Earlier this spring, Tom Foreman, a reporter from Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, did a segment on the so-called winners and losers in the current economy. Manufacturing and restaurants, Foreman found, weren’t doing so hot.
But the wine industry was. And so was one other sector: home remodeling.
“That is what he’d been hearing all over the country,” says Mitch Stanley, CGP, CGR, CKD, CBD, president of Stanley Home Renovation & Design and one of the remodelers that Foreman spoke with for the piece. “Remodeling and home renovation are on track to hold their own this year. It may not be a big banner year like 2006, but we’ll certainly see some progress.”
Indeed, some slivers of optimism have already begun to cut through this year’s economic fog. Stanley and other remodelers point to a healthy uptick in business as a direct result of this year’s Spring Home & Garden Show and the Tour of Remodeled Homes. May is National Home Remodeling Month, which always sheds some new light on the industry. And the 2008-09 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report listed Portland as one of the hottest markets for remodeling thanks to a healthy rate of return on investment.
On top of all that, the HBA’s Remodelers Council has embarked on a transformation — starting with a new name, the Professional Remodelers Organization — that will ultimately establish the group as the preeminent home remodelers organization in the Portland Metro Area.
What’s in a name?
Prompted in part by a name change at the national level two years ago, the Remodelers Council launched an analysis to size up where the organization had been and where it needed to go to better serve members and the general public.
Step one: finding the new name.
“They wanted a name that really told a better story about who they are and their mission,” says Jim Beriault, a marketing and public relations specialist who worked with the council on its new strategy. “The general consensus was that Remodelers Council didn’t have the wherewithal to tell the story.”
Hallie Gentry, manager of the Remodelers Council, says the name also wasn’t very recognizable and it never came up very prominently in web searches. That has resulted in a lot of media and public attention going not to the council but to a competing organization, the Oregon Remodelers Association.
The new name, however, will likely change all that. For starters, its initials alone, PRO, catch the eye. In addition, the name lets people know that members are professionals, the best of the best. And it also plainly lays out that PRO is a solid organization, not a council.
“PRO tells a story and you immediately get a sense of the organization,” Beriault says. “Rather than a lessening statement, it’s a positive, building statement.”
Along with the name change will come a new web site — www.hbapro.org — expanded services and educational offerings for members, a media push this month, and a new logo that ties closely to that of the HBA’s. The latter is intended to show how the HBA and PRO are intertwined and how they work in tandem to support the homebuilding and remodeling industries together.
“We have tremendous support from the executive staff at the HBA,” says Stanley, current chair of PRO. “Dave Nielsen is one of the biggest cheerleaders and supports the remodeling industry in a really big way.”
In addition, the HBA advocates for its remodeler members via its government affairs work, its support of improving standards for all contractors and its backing of institutions like the Northwest College of Construction.
Lane Cooper, president of COOPER Designbuilders Inc., has been an HBA member for years and part of the Remodelers Council for the past few. He agrees that the HBA is out there working for remodelers and homebuilders alike.
“Everybody who I’ve me on staff or within the remodelers organization has been very, very professional and dedicated to the best of all the members,” he says. “Being associated with it sets my company apart, and being associated with other like-minded professionals is very valuable to me.”
Cooper has found his association with the HBA even more valuable with the state of the economy at present. While not overly busy, Cooper says remodeling business has picked up thanks to this year’s Tour of Remodeled Homes. He is seeing a change in projects lately though.
“I’d say the average project is about half the size of what we were seeing about a year-and-a-half ago,” he says. “I just think for those who are remodeling there’s not as much money in their house to pull from.”
That said, there are good loans out there for those who qualify, and Cooper says lower prices on commodities and a hearty supply of labor has allowed his firm to offer better discounts to customers.
Stanley says the potential work he’s been looking at lately is actually fairly substantial: a $50,000 master bathroom, a $200,000 kitchen addition and even a $400,000 family room, kitchen and master bathroom suite.
“I think what that says is that there are definitely people out there who are mindful of the economy, but they have good, steady jobs, good equity in their houses and they’ve been thinking about doing these projects for a while,” he says. “There have been little snippets of good news here and there, so they’re thinking maybe the world’s not going to end.”
There’s been some other good news for the entire remodeling industry of late as well. Congressional economists are projecting that some $6 billion in remodeling work will be undertaken by the end of 2010 purely as a result of federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvement projects included in the recent economic stimulus package.
The National Association of Home Builders also predicts that the remodeling industry will grow 33 percent in the next 10 years, with 130 million homes in need of maintenance, upgrades, repairs and adjustments. And finally, current remodeling expenditures in the country are more than $225 billion; by 2016 they’re estimated to climb to $322 billion.
With such predictions, the remodeling industry is likely to thrive for many years to come.