These tech startups are reconfiguring the home remodeling industry
As lumber and other building material costs soar, so are homeowners' demands for renovations. But more than ever before, those with the remodeling itch have a bevy of tech-focused services that can help streamline the process.
The startup Outfit, for one, is digging into the DIY process for consumers who are brave enough to take blueprints into their own hands.
"We're helping homeowners really tackle projects around the house that don't really require a contractor or they can knock out in a specific weekend. But they really need some of the support when it comes from picking out those materials — kind of curating them to make sure the design kind of comes out all right," Outfit founder and CEO Ian Janicki told CBSN. "The delivery coordination, making sure everything's in stock, as well as on our mobile app, guiding them in the step-by-step direction about how to complete the project."
With renovation kits shipped for specific projects and guided to-do lists, Outfit hopes to cut out the incessant YouTube searches as well as multiple trips to retailers.
"We're not guaranteeing that you're going to be the next Bob Vila overnight, but we do want you to be able to be more comfortable with the place that you own and be able to tackle projects that you didn't think you were capable of," said Janicki, a second-generation architect. "And I think that's what gets me up in the morning. I think that's what gets the team really revved up because the team is almost exclusively ex-architects as well."
Janicki, who launched his company early this year, is tapping into an expanding home remodeling market. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the industry saw a "boon" in business despite the pandemic, with estimated spending last year of about $419 billion and projected 2021 spending of $433 billion.
Eano founder and CEO Stella Wu is also capitalizing on the growing market, but on the flip side. She's building an integrated home renovation service for those with no interest in DIY projects. Wu was inspired to launch her startup in 2019 after a stressful experience in trying to build an "ADU," or accessory dwelling unit, on her property.
"I wanted to combine all those individual contractors and also individual architects, combining all the resources together and then provide… like a one-stop experience for people who want to renovate their home or build an ADU themselves," Wu told CBSN.
It's a remodeling trend that the pandemic may be accelerating, and Wu is seeing the demand firsthand particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Wu said homeowners want to create more space for home offices or even make passive income from renters.
She said her marketplace for home renovations aims to build customers' trust.
"We take care of all the hassles, we provide that kind of technical project management softwares to help them streamline the entire experience," Wu explained. "That's the reason we can bring the cost down, because we work with the individuals and then we are not relying on [a] human project manager. We are actually building a technology to increase the efficiency for homeowners to manage the project themselves."
With the pandemic transforming how people live and work, it is also revamping the home improvement industry.
"I think that there's just been an acceleration of people's personal timeline in terms of when they were going to renovate their homes, as well as purchase their homes," Janicki said.
"There's also a program change, right? People are using their homes differently now than they were just a year ago," he added. "And so, when you saw a home listing a year or two ago, having a home office per se would be considered a luxury. And now we're seeing it's more of a necessity. And so, it's really about these kind of different buyer patterns and what people are demanding now from a home."
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