January 2018

In a region shadowed by tower cranes, our local economy is growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. The demand for commercial office space, retail stores and high rise housing have Seattle’s construction industry on overdrive. This may be good for our local economy, but it puts an incredible strain on resources like concrete, drywall and glass.

Over the course of the last couple decades, the construction labor force has been retiring at a faster rate than they have been replenished. In one survey of 20 career options, young men and women entering college ranked construction worker 18th, just ahead of sanitation engineer. That said, we don’t expect residential carpenter recruiting efforts to change anytime soon. Moreover the labor shortage is exacerbated by poachers surfing the aisles of Home Depot in attempt to lure residential carpenters into commercial construction.

What’s more, the permitting process is also getting increasingly costly and restrictive. So materials are hard to get and there’s fewer qualified people to put them together when they finally arrive correct and undamaged. What’s the problem?

Basically, the traditional remodeling contractor is slowly becoming an endangered species. The strong will certainly survive, but at a cost to their customers. This cost comes at a time when prices for everything are going up, especially labor. Another cost is in the form of time. With limited resources, comes an increasing backlog. We will simply not start a project until the previous one is complete.

For any remodeling project, there are ultimately 5 basic needs to address: Quality, Timeliness, Cleanliness, Communication and Cost. In that order. If cost is your primary concern, performance of the other four are challenging to achieve at best. This is why bargain contractors give the industry a bad name: they can’t afford to live up to expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not complaining, simply addressing the facts in effort to be educational. In this age of digital marketing, our repeat and referral customer rate is higher than it has ever been. The reason I think this is the case is because of a company-wide dedication to our slogan “Turning Apprehension into Advocacy Through Performance”. We consistently hit on 4 of the 5 basic needs and our customers get what they pay for.

The cost of growth is inevitable. The real trick is to adjust to the changing market and plan your home improvement projects in advance. If you want that outdoor living space next summer, or that new kitchen in time for Thanksgiving, plan to initiate the design process roughly 6 months prior. This will allow for enough time to design all the features, allow for the permitting process, and schedule accordingly.