Keith Riley is owner/CEO of RenovationFind.
Tell me what RenovationFind is and does?
Riley: RenovationFind is the solution to offering homeowners the best of the best for their home improvement and renovation projects. We are a free online directory, RenovationFind.com, connecting homeowners with certified contractors and companies that are pre-screened and continually monitored on seven important criteria that include legal issues, credit and financial checks, legitimate business licensing, insurance, Workers Compensation Board coverage, and reviewing customer complaints.
We have several differentiators such as being research-based and we only allow a maximum number of certified contractors and companies to be listed. You may ask why and it’s because you can’t find the best in a database of million. We only want the top one per cent.
On the surface, we do appear to be just an online directory but our program helps our certified businesses with marketing support to help them grow and stand out from the rest in an overly-crowded industry.
How has the renovation industry been in the past couple of years in Alberta considering the struggling economy?
Riley: There was a slow period a couple years ago but it’s picking back up. Homeowners were holding back on spending but they still have money to spend.
Every homeowner knows it’s never ending with a home. If it’s not home renovations, it’s money spent on home maintenance. Every $1 spent on renovations, 75 cents is spent on home improvements and maintenance.
Despite the struggling economy, the home renovation industry still thrived in comparison to other industries in our province. The new mortgage rules making it more difficult for people to buy a home and house prices didn’t come down as much as people expected had positive impacts to the renovation industry because people are now sticking with their home and renovating it.
What are the most popular trends in terms of renovation today?
Riley: Our most recent survey done for Edmonton and Calgary reveals the top three types of projects homeowners plan on doing in 2019, ranked in order, are home maintenance, bathroom renovations and kitchen renovations.
Albertans still have money to spend but they definitely want to get the most out of every dollar spent. The survey reported that 36 per cent of our respondents are budgeting to spend more than $10,000 on their home improvement and renovation projects and 35 per cent are budgeting $5,000 to $10,000.
The trend is homeowners are making improvements to their home with bathroom and kitchen renovations topping the renovation spending.
One of the most important trends and takeaways that I believe our industry needs to know is that over 75 per cent of the respondents ranked trustworthiness and quality to be the most important considerations when they embark on their home improvement and renovation projects. Contrary to popular belief by contractors in the industry, price is not the most important.
What renovation is best for a return on investment for homeowners?
Riley: My wife and business partner Vivian Riley and I had to make this very choice. The best return on investment would be an income suite like a garage suite or a basement suite that you could rent out to generate income.
We didn’t want anyone else besides our kids living in our house so then we decided the next best project to get a good return would be the kitchen. The kitchen is a high-traffic area and where homeowners spend a lot of the time.
How can a consumer go about protecting themselves against untrustworthy contractors?
Riley: Research, research and research. This is the key. Make sure everything is on paper and documented, signed and legally executable. Check the contractor’s credentials and consult with sites like ours, ask for references and ask for documentation of their credentials such as prepaid contractor licence, permits pulled for your job and a detailed breakdown of your bill.
Homeowners should not be afraid to ask for documentation as it is within your right to ask.
A tip when asking for references: I recommend to ask for the last three jobs and contact the references to verify the information. Request the contractor provide you with a valid invoice or documentation to prove the customer was real. By asking for the last three jobs, the contractor can’t pick and choose because it’s not likely people ever want to give bad references. This is like you apply for a job and got the interview, and then you’re asked for references – the chances of you providing bad references is not likely.
We also wrote an article on how to help protect home owners called 6 Tips to Help Avoid Getting Ripped Off When Renovating.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business