Recessionary times do not necessarily have a bad effect on the home repair and remodeling business.
A recession can produce a rebound; the recession-wary customer has put aside the idea of acquiring a new house and therefore may decide to take the lesser step of fixing up the old one."When money gets tight people are reluctant to move," said Mike Brooks, manager at Callier's Kitchens and Baths in Brentwood, Mo. "Still, they may want to make improvements where they are."
Some aspects of the industry tend to make it recession-proof, said Jim Kuhn, chairman of the Registered Remodelors Council. Generally speaking, a recession brings a rebound.
Has the rebound this year been healthy? There is some discussion. Some say the rebound has been lower than what might be expected. Some say the industry may have been experiencing a time gap between the onset of a slowdown in housing construction and the beginning of a remodeling rebound.
Optimists say a vigorous rebound may be forming now, bolstered by improved weather and the end of the war in the Persian Gulf.
Those in the business of building agree generally that new home construction is down sharply.
Brooks said, "Anybody tied to the building industry is in trouble. In remodeling we had a downturn earlier in the year but in recent weeks we have seen more active interest in remodeling. I have heard this from others in the business."
Brooks is president of the Missouri and Southern Illinois chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and from time to time hears opinions of others in the 40-member group. Recent reductions in interest rates have helped bring new action to remodeling, he said. At the same time, customers wary about recession show more concern about what they're going to get for their dollars.
"You have to do the design and installation work correctly," he said. "In this business you live or die on referrals."
Thompson Price, who runs Thompson's House of Kitchens and Baths, is president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. It has about 6, 000 members and is based in Hackettstown, N.J.
He said a major objective of the association is to maintain certification standards. The remodeling industry has one of the worst reputations among businesses, he said, and the association works to improve the image.
"If a recession means that customers are going to start looking for good value, then a recession might not be bad for the remodeling industry," he said. "Some customers just base a decision on the lowest price. When there is a downturn in new building, then the carpenters and other workers from that field see themselves as remodelers. This can be dangerous to consumers because the products may not be good, may not work, may not fit in a design.
"It is sort of like having a veterinarian doing the work of a physician. It's different training.
"Well, it is this low end of the business that suffers most in a recession. The good-quality companies are the ones that survive."
Says remodeler Wes Neu, "I can't honestly say that I've seen a recession. Our business in the last few months has been better than at any other time in our 17 years in business.
"It could be that the news media have convinced people that there is a recession. It's obvious, I guess, that there has been some downturn in all industry. In remodeling there is a difference in the markets being served. If the market is primarily blue-collar the recession is going to be felt more than if you do a lot of work for doctors.