Maine home builders, remodelers association innovate as business surges

Article originally posted on MaineBiz, view full article here:

The home remodeling and building industries in Maine have surged this year, and the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Maine is navigating the wave with a variety of new initiatives.

“Demand for remodeling is really high,” Maya Bogh, president of HBRAME, told Mainebiz this week. New builds are also on the rise.

Also on the rise is membership in the association. Bogh was elected president in July as HBRAME, which represents about 120 residential builders and associated professionals in the state, looks to grow and innovate.

Maya Bogh, President of HBRAME
Maya Bogh, president of Home Buildings and Remodelers Association of Maine

Maya Bogh, president of Home Buildings and Remodelers Association of Maine
The association, which represents the residential construction industry, was already busy before the pandemic hit. The group’s work includes supporting members through apprentice and educational programs, helping builders and municipalities understand building code, and helping consumers understand their building options.

“Ultimately, we want to benefit the homeowner, the builder and the environment,” she said. She said energy efficiency and new codes and methods related to that, “has become a huge factor in what we do.”

All that’s combined with builders and municipalities still trying to get their heads around the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, which has evolved in the decade it’s been in place and guides municipal building code.

The organization, which is affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders, also advocates in the Legislature on code and other building issues.

All that was going on before the COVID-19 pandemic, but 2020 has turned everything on its head. The year has been an unprecedented one for single-family home construction and renovation.

New initiatives range from educating builders and consumers about “COVID clauses” necessary for contracts, which allow provisions for work interrupted by the pandemic, to a program that will launch next year to showcase the industry’s work.

“We’ve seen huge activity,” Bogh said. “It’s hard to keep up with it.”

Mudroom from Southern Maine Remodeling

Many homeowners who’ve been stuck in the house more than usual are renovating their space. Shown is a custom built-in mudroom by Southern Maine Remodeling, of Scarborough.

An unprecedented year for home construction

A Consigli Construction study in October found the lumber and carpentry industry in the Northeast has boomed this year, with costs up 100% since Jan. 1.

The surge in residential construction, particularly in home renovations, is partly driven by the surge in home sales in the state, Tom Cole, president of the Maine Association of Realtors, told Mainebiz recently.

“When someone buys a house, they have work done,” Cole said, whether it’s a kitchen overhaul, a new roof, painting or an addition. The economic activity in the real estate industry “is not just about sales, but about new construction, it’s necessary and driving the economy for the state.”

Cole said lack of inventory is also boosting the new home industry, and has a big multiplier ripple. Bogh agreed, and said lack of inventory is also driving the home remodeling trend — many people are remodeling rather than moving.

“More and more people are choosing to do that, If they like their community, like the schools,” she said.

And even those who weren’t considering a new home are opting to remodel. “People have been spending a lot more time in their house,” she said. They start noticing things they want changed.

Home built by great northern builders

The surge is home construction and remodeling in the state runs the gamut from interior and exterior renovations to new outbuildings, like this studio built by Great Northern Builders, of South Berwick, designed to look like an older barn.

A new showcase for their work

Cole, of the MAR, said the home construction trades are an important part of the real estate industry.

Bogh concurs, and said that’s the impetus behind the Parade of Homes 2021, which will showcase interior, exterior and new build work from throughout the state. It will launch online next October.

“We have an unbelievably talented pool of remodeling and building professionals in Maine, but we don’t have a showcase where people can view their work,” Bogh said.

The virtual event trend spurred by the pandemic gives the opportunity for trades people from all corners of Maine to take part, and for the public to easily view projects.

The showcase will have a variety of categories covering interior and exterior renovations, including new builds. Since it’s the first year, projects from the last three years will be eligible, Bogh said.

The showcase will help boost the profile of an industry that’s been short of tradespeople for the past several years, though that may already be changing. The association works with the community college system to help interest young people in the trades and Bogh has seen a new trend.

“I feel as though there’s been a change in the tide, with the public, with parents,” she said. There’s more recognition that the construction trades “are a respectable career choice.”

She said that the trades aren’t “simple,” but involve skill, technical knowledge, critical thinking and more. “It challenges all of your senses.”

She added, “You can make a good living and don’t have to rack up a lot of college debt.”

Bogh, a partner in Great Northern Builders, in South Berwick, became president of HBRAME in July after being a member of the board since 2010. In 2018, she was a finalist for the National Association of Home Builders Young Professionals Award.

She didn’t aim to be co-owner and business manager of a construction company, but years ago started helping out her husband, Len Bogh, the company’s founder. “Over the years I’ve grown into it,” she said.

The association has about 120 members, among them renovators, remodelers, land developers, and builder/creators of single- and multi-family homes as well as industry associates such as manufacturers, suppliers, subcontractors, architects, engineers, mortgage bankers, insurance/title companies and attorneys.

Besides Bogh, the executive committee elected in July includes Kurt Clason, Clason Remodeling Co., vice president; Travis Blake, Southern Maine Remodeling, treasurer; and David Elkas, James Hardie Building Products, secretary.

The organization helped its members navigate the Great Recession 12 years ago and its slow comeback, but the pandemic challenges are different. As the industry has surged this year, the organization has grown, too.

Bogh said a top priority is to maintain a trusted network of local subcontractors, vendors and partners for both those in the industry and consumers looking to remodel or build. Advocating at the state level, so that updated codes or new regulations make sense “both on paper and in real life,” is important too.

The business has gotten more complex, pandemic or no pandemic, Bogh said. “It is imperative to maintain a strong trade association to navigate it.”

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