BY ROBERT P. MADER
Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
TOLEDO, OHIO — Owens Corning is rolling out HOMExperts Home Repair and Remodeling. The service includes plumbing service and kitchen and bath remodeling, in addition to electrical, painting, decks, carpentry and other general remodeling work.
The service is in operation in 11 locations, said Chuck Stein, vice president and general manager of HOMExperts. They are Boston; Washington metro from Baltimore to Virginia; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Chicago; Minneapolis; Denver; the San Francisco Bay area; Sacramento, Calif.; and the Los Angeles metro area.
The businesses perform all trades themselves and have master plumbers and electricians on staff, Stein said, except where prohibited by local laws. Stein noted that in Boston the master plumber is required to own the business, so HOMExperts subcontracts plumbing there. Typically less than 10% of the firm’s work is subcontracted.
“The business as it sits today is two years old, but from concepts and various iterations it’s four years old,” Stein said.
HOMExperts started as a home inspection business that would offer a home checkup to consumers for $299. The company would go into a home and tell the homeowner all the things that were wrong with the house, what should be done, then either do the work or subcontract it out.
“We learned that the industry tended to be wrought with a fair amount of bait and switch, rightly or wrongly,” Stein said. “Even with a respected brand and name like Owens Corning, we said, ‘Here’s what you should be doing and we’d be happy to do the work,’ the response was, ‘Yeah, right, I don’t know if I believe you.’”
The company also found it difficult to build a business with a basic selling price of $300, even though follow-on remodeling jobs averaged $500 to $600.
Owens Corning has positioned HOMExperts as a provider of construction services to different customers groups.
The first is consumers looking for home repair and remodeling. Second, the company franchises a basement fit-out system for unfinished basements. And third, the company provides construction services to the new construction market including pre-close, post-close, warranty, extended warranty and aftermarket services for customers of home builders. Builders comprise more than one third of HOMExperts business, Stein said.
Stein the said the company’s motto is to hire for attitude, although it also is looking for skills that it supplements with in-house training. The company attempts to hire tradespeople with master’s licenses or journeymen who can sit for a master’s exam.
The firm has training facilities at 80% of its locations. It has formatted and standardized its training on skills such as plumbing, fixture setting, basic wiring and drywall, Stein said.
The company has 500 employees and planned to hire 100 in June. Its expansion plans have targeted the top 50 metropolitan areas. In the past year it expanded on the West Coast through an acquisition, but this year it plans to begin opening new locations from scratch. Its smallest location has 10 technicians and the largest has 80, Stein said. The size of a branch varies by how old the location is, how it has ramped up, and the breadth of services offered to consumers and builders.
The company uses Home Depot’s Expo Design Centers for kitchen and bath design.
“They have full service and believe in the same level of attentiveness as we do, and Home Depot is an excellent partner of ours,” Stein said.
Stein believes that HOMExperts can overcome the malaise suffered by other national service companies that have gone belly up or have been absorbed by other companies.
“The brand helps us significantly,” Stein said. “When people go through the Yellow Pages or get a mailer and when they see it’s coming from Owens Corning, they say, ‘Wow, here’s a company with a well-respected name that means integrity, assurance, security and quality.’ So we find that people tend to gravitate to those that they know.”