Trade Secrets

Trade secrets from the remodeling industry

September 30, 2008
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Getting in on the ground floor

All too often, people buy a home with plans to remodel but don't realize how much their planned upgrades are going to really cost.

Getting to those clients before they pay too much for a home is the idea behind Renewal 360, a new program from Decatur, Ga.-based Renewal Construction.

“A lot of times we'd be telling them it was going to cost two to three times what they expected to do what they wanted,” says Peter Michelson, CEO of the design/build firm. “A lot of people were buying homes based on advice from real-estate agents and getting misled.”

Now, for $750, potential homeowners can hire Renewal to visit up to three homes and let them know if their proposed project is feasible and give them a rough idea of what it would cost. This allows the client to make a more informed offer. If the client doesn't have a real-estate agent, Renewal can also refer them to one of the company's local partners.

According to Renewal, 80 percent of homes in Atlanta and 87 percent of homes in Decatur, the two cities in which the company works, were built before 1980, making them prime candidates for major remodeling.

The service is not a full home inspection but rather a quick look at the home to see what's possible. And because Renewal only works within six miles of the company's office, the cost to the company is minimal.

Renewal had been performing the service for past clients, but charging for it now allows the company to weed out those clients who aren't as serious. Setting the fee low keeps it from scaring away real prospects.

The program also gives Renewal an early edge if the client does decide to remodel.

“As a design/build company, getting into that home early on is an advantage,” Michelson says. “We've already gotten some nice projects out of it.”

Whole-house checkup

Like many remodelers, Case Design/Remodeling has a lot of clients asking about green remodeling. At the same time, the company has been struggling to convert that interest into actual work in the green arena.

“Clients are interested in the topic, but they typically don't come to us because they want to do the green thing,” says George Weissberger, senior vice president and director of research and development. “They come to us because they want to do an addition or bathroom.”

So the management team for the Bethesda, Md., company has been trying to figure out ways to generate more interest in green. That's where they came up with the idea of offering home performance evaluations as a standard part of the company's preliminary agreement, which is the stage when the company makes its measurements and estimates.

“We figured we're already in the home measuring things and looking at the house, why not take a look at these other things?” Weissberger says.

After the evaluation, Case produces a five- to 10-page report that makes suggestions for the home, such as adding insulation or upgrading the HVAC system. The extra inspection only adds about half an hour to the time the staff would already be in the house.

Case has only been offering the service for a few months, so it's too early to say how big an impact it will have on sales, but it should offer a competitive advantage when clients are choosing between multiple contractors, Weissberger says.

A 360-degree virtual tour

Warth Construction is harnessing the power of virtual tours to show clients how the company can transform their homes.

For the last two years, the Highlands, N.C., design/build firm has used virtual tours to create full replicas of projects to help clients make design choices. The tours are created by taking photos of the room, then linking those photos together to create a 360-degree view of the home. (To view tours of completed projects, visit

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