On the Home Front: Builders

A finished lower level by Glidewell Building & Design. Photo courtesy of Glidewell Building & Design

Don’t move…improve! That’s the rallying cry of many St. Louisans who have given up on selling their homes, at least for the time being. “Our remodeling and contracting business has increased by about 20 percent since the beginning of the year, and it’s holding steady,” says Brian Cook, president of Cook Construction Inc. “People are worried about the stock market, worried about inflation, and they don’t want to take a loss on their current house, so they’re staying put.”

    Meanwhile, homeowners are making the best out of what might have been a bad situation by investing in small improvements and modest additions. “We’re seeing the biggest jump in the $10,000 to $50,000 range,” Cook says. “It’s the higher-ticket projects that are a little scarce. A lot of our high-end clients got hammered in the stock market, so that segment of the business is down. Last year, we had maybe three or four jobs in the $150,000 to $300,000 range; this year, they’ve all but dried up.”

    Cook’s four crews are busily finishing out basements, renovating kitchens and baths, and adding bedrooms and bathrooms. “Most of our clients aren’t just looking to improve the resale value of their property,” he says. “They’re asking themselves, ‘How can we stay here comfortably for another three, five, or 10 years, if need be?’ They’re taking the long view.”

    Less optimistic is Paul Prifti of PJ Prifti Custom Contracting.  “The business we’re in is pretty consistent,” he says. “When times are good, people buy new houses or fix their places up. When times are bad, they stay where they are or do smaller projects. Right now times are bad, and I’m seeing less of both.” In a few instances, Prifti adds, clients have canceled projects because they couldn’t get financing. “But we’ve definitely seen an increase in business over the past 60 days,” he adds, “so there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

        During the boom years, cost was no object for many of Dan Glidewell’s clients. “But people these days are more likely to focus on what they need, not what they want,” says Glidewell, president of Glidewell Building & Design. “They may want a new family room or some other big addition, but they just can’t afford to do it right now. So they settle for what they really need, whether it’s redoing the kitchen or updating the master bath.”

    Like everyone else in the business, he’s seen his share of canceled projects lately, especially at the high end. “But more often than not, we can save the day by suggesting a more cost-effective way to get the job done,” he says. “The first thing I do is help the client decide the best way to ‘value-engineer’ a situation, so we can cut expenses as much as possible while still maintaining a high level of quality. Man-made finishes and laminates, for example, cost a lot less than granite, and I’m happy to point that out. Now more than ever, it’s my responsibility to make sure people get the most value for their money.” 

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