Posts

New windows allow natural lighting to pour into the dining area

It’s important to keep in mind that retrofitting a space is more complex than building something from the ground up. This is true even when adding onto your home, as it will still require blending the new structure into an existing one and connecting all the necessary services (e.g., electrical, heating and plumbing, etc.) to the original home.

Other factors involved include maintaining the livability of the existing home for family and pets throughout the process — which is a situation unique to remodeling, and one that STRITE is experienced at handling.

There are many advantages to working with STRITE when considering the above. Among these are:

  • STRITE design + remodel incorporates design and planning into all of our remodeling projects, and we have in-depth remodeling experience as well as a thorough understanding of its cost.
  • Having in-house design professionals allows STRITE to keep the budget in mind throughout the design process. This solidifies the cost effectiveness of STRITE’s systems and processes.
  • STRITE has a reputation for excellence. We invite you to view our client list and talk to past clients about their experience with us.
  • STRITE’s team approach — maintaining its core team members for the past 20 years — has been a primary factor in providing excellent customer service.
  • STRITE is a local and national award-winning company that has served the remodeling needs of Treasure Valley residents since 1975.
  • STRITE is a member of GuildQuality, a third-party customer satisfaction survey and reporting company, and has been recognized as a Guildmaster or Guildmaster with Distinction for the last five years in a row. According to GuildQuality, over 97% of our customers surveyed since 2006 would recommend STRITE design + remodel to others, compared to a national average of 60%.
Amazing clients
Client Relationships

Any credible company will blithely profess that taking care of customers is just “good business.”  Ingraining good customer service into an organizational culture, however, involves an investment of time (which equals money) that not all businesses are willing to make.

For STRITE, customer relations is as necessary a cost of doing business as meeting our payroll. One of the legacies of our company’s founder, Jim Strite, was to make customer care not simply a rigorous discipline, but the subject of on going study. Rather than handing out reading assignments on new construction techniques, which our project managers were already inclined to learn as a matter of perfecting their craft, the STRITE team was asked to study books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” As a result, STRITE’s weekly production meetings typically focus as much on the emotional states of our remodel customers as they do on construction details.

To better appreciate how customer relations shape the STRITE culture and its business practices, I recently interviewed vice president Brad Millspaugh on the subject.

Q: Why are customer relations such an important component of a successful remodeling business?

A: We joke that our project managers need to major in construction and minor in psychology, but when you think about it, we’re spending every day in situations that are inherently stressful — we’re going into peoples’ homes, into some of their most intimate settings, and completely transforming them.  That in itself puts people in a pretty vulnerable mindset, and we have to be sensitive to that.

Q: How do we promote good customer relations among our project team?

A: The first thing we do is practice the techniques we’ve learned from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” These include always looking for the “win-win” in a situation and seeking first to understand. That last technique is especially important when you have a customer who is upset about something.  We’ve learned that the best initial response to a customer concern is to simply shut up and listen. Another important attribute of our project managers is the ability to stay calm. Bringing a sense of calm to a situation that is inherently stressful is vital to keeping our customers calm as well.

Q: How important are good communication skills?

A: Extremely important — but good communication goes beyond interpersonal dynamics. It starts with the systems we put in place to keep our customers in the loop on their remodel projects. Over the years, we’ve built layers into our tracking and reporting systems in order to accommodate different customer personality types. This means including levels of detail that satisfy a more “engineering” mentality, or keeping things more high level for customers who simply want to know if we’re on track with deadlines and budget, but don’t want to get into the weeds. Every week, our clients receive an email update of their project status tailored to their particular “need to know.” Things like small business software also helps out in managing the team for quick communication.

Q: What else matters to customers?

A: Responsiveness. We don’t like to get a phone call in the middle of the night from a customer who says that the tarp protecting their construction site just blew off in a windstorm, but we have to not only take that call, but respond to it by going out and fixing the problem. In a case like that, just listening isn’t enough.

Q: What is most upsetting to customers?

A: Not being kept in the loop. When we fail to adequately communicate, and our customers have to contact us to find out what is going on with their project, that’s simply not acceptable. Which brings up another aspect of good customer relationships — the inevitability of error, and our willingness to take ownership for our mistakes and fix them without playing “the blame game.”

Q: What is it about practicing good customer relations that makes it a cost of doing business?

A: When we take on any remodel project, one of the things we tell our customers is that after we’ve created the budget, the description of work, and the project calendar, the only wildcard is them. We don’t mean this in a negative way, but simply to recognize that indecisiveness or tortured decision making can add delays and cost. We’re generally pretty good at recognizing these types of situations up front, and we build it into what we call our “dollars versus relationship transaction” rather than put the burden back on the client when issues arise. I think most of our clients recognize that the more they contribute to the efficiency of the process, the more it benefits them in the end…and that the reverse is equally true — but we’ll treat everyone with the same respect and professionalism regardless. As in any relationship, the true test is how well you hang in there through the not so good times as well as the good times.

Trades Party

Next to building or buying a home, a remodel may be one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make — and choosing the right remodeling partner is the single most critical component to whether or not that investment maintains its value.

The best place to start in considering a remodeling partner is to identify those that are registered and/or licensed with the state to do business as remodeling contractors. In addition, check for their membership in local and state remodeling professional organizations, such as NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and NARI-Idaho, and whether they have certifications in their trades — i.e., Green Certified Professional Certification, Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Remodeler Associate (CRA), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler (CKBR), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC), Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), etc.

Other factors to consider include years in business, reputation, recommendations and references, and membership in local business, civic and community organizations. NARI suggests the following questions you should ask prospective remodelers:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance?
  • What is your approach to a project such as mine?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • May I have a list of references from those projects?
  • May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?

If you are getting competitive bids, be sure to only work with reputable companies.  We also recommend researching articles and tips from industry websites such as RemodelingMag.com and NARIofIdaho.org to learn more about the importance of selecting a professional remodeler.  Another excellent source for information on local remodeling companies is GuildQuality, which publishes surveys of remodel customers in communities throughout the country.

*The photograph shows A STRITE “trades party” convening at the home of a client at the start of a remodel project.

While people often think of home remodeling as synonymous with building an “addition,” there are a number of reasons it makes sense to remodel besides adding needed living space. Some of the most common reasons that we have seen in our 40 years of residential design and remodel experience are the following.

Updating the Look of Your Home

Like fashion in general, what was once fresh in the layout and design of a home can become stale over time. Believe it or not, harvest gold and avocado were once trendy, but unless you’re way into the “retro” look, you’d probably prefer a more contemporary style for your kitchen. As our case studies demonstrate, Strite has a long track record of design and build updates that wear well with time.

Improving the Functionality of a Living Space

Unless your home was custom built, its design made generic lifestyle assumptions that simply may not apply to you. We find this to be particularly true in the kitchen, where your own unique approach to food and entertaining can make a huge difference in a room’s size, layout and finishes. Your lifestyle and interests are paramount when we address the functional remodel of your home.

Aging in Place

Homes age…and so do we. As we age, we eventually face mobility issues that in turn affect the livability of our homes. Rather than going through the dislocation of moving to a new house, a remodel that transforms obstacles into conveniences (particularly with regard to bathrooms) can be a better option for how we deal with aging in our homes.

To read more about how STRITE design + remodel addresses these and other needs, view the Services page of our website.

Hit here to visit another post about this property.

Trends

In some hopeful news for both homeowners and construction companies alike, Remodeling Magazine recently published its annual report on the cost versus value ratio for replacement and remodeling projects across the U.S.  In a positive sign for the remodeling industry, the 2013 national average cost-value ratio rose to 60.6%, ending a six-year decline.

Cost vs

The latest ratio represents a nearly three-point improvement over 2011-12, and is more than a half-point higher than the figure from two years ago. The Remodeling Magazine survey reveals that lower construction costs are the principal factor in the upturn, especially when measured against stabilizing house values (How good do those last three words sound, right?).

The further good news in the report is that cost-recouped percentages were up for all 35  replacement/remodel projects tracked in the survey.  This marks a complete turnaround from the 2011–12 report, when percentages dropped in all but three projects — some precipitously.  The biggest gainers this year were mostly replacement projects, which have always outperformed discretionary remodeling projects, more so in recent years as the economic recession brought price to the forefront for homeowners making remodeling decisions.

For those of us living in the Treasure Valley, Remodeling Magazine’s report not only breaks out the cost-value numbers regionally, but by metropolitan area as well, including Boise.  Looking over the numbers for our market, you’ll find that the best return on your remodel dollar comes from “minor kitchen remodels” at 76.2 percent.  The figures are revealing not only from the standpoint of giving you some idea of how much you might recapture from a home remodel project should you sell your home, but also for the insight they will give you into average remodel costs, and how our market compares to the rest of the country (hint: we’re looking pretty darned competitive, my friends).

So what does all this mean to our customers, you ask?  As interesting as the numbers in this report may be, they don’t fundamentally change the math as we see it — which has more to do with the intrinsic value of having a place to live that better meets your lifestyle needs.  That said, however, it’s nice to know that should you decide to sell a home you’ve improved through a professionally managed remodel project (no offense to the DIYers out there), your return on investment should be better than it has been in many a year.  That certainly beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, which isn’t a bad metaphor for what our overall housing market has felt like until now.

 

Recommendation

According to NARI of Idaho, these are some warning signs to watch out for while interviewing your remodeler

Avoid remodelers at all costs when:

  • You can’t verify the name, address, telephone number or credentials of the remodeler.
  • The salesperson tries to pressure you into signing a contract.
  • The company or salesperson says your home will be used for advertising purposes so you will be given a “special, low rate.”
  • The builder/remodeler tells you a special price is available only if you sign the contract “today.”
  • No references are furnished.
  • Information you receive from the contractor is out-of-date or no longer valid.
  • You are unable to verify the license or insurance information.
  • You are asked to pay for the entire job in advance, or to pay in cash to a salesperson instead of by check or money order to the company itself.
  • The company cannot be found in the telephone book, is not listed with the local Better Business Bureau, or with a local trade association, such as NARI.
  • The contractor does not offer, inform or extend notice of your right to cancel the contract within three days. Notification in writing of your Right of Rescission is required by law. This grace period allows you to change your mind and declare the contract null and void without penalty (if the agreement was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premises-in your home, for instance.)

In addition, be cautious when:

  • You are given vague or reluctant answers.
  • The contractor exhibits poor communication skills or descriptive powers.
  • The contractor is not accessible.
  • Your questions are not answered to your satisfaction.
  • The contractor is impatient and does not listen.
  • Only the work is addressed, instead of your needs as the homeowner.
  • There is no presentation book of previous projects presented.

Questions to Ask References

To protect yourself, always check the contractor’s references. This is an essential stage of qualifying the right person for your project. Here are just a few questions to ask previous customers:

  1. Could they communicate well with the remodeler?
  2. Were they pleased with the quality of work? (This is a tough question, however, since everyone defines “quality” differently. It is much better to ask to see the completed project to determine the level of quality for yourself.)
  3. Were they satisfied with the remodeler’s business practices?
  4. Did the crew show up on time?
  5. Were they comfortable with the trades people the remodeler subcontracted to?
  6. Was the job completed on schedule?
  7. Did the remodeler fulfill his or her contract?
  8. Did the contractor stay in touch throughout the project?
  9. Were the final details finished in a timely manner?
  10. Would you use the remodeler again without hesitation?

Originally from NARI of Idaho website.

Recommendation

Contractor Checklist From NARI

Be sure to look for and be satisfied with these items before signing a contract with a contractor.

  • Was the Contractor/Salesperson on time?
  • Was their appearance neat and professional?
  • Was their vehicle presentable?
  • Did they listen to your ideas, and ask questions?
  • Did they suggest options / alternatives / ideas?
  • Do they have insurance? (Liability & Workman’s comp.)
  • How many years have they been in business?
  • Are they members in any trade or other organizations?
  • Are they certified? (If applicable)
  • Do they have a website for more information?
  • Do you feel comfortable with them?

Download NARI’s PDF version of this checklist here.