New Home Growth Slow, Niche Local Home Improvement Contractors Booming

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New Home Growth Slow, Niche Local Home Improvement Contractors Booming


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Disappointing existing home sales in March were still slow, but local home improvement contractors seem to be booming. Fixed residential investment seems to be gaining ground, people are spending money locally on improving their homes rather than buying new ones. Building contractors that concentrate on such things as windows, flooring, sunrooms, roofing and etc. have seen an increase of 14% in their sales overall in the last 12 months according to Sageworks Inc.

And experts with the Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies on Thursday projected annual spending on remodeling activity will see healthy growth in 2012, ending the year up 5.9 percent.

That follows BuildFax’s report Monday that February residential remodeling activity showed significant increases across all U.S. regions, and the head of that group told that residential remodeling this winter was the strongest it’s been in five years.

Home owners are looking inward rather than outward when it comes to where they want to spend their dollars. New private “niche,” building contractors like Honest Exteriors owned by Leonardtown native Rick Stearns are experiencing an explosion in growth thanks to a switch on how they market and sell their services.

“I used to work as a sales manager for some large regional roofing, window, door and siding companies. A large portion of their sales and marketing strategy was to deceive customers with artificially low advertised prices so they could get their sales people in the door with potential clients. Once in the door, the sales person would give the same industry pitch most companies use and start out with some outrageous price or number for certain amount of windows. They then would apply the pressure sale by cutting that price in half but telling the customer that they had to sign now or they would never get that price again. I hated this strategy and it left the customers with a bad taste in their mouth. Instead, I swore that when I started up my business I would be up-front with costs and concentrate on making the customer happy and make my business more efficient. Large window, roofing and sunroom companies mark up their windows as much as 300%.”

“ I like concentrating on how I can help home owners save money and make wise decisions. I love educating the customer by getting up on a roof and taking some pictures of places where I see damage and then popping the pictures in my laptop and showing the customer how they can save future grief by catching problems early on. Another thing I have seen is roofing estimators tell someone their roof is larger than it really is. To gain my customers trust I show them a software program that connects to sattelites that I use that can actually give a fairly accurate estimate of the roof size right from space!”

Rick Stearns - CEO of Honest Exteriors

The Internet is making home owners smarter and they seem to be looking at investments in their houses as a way to recapture some of the value that was lost by the housing market crash. They are looking at value-added additions and ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Tax credits and other incentives over the recent years has been a big motivator for people to jump onto the Internet and research where and how they can spend money on their homes.

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