to be knights in shining armor."

Sometimes BOWA Rescue is called because a homeowner no longer feels comfortable working with a contractor or the project is over budget and past deadlines. "It is typically shoddy workmanship where the contractor is unable to finish or didn’t do a good job," Baker says. "They are so happy to get a response and get someone on the job site." Many rescued homeowners later bring other remodeling work to BOWA.

Sometimes there are potentially dangerous situations involving structural defects. The county often needs to be involved because appropriate inspections haven’t been done, for example, requiring BOWA to excavate in order to verify the depth of footings. A large percentage of the projects involve litigation. "We sometimes appear in court, if needed," Baker notes.

BOWA had a sales volume of $24 million in 2002, and three-quarters of its business is large-scale, high-end remodeling, with the balance in custom homes. The rescue portion is not a large part of the overall business, but it fits with the corporate focus on customer service. Rescue projects range from $25,000 to ones worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. "We take on less than half of the rescues that call us," Baker says. "If we had clients who wanted to do a quick fix that was not in their long-term best interest, we would walk away from it." Other projects are rejected simply because "we don't want to have our name on it."

Rescue work of this type is not for everyone, Baker notes. "It is only for the most sophisticated remodeling companies who can handle the toughest kind of work. It takes good systems, good communication and good processes to make it work."

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