How to Start a Home Renovation Business

A home renovation business remains fairly profitable irrespective of the state of the economy. During an economic downturn, owners undertake improvements to increase the home value. On the other hand, during an economic upswing, homeowners opt to renovate their homes instead of buying new high-priced ones.

Individuals desiring to start a home improvement business need not necessarily be experts or qualified home building professionals. The actual renovation work can be outsourced to other professionals and skilled laborers. Nonetheless, home renovation owners need to possess the skills necessary to supervise the work. What to do:

• Forming the business – A person wanting to commence a renovation business needs to decide on the form and structure of the company. The business owner can hire a lawyer to prepare a draft of the company’s articles of ownership or visit a legal site online and draft the articles. These have to be filed with the state office where the business is formed.

• Getting the license – The licensing laws are different for each state. However, a general applicable law is to procure a general contractor license or a license as a home renovator/remodeler. For exact details, contact your state’s local business department that provides all the relevant information and the applicable fees.

• Procuring the insurance – A licensed insurance broker can provide all the relevant and applicable insurance laws for a property renovation business. Generally, insurance coverage for any liabilities arising during the renovation is required. Additionally, the home renovation business owner may be required to have a bond to operate.

• Liaison with sub-contractors – Renovating a home requires professionals with numerous technical skills. To offer a complete home renovation package, owners need the services of technicians, such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC consultants, masons and carpenters. Checking the local telephone directory to find suitable contractors to sub-contract the work can be an option. Additionally, the business owner can contact the state’s professional licensing division to procure information on the registered service providers within the area.

• Acquiring the equipment – A property improvement business requires a substantial investment in various equipment such as saws, routers, ladders, levers, extension cords and many others. Procuring these supplies or contracting an equipment provider is crucial for the timely completion of the work.

• Materials procurement and scheduling – The business owner should open a credit line with material suppliers to ensure a continuous and timely supply of building materials. Another important aspect is to schedule deliveries from various sub-contractors onsite as required. Material delivery can affect the renovation time frame.

Once you have done the necessary leg work to set-up a home renovation business, marketing the business is the next important part. Contacting local home inspectors, architects, insurance providers and lenders can assist owners to gain projects. Advertising in various media like print, radio or online is also beneficial.

Don’t Despair, Home Improvement Contractors – There’s Still Gold in the Market

The shaky housing market has some home improvement contractors running scared, but there is no reason to hang up your tool belt just yet. Business from homebuilders may have dried up, but homeowners themselves still need what you have to offer. In fact, experts are forecasting growth in the remodeling arena – in part as an offshoot of the decline in home sales. The trick will be switching your marketing strategy to reach your new target audience.
 
Remodeling, of course, is an evergreen business. Approximately 25 million homeowners undertake some type of home improvement project each year, according to research from Harvard’s Improving America’s Housing 2007. And the Home Improvement Research Institute predicts that sales of home improvement products will grow at an average rate of 6% annually over the next four years – a sign that people will still be investing in their homes. 
 
Some of this demand is triggered by normal home upkeep. Two-thirds of existing homes are now at least 25 years old – the age at which items such as the roof, windows and plumbing fixtures begin to need repair or replacement, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Other projects are inspired by a simple desire to upgrade one’s living environment – perhaps pushed along these days by television lifestyle shows filled with luxury amenities.
 
Additional demand will be driven by the state of the housing market, experts say. Some homeowners who were planning to move will instead renovate because they can’t sell their homes in the current economy. Properties that have fallen victim to the foreclosure crisis will be acquired and in need of remodeling, particularly over the next 18 months as foreclosures peak. And pent-up demand for older home remodeling, energy efficiency retrofits and rental stock improvements will be unleashed when the economy perks up, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
 
Bottom line: there’s still business today, and there will be MORE business over the near term. Now is the time to lay the marketing groundwork to cash in.
 
While word-of-mouth referrals will always be important, it’s not enough to keep your pipeline filled. Advertising plays an essential role in bringing customers to your door by building brand recognition as well as credibility. But not all ads are created equal. Follow these rules of thumb for best results:

  • Define your target audience and create an effective method to reach them.
  • If your service is high-end, maximize your advertising dollars by targeting only top homes by value in the marketplace.
  • Showcase your best work through photographs. This inspires remodeling ideas and helps consumers visualize the effect that a remodeling project will have on their own home.
  • Look for advertising outlets that focus on home remodeling, because that’s where your target customer is going to be looking for contractors – not mixed in with pizza coupons.
  • Advertise on a regular basis. A consumer normally needs to see your name and ad repeatedly before picking up the phone.
  • Be sure that your phone number and other contact information is prominently displayed in your ad so that consumers can reach you easily. 

Remember: the home improvement business is still alive and kicking. It’s just a matter of finding opportunities in new places. Put yourself in front of the right people – through advertising – and the work will come.
 
For more information on home improvement advertising, visit www.thehomemag.com.

Home Improvement Contractors – What Homeowners Should Know

With home improvement fraud and scams on the rise in the United States, homeowners must take the necessary precautions to avoid becoming victims of “fly by night contractors.” For those who still own their properties after seeing the rise in foreclosures across this Nation, it is incumbent on you the homeowner to do the following before you go in search of a Home Improvement Contractor.

Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) in most jurisdictions in the United States is regulated by City, State or County Agencies. For example, in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk County in New York, the Department Of Consumer Affairs regulates the operations of Home Improvement Contractors and Home Improvement Salesmen (HIS). These are representatives or sales people who negotiate contracts on behalf of Home Improvement Contractors (HIC).

There are basically three (3) stages of the home improvement process, namely: The Negotiation Stage; The Contract Stage and The Work In Progress and Completion Stage. In the Negotiation Stage, a homeowner should perform a “due diligence” on prospective Home Improvement Contractors and Home Improvement Salesmen, hereinafter referred to as HIC and HIS respectively. This is where you research and check to see if the HIC is a bona fide and legitimate operator. You start by calling the Agency that regulates HIC and HIS in your area. Ask HIC and HIS for proof of licenses, workmen compensation, general liability insurance, performance bonds, and references.

You should also check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with respect to the reputation of such businesses. Check to see any history of complaints and how they were expedited. Make sure that the HIC/HIS has a physical business address, business telephone, fax, email address, website, etc. Beware of “fly by night contractors” that operate out of their trucks, vans, SUV. It is very important also for you the homeowners to get at least 3-5 free written estimates from HIC and HIS. Some HIC/HIS may charge a reasonable fee depending on the size of the job estimate. For example, those estimates that involves blue prints specifications, plans, zoning, etc. However, you should try and negotiate a free written estimate that expressly state in black and white prices, brand names, colors, designs, start date, completion date, etc. Keep in mind that “word of mouth” is the best recommendation. Get references from HIC/HIS and invest the time to check the jobs and speak to the homeowners directly. Ask questions!

In the Contract Stage, before you sign or execute a contract, make sure that you obtain copies of HIC/HIS licenses, workmen compensation, general liability insurance, performance bond (applicable for large projects), and inquire whether the HIC participates in a Home Improvement Trust Fund. This is a trust fund that the Agency requires HIC to pay into so as to protect homeowners from HIC who takes off before a job is completed. You are required also to make sure that all brand names, styles, colors, any oral promises (some high powered HIC/HIS will promise you the moon to get your signature), along with manufacturer’s and labor warranties to be expressly written in your contract. Most importantly, make sure that the HIC/HIS expressly put in writing a start date and completion date, along with giving you your right to cancel (recession rights).

Most contract laws allow you three (3) business days from the date of a contract to withdraw or cancel the contract without any penalty or obligations. So if you gave a deposit to the HIC/HIS, you are entitled to a full refund within a reasonable period of time not to exceed 10 days. Check with your jurisdiction to make sure of this right. With respect to deposits, some HIC/HIS may require a deposit upon the execution of a contract. Be very careful of HIC and HIS who ask for large deposits up front. Beware of HIC and HIS who wants cash or have checks written out to his or her name. Make checks payable to the Business name only. It is advisable to pay using a credit card. If the HIC is a legitimate operator, it is very likely that they accept credit card as a Merchant. However, the Rule is: Do not give a deposit more than what you can afford to lose. In other words, give a very, very small deposit. A bona fide, reputable and legitimate HIC will not ask for a deposit up front. Such HIC has credit accounts with Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other suppliers who will not rely on your money/deposit to buy materials.

If you are not financing the work through the HIC or a third party lender, it is recommended that you pay progress payments to the HIC. Progress payments are incremental payments. In other words, you pay as the work progresses. For example, if you are getting a roof job done, you may want to give a percentage down (one third of contract price) only on delivery of materials and start of work. Then you give another one third payment when the roof is completed and the final one third when the construction debris is removed from your property. It is advisable to hold back at least 10 per cent of the total contract price for at least 90 days to ensure that the work was done properly. For those homeowners who wish to finance their projects through the HIC or a third party lender, make sure that you do not sign any blank bank papers. You should also ask the HIC/HIS whether the amount you finance will cause a lien or second mortgage to be placed on your property. Make sure that the bank does a visual inspection of the work before you sign a completion certificate allowing the bank to pay the HIC.

Finally, the Work in Progress and Completion Stage; this is the most crucial stage of the work. The HIC is ready to walk away from your project, but you want to make sure that the work was done in accordance with municipal building codes and all of your manufacturer’s warranties, warranty on labor, etc., are given to you in writing. This is where you will be asked by the HIC or HIS to release final payment. If you finance the work, the HIC/HIS will ask you to sign a completion certificate which they will take to the bank to get a release of the funds at your permission. Some banks will do a visual inspection to make sure that the work was done. However, it is very crucial that you make sure that the Municipal Building Inspectors give a green light for your project. In other words, they must sign off on the job stating that all work was done professionally and in accordance with municipal building codes. Some jobs may require a certificate of occupancy (CO).

Make sure that you have this CO in your hands before you release final payments to a HIC/HIS. Last but not least, if the HIC hires Sub Contractors such as an electrician or plumber to do work on your property, make sure that they are paid by the HIC. Failure to pay them may result in the Sub Contractors filing a mechanic’s lien against your property. This is legal. While the work is in progress, make sure that the workers are on time on the site. A normal work day for construction workers are from 8:00 am to 6:00 PM. Some industrious workers will work until it gets dark. Beware of workers that show up for a few minutes and take off. There are many HIC who start 20 jobs and cannot finish one. Some HIC take from “Peter to pay Paul” and stall your job in the process. This is why it is crucial that you get a start date and completion date in writing.

If the HIC fail to complete the job within that time, you the homeowner may legally hold back money or charge the HIC for each day that elapsed. If your work is an exterior job that involves ladders, scaffold, etc., make sure that they are erected properly and reasonable standard of care is exercised by the workers. In other words, if a scaffold or ladder fall and injure a neighbor or passerby, they may have a civil claim or lawsuit against you the homeowner. This is why you must ensure that the HIC has proper insurance such as general liability insurance before they start work on your project. If you the homeowner permit the HIC to advertise their companies by erecting a sign on your property, you may request a discount on your contract for such favor.

I hope that this post will help you to select the right Home Improvement Contractor for your project, and most of all, you will not become a victim to the criminals out there who masquerade as Home Improvement Contractors.

Home Improvements

Home improvements, renovations and repairs require great amount of skill and getting a good agency or contractor or skilled labor is a huge task in itself. Entrusting the job to an unskilled person or hiring the wrong man for the job can be a nightmare you would do well to avoid. You will end up with more on your hands to manage and your home will be worse off than before.

The home improvement business has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years from the ‘simple handyman’ services earlier. Home improvement agencies provide assistance and support in a great many areas relating to home improvement, home repairs and home renovation, each of which requires highly skilled craftsmen and services of the highest quality. Businesses that provide such services not only have to possess a high degree of knowledge concerning home construction materials and their durability, house plans, building engineering & electrical details etc., but also have complete grasp of geographical locations, climate & weather affecting particular areas, factors like pests and pest-control and several other minutely related points.

Some of the areas that home improvement services undertake to renovate or repair in a home may fall in the main area of the house or kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, attic or the roof and could involve improvement services like repairs and renovations in:

• Basements
• Baseboards
• Crown molding
• Cabinets
• Carpentry
• Countertops installation
• Doors / door frames
• Faucets and sinks
• Floor installations
• Painting
• Tiling

Handyman or Handyperson

The term Handyman or Handyperson is used to refer to a person with a wide range of skills to do minor repairs and corrections around the home. These repair tasks include overall interior and exterior maintenance jobs that classify under electrical, plumbing and other fix-ups. To put it simply, a Handyman can be relied on to do those simple, sometimes a little complex home jobs that can be categorized as DIY.

Somewhere along the way, to improve their chances of getting more projects and contracts especially when job markets were seeing a downturn and putting many out of jobs, a Handyman’s profile altered subtly. Where earlier they were paid workers mainly attending to simple DIYs, they progressed to more complex or skilled jobs like painting, remodeling, carpentry, furniture assembly, reinforcing and many more. They figured that it needed only a little more knowledge and willingness to undertake projects and learn-on-the-job.

Generally, a Handyman’s job is viewed as semi-killed, a low status job ranking below specialists such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers. However, the emergence of ‘home improvement agencies’ that have on their rolls skilled Handymen, that general perception is fast changing and they are being viewed as the “go-to-men”, technicians with a lot of job knowledge and multiple skills to handle a variety of home repair and home improvement tasks. With changing attitudes, they are being treated with great professionalism, better wages and perks, and safer working conditions.

The usefulness of a Handyman’s tools are best illustrated with this example of an Australian doctor who in the absence of an appropriate neurological drill, used a Handyman’s Drill for an emergency surgery to save the life of a 13 year old boy who suffered brain trauma.