I really wish I were a betting man, or played the stock market. I would have looked for a symbol of RF$+ "Remodeling Futures Dollars Growth" or some such, because that is exactly what has happened.
Mike Butts Over the past year, while the news media has been full of gloom and doom over the housing market, foretelling of record foreclosures, housing starts down, and real estate values flat if not dropping, one segment of our industry continues to grow and thrive: remodeling. Let me show you how much, and then share some other interesting facts about this market.

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (www.harvard.edu/publications/industrystudies) has come up with numbers for the remodeling industry over the past three years. (See chart)

Its publication, Future Growth in the Remodeling Industry, further states that: "Over the last decade, the U.S. home improvement market nearly doubled in size to $280 billion. Indeed, the combination of low financing costs, strong growth in homeowner equity, and high payback on home projects made 2000-05 the best five-year period ever for the remodeling industry."

Looking at the Joint Center's numbers makes me wonder where all those remodeling contractors are buying product. If we only cater to builders and don't pursue the key remodeling contractors in our market, who's left to serve them? Don't bother answering the question, I already know–and so do you.

Another publication I received, from the Home Improvement Research Institute (www.hiri.org), points out how homeowners can find the right contractor.

The study describes project satisfaction versus how a contractor is located. At the end of the day, HIRI found the preferred method of finding a contractor is from previous personal experience, followed by referral from family or a friend, recommendation from another contractor, advertising, and finally referral from a "home improvement store."

These studies prove previous points I've made: your best bet for total customer satisfaction is to control the process from start to finish. According to the HIRI study, the overwhelming majority of homeowners surveyed preferred a previous personal experience (6.42 on a 7 point scale).

Well, if you are involved in the remodel and retrofit market with an aggressive installed campaign, managed by a professional staff, you will become the contractor they do business with. And if you implement a professional customer resource management program of satisfaction surveys, follow-up letters, and continued contact regarding future projects, you will place yourself far beyond everyone else in the market. Human nature drives us to do business with people we like, and if you go out of your way to take care of the customers, they will come back.

So: $306 billion in the remodeling market, up 3% over 2006, simple projects, licensed and insured installers. Do you want some of this, or would you rather sit back, arms folded, and wait on the new construction market to come back to you?

–Mike Butts is president of LBM Solutions, a DeWitt, Mich.?based LBM supply consulting and training firm. 517.668.0585. E-mail: mike@lbmsolutions.biz