Your Home Improvement Project and Internet Resources

The Internet is a great resource for home improvement ideas. Seemingly endless, there are thousands of sites with how-to information, contacts for local contractors, reviews of services in your area and web communities devoted to home improvement and renovation projects. Unfortunately, it can be an overwhelming amount of information to sort through. Keep reading to learn about different sources of home improvement information on the Internet as well as how to access them.

1. Business Finders

You can use mapping sites like GoogleMaps or MapQuest to find local contractors and hardware stores near you. From there, you can browse their web sites, get a feel for the business or also look for reviews. If you’re curious what other consumers had to say concerning a prospective plumber, try using a search engine to search for his name or business name along with the word “review.” For example, if his name is Bob Smith, try searching for “Bob +Smith +Plumber +Review” to get accurate results.

2. Online Quotations

Many providers offer online quoting services. This can be a great way to gain an idea of a project’s price along with an estimated cost of materials. Even if you’re just in the budget and drafting stage, online quotes are a great tool to provide you a fairly accurate idea about cost.

3. How-To’s and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Information

Many web sites offer expertise articles or step-by-step DIY instructions for everything from how to hang a picture to how to frame a house. Before investing in information from an online source, check a few different pages just to cross check their opinions and recommendations as well.

4. Product Reviews

If you’re thinking about buying new home improvement equipment -like a new set of power tools or a table saw – online product reviews are great. Written by customers like you, they tell you the pros and cons of each product while rating factors such as price, durability, power and ease of use. Before you purchase a new home improvement tool, check the online product reviews.

5. Web Communities

Message boards, forums and web communities are all great ways to connect with other home improvement enthusiasts. They’re also fantastic for getting a specific question answered. Think of posting a question on a forum as similar to walking into a busy hardware store and asking everybody there for advice. You’ll get a lot of answers from people with varying levels of home improvement experience, ranging from experts to home improvement DIY hobbyists.

Don’t Despair, Home Improvement Contractors – There’s Still Gold in the Market

The shaky housing market has some home improvement contractors running scared, but there is no reason to hang up your tool belt just yet. Business from homebuilders may have dried up, but homeowners themselves still need what you have to offer. In fact, experts are forecasting growth in the remodeling arena – in part as an offshoot of the decline in home sales. The trick will be switching your marketing strategy to reach your new target audience.

Remodeling, of course, is an evergreen business. Approximately 25 million homeowners undertake some type of home improvement project each year, according to research from Harvard’s Improving America’s Housing 2007. And the Home Improvement Research Institute predicts that sales of home improvement products will grow at an average rate of 6% annually over the next four years – a sign that people will still be investing in their homes.

Some of this demand is triggered by normal home upkeep. Two-thirds of existing homes are now at least 25 years old – the age at which items such as the roof, windows and plumbing fixtures begin to need repair or replacement, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Other projects are inspired by a simple desire to upgrade one’s living environment – perhaps pushed along these days by television lifestyle shows filled with luxury amenities.

Additional demand will be driven by the state of the housing market, experts say. Some homeowners who were planning to move will instead renovate because they can’t sell their homes in the current economy. Properties that have fallen victim to the foreclosure crisis will be acquired and in need of remodeling, particularly over the next 18 months as foreclosures peak. And pent-up demand for older home remodeling, energy efficiency retrofits and rental stock improvements will be unleashed when the economy perks up, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Bottom line: there’s still business today, and there will be MORE business over the near term. Now is the time to lay the marketing groundwork to cash in.

While word-of-mouth referrals will always be important, it’s not enough to keep your pipeline filled. Advertising plays an essential role in bringing customers to your door by building brand recognition as well as credibility. But not all ads are created equal. Follow these rules of thumb for best results:

Define your target audience and create an effective method to reach them.
If your service is high-end, maximize your advertising dollars by targeting only top homes by value in the marketplace.
Showcase your best work through photographs. This inspires remodeling ideas and helps consumers visualize the effect that a remodeling project will have on their own home.
Look for advertising outlets that focus on home remodeling, because that’s where your target customer is going to be looking for contractors – not mixed in with pizza coupons.
Advertise on a regular basis. A consumer normally needs to see your name and ad repeatedly before picking up the phone.
Be sure that your phone number and other contact information is prominently displayed in your ad so that consumers can reach you easily.

Remember: the home improvement business is still alive and kicking. It’s just a matter of finding opportunities in new places. Put yourself in front of the right people – through advertising – and the work will come.