This year’s board was made up of some familiar faces and a new one, too. Back again were Douglas Bohannon, president of Mid-Cape Home Centers, Tony Shepley, president of Shepley Wood Products and Chris Joyce, president of Joyce Landscaping. Peter Polhemus, AIA, president of Polhemus Savery DaSilva, Inc. was unable to attend, but did weigh in via email. New this year was Richard Capen, owner of Capewide Enterprises.
HRCC Question: The economic downturn is now a reality, not just a rumor. What types of projects make the most financial sense right now?
Tony Shepley: Outdoor living is a good investment, adding on decks or outdoor barbecues. Media rooms have slowed down.
Douglas Bohannon: Kitchen sales are still holding in there; they are not off as much.
Richard Capen: People know that kitchens and baths will hold their value, but…people have decided to scale back lately. They’re afraid they are going to overbuild for their neighborhood. This wasn’t a concern eight months ago.
Chris Joyce: A lot of people are saying they’re not going to be traveling as much. They want to be comfortable, but they may not do a pool. They’re doing outdoor kitchens or a fire pit instead.
Peter Polhemus: Our clients are buying existing homes at a discount and doing renovations and/ or additions.
HRCC Question 2: How is the economic situation effecting new construction versus remodels?
Polhemus: We now have about a 50/50 split on new construction and remodels, whereas we had a greater percentage of new construction before.
Bohannon: It’s hitting new construction harder, definitely.
HRCC Question 3: What is the overall situation in the building and remodeling industry right now?
Shepley: We’re at levels now where we are at half of what they thought the bottom was.
Bohannon: The situation is that for our stores off-Cape are so much worse off than we are down here, which is bringing the off-Cape builders down here and further suppressing business.
Joyce: It is the same situation with landscaping too.
Capen: I’ll tell you with the septic business last year, we did 90 jobs for on-to-two thousand dollars less than I was doing them a couple of years ago. I never wanted to be the highest or the lowest; we just wanted to be in the middle.
HRCC Question 4: Given the effects of the economy on the industry, what should homeowners be wary of?
Bohannon: All these laid-off guys are going out and buying semi-new trucks and going into business. They’re going and finding something that needs to be done and selling it based on price.
Capen: That’s right, but people are expecting a new level of service and they need to consider whether that less expensive company is still going to be in business in the long run.
Joyce: Especially in today’s market, be checking insurance and liability coverage. Homeowners are going to get burned by being so price conscious. When you see a cell phone is the primary number, that’s the first sign.
HRCC Question 5: What is driving the remodeling: Need or repair or desire for change?
Shepley: It’s like hospitals—everyone is putting off the elective operations.
Bohannon: If a deck is falling, they’ll likely replace it. If a roof is leaking they’ll repair it, but homeowners are generally being more cautious about taking on projects.
HRCC Question 6: And is it year-rounders or second homeowners who are remodeling?
Bohannon: I don’t see any difference at all.
Shepley: I think the status between who’s a resident and who is seasonal starts to blur because the second homeowners are
here so often.
Capen: Right now the people I’m working with are year-round and anywhere from 40-something up to 70. What’s different is if a couple had previously done four jobs with us, they’d just hire us for another. Now they are getting two other prices.
Polhemus: Our clients have either purchased existing homes with the intent of doing a major remodel or they have used the house as a vacation house and they are retiring here.
HRCC Question 6: It seems like another reality in the remodeling industry is the growth of green building practices. Are area homeowners embracing it? And, if so, to save money or to save energy?
Polhemus: They’re embracing it to various degrees, for energy-saving measures and because they want to be responsible.
Joyce: Smart people are smart consumers and if they’ve done their homework, they are embracing it. They are willing to spend the extra money to go the extra mile.
Bohannon: I think they all have their own reasons; some people want to save the earth and some want to save money.
Shepley: We should all be stewards. If anyone buys a compact fluorescent bulb, it’s not a big deal. But, if a hundred-thousand of us do it, now you’re talking about something.
Capen: People should be asking questions about some of these green products. They’ll say “Green Product,” but how are they green?
HRCC Question 7: Are you seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or will things continue to get worse before they get better?
Shepley: At a recent conference, the speaker had predicted this two years ago. He’s now saying that by the third-quarter of this year, we’ll see an uptick.
Bohannon: I was at another conference and he also predicted things getting better by the third quarter.
Joyce: I think we’ll see a little boost in September. After that, into November, I don’t know what to think.
Polhemus: I project things improving in fall 2009.
HRCC Question 8: Because several months had passed since our luncheon, we sent out an email to members asking if business had changed more recently. Here’s a sampling:
Shepley: New business has been flat on the mainland and lower on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The scale of business has decreased…many homeowners are waiting in the wings for what they feel is the right moment. We are simply in one part of an up/down cycle. Smart money takes advantage of current opportunities.
Capen: Business is good; commercial projects are strengthening and homeowners are pulling the trigger on earlier discussed and quoted projects. We seem to be back on track here at Capewide.