Home Remodeling magazine welcomed new members to its Editorial Advisory Board in 2008: Encore Construction President Dale Nikula, head of the Cape Cod chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry; architect Peter Polhemus of Polhemus Savery DaSilva, vice president of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod; Tony Shepley, president of Shepley Wood Products, and Joyce Landscaping president Chris Joyce, head of the Cape Cod Landscaping Association. Returning members include Douglas Bohannon, president of Mid-Cape Home Centers, and architect Theodore “Sam” Streibert of Streibert Associates in Chatham.
We asked our board members to discuss the remodeling industry outlook for 2008 and to offer opinions on the latest trends:
HRCC Question 1: How is the sluggish economy affecting the local remodeling market?
Sam Streibert: 2007 was the slowest year in my 23 years of business.
Chris Joyce: I feel there is definitely a slowdown in the economy and less large projects around, but now people are doing work to their existing homes instead of moving to larger, more expensive homes. This is creating a steady flow of work, which in turn will allow many contractors to have a decent year.
Tony Shepley: Building permits for new construction and remodeling are definitely slower. Discretionary spending always slows down. The good news is that this is a great time to get any work done. Prices are very competitive and builders, suppliers and trades-people are looking for work.
Douglas Bohannon: As with past economic downturns, the reduction in home sales has changed the way a homeowner views their property. Many homeowners have decided to “stay put” and remodel kitchens or put on additions. I predict remodeling of lived-in homes and rental units will stay balanced.
Dale Nikula: The most significant impact we’ve experienced is a reduction in average job size. Most people we are talking to these days want to add a room, remodel a kitchen or bath or a combination of these. The opportunities for whole-house remodeling projects have dropped considerably. Another impact is the sales process is considerably longer. I think people are much more cautious about with whom and how they spend their money in general, and they are aware they have a larger pool of remodelers to consider.
Peter Polhemus: We have found the remodeling market, as well as the new home market, to be extremely strong, as strong as it has been in the past 12 years.
HRCC Question 2: What can we expect in 2008?
Polhemus: Looking at the projects that we have in design, which will be under construction in 2008, the market looks strong in 2008 as well.
Bohannon: We think 2008 will be steady. This is the pace we are going to see for some time. We do not expect to see a big improvement until the elections are over.
Streibert: I am optimistic. However, there could still be a dead-end war and rampant inflation.
Shepley: A seven percent decrease in permits is forecasted for 2008 by the National Association of Homebuilders, with signs of recovery showing later in the year.
Nikula: I don’t see any significant changes in 2008. I do believe that it will be a slightly stronger economy as the credit market sifts out the bad loans it is currently dealing with, helped by easing of interest rates by the Federal Reserve. I also think we will see the current energy speculative bubble burst.
Joyce: I think the 2008 economy is still going to be a little slow, but existing, reputable companies will stay fairly busy with work.
HRCC Question 3: What trends do you see in remodeling for 2008?
Shepley: Continued awareness of green building products and practices. This is an area that is really undefined in so many ways. It is in its infancy in terms of public awareness.
Nikula: People are much more aware of green alternatives and especially of energy technologies that will help their homes function more efficiently.
Bohannon: The kitchen and bath remodeling area is expected to increase. The numbers continue to show strength, despite the housing slowdown.
Polhemus: Architecturally, we are opening up houses, making them lighter, brighter and more open spatially. A trend that we have seen for the past several years, which I expect to continue, is that high-end clients want great design with well-executed construction to implement that design. They want and expect excellent service, clear communication and realistic time frames.
HRCC Question 4: Studies show the fastest growing population on Cape Cod consists of Baby Boomers, ages 45 to 65. What are these clients asking for in terms of remodeling projects?
Bohannon: The Baby Boomers will be responsible for most of the remodeling dollars spent in the coming years. They are mainly asking for good, quality remodelers, as they are interested in protecting the equity in their homes. The ability to please them will decide the success or failure of most remodeling companies.
Nikula: Our Baby Boomer clients typically are interested in projects that will make their homes more reflective of their personal living style. This might be a first-floor master bedroom and bath to deal with the physical issues of aging, an expanded kitchen and dining area or a finished basement to provide additional room for their expanding families, or a media room/ study for a place to work or find private time. They continue to be very value and quality focused.
Shepley: These Baby Boomers like home offices—sometimes his and hers. They like media rooms, and they like outdoor patio
spaces, outdoor showers, family spaces around pools and barbecues.
Joyce: These people are well educated, and most of them have done their research before they begin any projects. They want to simplify their life by making their properties a self-contained destination for the entire family to enjoy. In the landscape world, these people are asking to create outdoor kitchens, pools, spas, synthetic putting greens, swing-set areas for the grandchildren. They want these outdoor features to be significant but at the same time lend themselves to the existing landscape.
Polhemus: Our clients want a complete renovation of the existing home, and in some cases, additions, as well. There have been several projects where we have torn down a part of the house and rebuilt that part while while doing extensive renovations in the remaining parts. We are doing, for the most part, new windows, doors, HVAC system, more sophisticated wiring systems, including sound and computer wiring, as well as SmartHouse wiring in many cases.
Streibert: Some are quite high end until they see the price, and some cutback follows.
HRCC Question 5: How could this magazine improve its coverage of the home-remodeling market?
Nikula: I think if you could look at some of the products and technologies that are available to make homes more energy efficient…I know that it is important to have those projects that feature striking changes and photos, but some of the highest client value projects can be installing energy-efficient windows, new insulation or heating systems.
Streibert: There are a number of small designers who account for a lot of work. Keeping in touch with them is important. A survey of historic districts and the requirements imposed by each one would be interesting when compared with photographs of the best and worst examples in the district.
Polhemus: To include a range of remodeling projects would be to eliminate the requirement that clients publish how much they spent on a project. This requirement is going to eliminate any high-end renovation, as our clients are not about to show the general public how much they spent on their house—nor should they. If the magazine is going to represent the full range of the market, this requirement needs to be eliminated.
Joyce: I think it could have better coverage by creating stronger relationships with the professional trade associations.
Shepley: Work more with the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod.
Bohannon: I would suggest more involvement with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the local chambers of commerce and Realtor boards.
HRCC Question 6: A recent survey of residents conducted by the University of Massachusetts-Boston reveals that among issues like traffic congestion and lack of affordable housing, Cape Cod residents are worried about the area’s loss of historic character. What are your thoughts about the changing Cape Cod landscape?
Streibert: It is a serious consideration. Several towns are looking at amendments to their zoning code. It is up to all of us to pay attention and make these as relevant as possible. Also, a number of residents will start looking into making historic districts for themselves. This is not all bad, but, again, builders should stay involved because their input is important.
Joyce: Nothing stays the same forever, and the Cape had to make some changes with the ever-changing population. I think the town have worked hard and continue to work hard to keep as much historic character as possible. I think this is why the Cape is so unique and is such a destination for so many.
Shepley: I’m more worried about recent studies that show we are losing population and also losing children. Our economy risks being unbalanced, and our schools become imperiled when 20 percent of the population or less has school-aged children. We are close to that point. Cape Cod is still a very desirable place to live. Interesting that, after all these years worrying about too much growth, we find we are actually not growing at all but losing population.
Polhemus: Those who would seek to stop all growth on the Cape and turn it into a Disneyland do a disservice to those of us who live and work on Cape Cod. Planning boards in each town need to decide what are the areas in which growth might occur that would be the most beneficial to each town. The concept of neighborhood centers—with denser commercial development and denser regional development within walking distance to the commercial—needs to be encouraged. There are historic precedents for this kind of development, such as the town centers of Chatham and Osterville and on a larger scale, Provincetown and parts of Falmouth. Cape-wide, towns need to allow for denser development in certain areas. It is possible to design and build well-planned, architecturally appropriate additions to a townscape that add vitality and life to a town while providing necessary housing and commercial vitality.
Nikula: Speaking as a native Cape Codder, quite honestly I think most people expressing concern about this have not been here that long. Unless you go back to the early 1900s and before, the architecture on the Cape has always been very eclectic. We have Cape-style homes, ranches, contemporaries and a lot of mutts. Drive down Route 6A and then drive down Route 28 and this fact, for better or worse, is very evident. The historic character that we are losing is individuality. The Cape historically was a place for rugged individualism and self-reliance. True, the tourists weren’t always treated the way they would want to be, but there wasn’t the abundance of people wanting to stick their hand into your business in the name of the public good that we have here now.