Not Just Another Pretty Face

Award

We are pleased to announce that STRITE design + remodel has once again been recognized by NARI Idaho as “Remodeler of the Year” in the category of completed projects totaling $1 million or more over the past 12 months. We’re certainly no strangers to this recognition, and you might imagine that receiving this news from our local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry would be an occasion for high fives, fist bumps, and a few “booyahs.” And you’d be right. After all, as the man said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you done it.”

But aside from the bragging rights that go with the award, which STRITE has won repeatedly since its creation, we are sharing our triumph with you for reasons that are more subtle and, we believe, more important to anyone in the Gem State who might consider embarking on a remodeling project somewhere down the road. These reasons have more to do with the state of our industry and what that means to homeowners. Let’s just put it this way: if you hear us shouting, “We’re number one, baby!”, we are being VERY inclusive.

To begin with, it is significant for our industry in the great State of Idaho that we even have a company in the “over $1 million” category — let alone that there were two other local remodelers besides us in that category in 2014. In 2010, given the economic doldrums we continued to find ourselves in, we were barely able to hit the million dollar mark — and there were no other Idaho companies in that category at all. It’s welcome news to our industry and the clients we serve that our market is once again healthy enough to support the talented and dedicated people who offer some very valuable skills to our community. This return to health was also recently evident in the story we shared a few months back about the continued uptick in the “cost vs. value ratio” — an index that bodes well for homeowners and remodelers alike after years in decline.

Even more important, we see our Remodeler of the Year award as a validation of the work that NARI has done nationwide to raise the standards of our industry. We can make so bold as to say this because the annual NARI awards are not a beauty contest. Earning the designation “remodeler of the year” isn’t based on impressive “before” and “after” pictures, however many we’re willing to offer — it is based on feedback from clients, suppliers, contractors, and vendors. This feedback is generated via questionnaires that are scored to rate not only the quality of work of participating remodelers, but the quality of the experience of working with them. The highest score wins.

Jim Strite -- the remodeler who founded not only the company named after him, but NARI of Idaho as well!

Jim Strite — the remodeler who founded not only the company named after him, but NARI of Idaho as well!

Given the selection criteria, you can appreciate how achieving first place status over the course of more than a million dollars earned from satisfied customers would put a little spring in our step — something I recently confirmed with our founder, Jim Strite, whose comment was, “I’m elated — it shows that our company is continuing to do the kind of work that it was intended to do for the public we serve. It makes us stand out as significant.”

Of course, you would expect the founder of our company to say just that…or words to that effect. What is surprising is that Jim actually went on to say that he’s just as delighted to see other companies besides STRITE receive the same recognition. That sentiment would probably seem hopelessly altruistic if it weren’t for the fact that Jim Strite founded the Idaho chapter of NARI some 25 years ago. As far as Jim is concerned, every Remodeler of the Year award that NARI Idaho hands out is proof that the organization’s mission is thriving.

“Being the founder of our NARI chapter, it’s gratifying to see anyone win,” says Jim. “Our mission has always been to educate remodelers on what it means to run a professional business, and to educate consumers on what it means to hire a professional remodeler. The award is really a recognition of achieving high standards, and if the same company continually won, it wouldn’t say much for our success in proliferating the value of professional business practices.”

Every NARI member is required by the organization to sign a Code of Ethics in which they agree to adhere to good business practices and performance specifications. This is especially significant in a state like Idaho, which does not require contractors to be licensed (they are required to register with the Bureau of Occupational Licensing). As the NARI website explains, “By using a NARI member, you can rest assured that you are working with a remodeling professional who is willing to stake his or her reputation on providing the best of service excellence.” To further its mission, NARI also offers certification programs for critical trades such as lead carpenter.

To Jim, however, the most important contribution that NARI Idaho has made since its founding has been helping remodeling companies “understand their numbers.”

Brad Milspaugh, STRITE's vice president, and a man who knows his numbers.

Brad Milspaugh, STRITE’s vice president, and a man who knows his numbers.

“When people hire a remodeler, they typically think in terms of product, deadline, and cost,” says Jim. “But the real question is how well the remodeler understands the business of remodeling. Most individuals entering the market locally are very talented technicians, with a great amount of technical knowledge, but they haven’t had the exposure to the financial portion of the business. It’s a service business, not a production business — and it doesn’t follow the same pricing models as new construction. Understanding this is ultimately beneficial to the client, since it makes it more likely that the remodeler will be around to do the warranty work and won’t saddle the client with the burden of an unfinished job or unpaid bills. You don’t want to pay the price twice.” You also don’t want a construction lien on your home.

Although retired from STRITE, Jim remains actively involved in NARI Idaho, and will probably teach another “numbers class” this summer through the organization. In the meantime, he’ll savor the success of the company he founded winning the most prestigious award offered by the trade organization he founded.

“I think the industry is definitely improving, and I think this is great. For STRITE, winning this award indicates that our business acuity is there, since our clients were obviously satisfied with not only the product but the process that created it — and NARI Idaho’s success will continue to mean that we are competing against people who similarly understand what it means to be successful in our industry…and that’s good for everyone.”

Of course, when you consider that the criteria for the NARI Remodeler of the Year awards focus on the experience of the homeowner, receiving an award is a testament to the people charged with delivering that experience on a daily basis.  In the case of STRITE, this starts from the top with Bob Mundy, STRITE’s current president, and the the project management team he oversees.  Matt Mundy, Ed Lee, and Bob himself are the faces that greet STRITE’s customers at virtually every step of the remodel project, along with folks like Michael Snow and Caitlin Tucker, whose guiding hands shape the design goals that realize the lifestyle aspirations that drive a remodel to begin with.  And, of course, there is the oversight of office administrator Rita Galbreaith who makes sure that the “i’s” get dotted and the “t’s” get crossed along the way.  The truth is that at STRITE there is no such thing as a job position that doesn’t touch the client, which makes all of our staff the true Remodelers of the Year.

From Empty Nest to Guests: A Simple Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom Remodel

Not every remodel project has to be a full-scale makeover.  Sometimes the goal is simply to change the esthetics of a space to reflect a different set of circumstances in one’s life — like the departure of children for college and the big world beyond.

Vision

When our client’s children were still living at home, they shared a hall bathroom.  Needless to say, with two growing kids, the emphasis was on functionality.  When the children went away to college, however, the role of the bathroom shifted to accommodating guests — and our client wanted the esthetics of that room to reflect a more contemporary and welcoming design.

Challenge

Because our client’s home was slab on grade, we faced some constraints in the placement of fixtures if we wanted to make this remodel as economical as possible — and since our client’s goal was to “freshen” the look of the room rather than a perform a complete makeover, we stayed within those constraints and focused on the greatest impact for the lowest cost.

Accomplishment

While keeping the plumbing in the same location, we made the floating toilet less obtrusive in a small bathroom by installing the tank in a wall cavity.  We put in a new shower, replaced the old vanity with a larger and more contemporary one, and added new tile and fixtures.  To compliment these upgrades, we went with a new color scheme that better suited a more “mature” audience than a couple of growing kids!

Highlights

Anyone who has ever watched their children grow up and leave the nest knows what a bittersweet experience that can be…but one upside can be refashioning your living space to reflect a newly rediscovered sense of freedom.  Because we were able to accomplish this for our client so economically, we have since been asked to convert the children’s bedrooms into a single living space — proving once again that the highest compliment one can earn in our business is a repeat customer.

As footnote, we should add that this particular remodel project earned our firm a first place award in NARI’s photo competition.  We’re very proud of that!

Click on photos to enlarge. 

 

 

 

Your Candid Feedback

Award
We attempt to complete a personal  follow up interview with all of our clients in the hopes of receiving solid objective feedback.  We have completed hundreds of surveys over the past 20 years, and have received valuable tips on how to improve our service a little more each remodel.  We encourage objective, candid comments – in fact we often start with “you won’t hurt our feelings…”.

In addition to interviewing our clients following a remodel, we use the  independent construction industry research firm Guild Quality (originally as a beta tester in 2005).  As of this writing, 194 of our recent clients have taken the time to provide  feedback and testimonials (thanks!).  Our goal?  We sincerely want to improve our service,  and who else better to talk to than the people who have hired us – we want our clients to talk behind our back. You can see the results of the Guild Quality survey here. Our favorite discovery – out of the 194 interviewed, 191 of our past clients (98%) would not only hire us again, but would also suggest us to a friend,  family member or coworker – it is our privilege to help you, thanks!

We are also proud to announce that since 2007, we have been honored with the distinctive  Guildmaster Award every year,  and are nominated for 2011.  From the GuildQuality site:

“GuildQuality also provides a third-party Guildmaster certification program that allows builders and remodelers to earn a Guildmaster rating by meeting stringent qualifications for consistently superior customer service. The Guildmaster certification provides remodelers and builders with objective affirmation of their hard-earned reputation for superior customer service.”

You can read more about the Guildmaster Award here.   Again, thanks to our clients for your input.

Making the Cut

Award

When you consider the number of businesses that participate, in some form or fashion, in the remodeling industry (well over half a million nationwide), it might come as some surprise that a company headquartered in Boise, Idaho could be among the top 500.  Once again, however, two leading trade magazines, Qualified Remodeler and Remodeling, have included STRITE in their respective lists of the top companies in the remodeling market for 2013.

In the case of Qualified Remodeler, whose Top 500 list encompasses all remodelers, irrespective of category, STRITE was ranked number 437 — the only Idaho-based, full-service remodeling company to earn this distinction.  STRITE moved up nearly 40 slots from last year’s ranking, propelled by revenue of approximately $1.6 million, earned from 51 remodeling jobs in 2012.

Remodeling magazine’s list of the top 550 remodelers drills down into categories that include the niche that STRITE occupies: full-service remodelers.  According to the magazine, “These companies offer the range of services, in-house or subcontracted, that allow them to build the additions and alterations (think kitchen and bath renovations, master suites) that substantially change the look, feel, or square footage of a home. Many specialize in a particular type of renovation—kitchens and baths, for instance, or historical restoration—but big custom projects, either designed by the company or built off an architect’s plans, are what their business is about.”

That has certainly been what our business has been about for nearly 40 years now, and based on Remodeling’s ranking, STRITE is currently the 194th largest full-service remodeling company in that business.  Both Qualified Remodeler and Remodeling have estimated STRITE’s 2013 revenue to reach $2 million — a year-to-year increase of around 20 percent.  Interestingly, we should note that according to Remodeling, “America’s biggest remodelers expect to see a 19.9% increase in revenue from 2012” — which pretty much puts our performance on par with the national average.

Remodeling magazine’s article on the top 550 remodeling companies goes on to make another observation about the remodeling market that echoes our own experience here in the Treasure Valley.  “When the recession put the housing market on hold a few years back, full-service remodelers were especially vulnerable and many downsized, voluntarily or otherwise. Now, after a few years of uncertainty, many see business gaining, with more and larger projects in the pipeline. Many full-service remodelers on this list project modest revenue increases this year.”

STRITE’s president, Bob Mundy, made a similar observation in a recently issued press release announcing our Qualified Remodeler ranking: “One of the trends we’re seeing for our business is an increasing average cost per project.  We believe this reflects a deeper impulse by homeowners to invest in making their homes more desirable places to live for the longer term.  Remodeling has become much more of a lifestyle consideration — which also makes it a much more sustainable business environment for a company like ours, as well as a lagging but important indicator of gradual improvement in our local economy.”

Here’s to good times ahead — and a heartfelt thank you to the customers who have sustained us through good times…not so good times.  No matter the vagaries of our economy, we have strived to add value to the projects you’ve entrusted to us, and our success is less about bragging rights than it is a confirmation that we’ve redeemed that trust.

 

 

Remodeling Resurgence? An Interview with Bob Mundy

Industry Trends

STRITE design + remodel has once again been ranked by the trade publication Qualified Remodeler as among the top 500 remodeling companies in the U.S.  While this is a notable achievement in itself — especially considering that we operate in a much smaller market than most of the other companies in this prestigious ranking — the larger story behind this recognition is something worth sharing for what it reveals about our industry and the environment in which it currently operates.

To gain some insight into the dynamics of the Treasure Valley residential remodeling market, I turned to a veteran of both the upturns and downturns of our industry: STRITE’s president, Bob Mundy.  I asked Bob to characterize and contrast the current remodeling environment with what was happening in our industry just a few years ago.  Whether you are a homeowner who is contemplating a residential remodel, or simply a keen observer of our local economy, his perspective is worth noting.

If the remodeling business is a less volatile place to be since the bursting of the real estate bubble five or so years ago, some credit is due to an overall improvement in the regional economy.  However, this explanation only goes so far.  For one thing, while STRITE has seen its estimated revenue for 2013 improve by roughly 20 percent over the previous year, the pace of economic growth in the Treasure Valley has been far less robust.

From Bob’s perspective, the improvement STRITE has seen in the remodel market can be attributed to five factors that, while they may not constitute a “perfect storm” of business opportunity, at least point to a more sustainable environment in which to continue to do what we’ve been doing for the past 37 years.  In no particular order, Bob Mundy characterizes these factors as follows.

Pent up demand — After a lot of fear and trepidation regarding their economic future, home owners are deciding to no longer put off their home improvement goals.  “People are deciding to live their lives, and they want to genuinely add more value to their homes, and to their experience of their homes.  Folks are just more positive about the future.”

An acceleration of new products and technologies — Not that many years ago, the pace of new products and technologies being introduced into the home improvement market was much slower than it is today.  “We used to wait for five years to entertain new products in the market place.  Now, the quality that is coming out is really exciting to both us and our clients, and we can move forward with much more confidence because of the improved quality of innovations in lighting, materials, colors — things that are really having an impact on peoples’ lifestyles.”

The role of the Internet — In a trend related to the one previously cited, the Internet is fueling an increased awareness of new product and design trends — especially through social media sites such as Facebook, HOUZZ, and Pinterest. “Thanks to the Internet, people are not only exposed to new ideas, but they are able to share them and create conversations around them that add to the ‘buzz’ taking place in our industry.”

The desire to update rather than move — Moving is no guarantee that people will be able to more closely align their lifestyle needs with their homes.  This is especially true if they want to stay in the neighborhood where they currently live.  In that regard, remodeling is an option that allows homeowners to have their cake and eat it too — or at least redecorate it.  “Builders are hard pressed to respond to all the new design ideas that are out there today, so they tend to stick to more generic products and designs.  Remodelers don’t face that constraint.  More than ever, if you want your home to reflect the latest design and product innovations, remodeling is the best avenue.”

Adapting to lifestyle needs — As more people choose to invest in the long term livability of their homes, they are taking a more critical look at how they use their living space.  “We’re seeing less of an interest in adding space through additions, and more of an interest in better using existing space through changes in layout.  This is going to be an even more pronounced trend as the aging ‘boomer’ population increasingly looks at ‘aging in place’ as an option to retirement communities or assisted living situations.”

This last trend points to a broader and more fundamental factor that STRITE believes will contribute to a more sustainable growth in the remodeling business over the next decade: the growing interest in universal design.  “While the new construction industry may continue to experience ups and downs along with the economy, the interest in adapting homes for changing lifestyle needs such as aging in place will be more significant as time goes by.  People will always have an interest in updating the look of their homes, but improving the livability of their homes is a more fundamental investment in value that bodes well for our business.”

For some additional perspective on the Treasure Valley remodeling market, read our blog “The New Normal.”

 

 

 

 

 

2013 NARI Remodeled Homes Video Tour

Trends

For those of you who were unable to attend this year’s Remodeled Homes Tour, we wanted to share the story behind the two projects we featured.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we thought we’d save a whole lot of pages by simply putting together this five minute slideshow presentation.

You’ll not only see the obligatory “befores” and “afters,” but the “whys and wherefores” as well!

Strite design + remodel Awarded Guildmaster With Highest Distinction

A Letter From Guild Quality

Dear STRITE design + remodel,

Guild Quality’s mission is to elevate the stature of our profession to a level commensurate with its importance. We’re working toward that goal in two major ways: First, our surveying and reporting helps our members deliver an exceptional customer experience. Second, we expend a great deal of energy in celebrating superlative performance within our membership. We do that via our member directory, with the member news in our blog, and, once a year, we do that with the Guildmaster Awards.

Over the last four months, we have reviewed more than 14,000 surveys received on behalf of the 2010 Guildmaster Award applicants. Based on our review of your company’s feedback, I am pleased to inform you that STRITE design + remodel has earned recognition as a 2010 Guildmaster With Highest Distinction!