The NYC/LI Chapter of NARI visited with a group of 12 remodeling companies from Japan on Friday, October 23rd and Saturday, October 24th, 2015. Home renovation is still a relatively new movement in Japan, and the Japanese remodelers were eager to tour actual sites in several phases of renovation and learn from NARI professionals.
While land holds its value in Japan, physical homes become worthless within 30 years. In Japan, a home is more like a car; it starts to decrease in value with age from the minute you buy it. A new buyer will more often than not bulldoze the house on the land and build a brand new one, preferring not to live in a “used” home. Statistically nearly half of all homes in Japan are demolished within 38 years - compared to 100 years in the U.S. In 2010, the Japanese government began offering incentives for homeowners to remodel rather than follow the postwar 'scrap and build policy' of tearing down old houses. Japanese consumers are realizing that remodeling is more efficient and less expensive.
Since home renovation is an industry that is still developing and growing, the remodeling division of Funai Soken Consulting Incorporated organized a trip to the states for 12 of their clients. “They wanted to see how it’s (remodeling) done overseas” said Jin Yoshikawa of TK Digital Corporation, a Brooklyn based company that offers event coordination and bilingual support among their services.
With Jin as their guide and translator, the group first met with NYC/LI board member and treasurer Patrick Bentivegna, CR, of Benco Construction, at a home he is presently renovating in Watermill, NY. For more than an hour, the remodelers asked questions that ran the gamut. They wanted to know if price was always the most important consideration, do American homeowners care about increasing the value of their home when remodeling, what happens when there are changes in the middle of the project, and who is the primary decision maker in the U.S. - the husband or the wife?
As a remodeler for more than 20 years, Bentivegna was able to give them valuable insight. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice was to convey to them the importance of documenting everything. No verbal agreements. When it’s in writing both the contractor and the homeowner know what is expected.
The group also visited with NYC/LI NARI board member Robert Kirsic, CKBR of TimeLine Renovations at a project in Manhattan. "Since remodeling in an urban setting has it's own unique set of challenges, I stressed the importance of getting management company approvals, the proper scheduling of subcontractors & deliveries and jobsite cleanliness, especially in an occupied residence," he said.
Asaki Ishida, a management consultant in Funai Consulting Inc., said the group was surprised that remodelers in the U.S. use the website 'HOUZZ' much more than they expected. "HOUZZ is just a new online service which attracts a little attention in Japan.
"What surprised us most is that there are so many nice photos of all projects. Remodeling projects in our country are relatively small compared to what we saw in the U.S. 60-70% of all remodeling projects are between $5000 and $10,000, according to national statistics. This means that small remodeling does not necessarily require beautifully-designed pictures like in HOUZZ to get a contract. However, we have definitely recognized how important it will become in the near future in Japan as well," he said.
An issue raised by the Japanese, which American remodelers can relate to, is how do you overcome homeowner distrust? With skyrocketing demand in Japan, just about anyone could start a remodeling company and homeowner fraud was rampant. “NARI combats that reputation in the U.S.,” explained NYC/LI NARI Board President, John Hogan of Mid-State Lumber. “We are an association of professional remodelers which means that all the contractors are licensed, insured, have clean credit, no outstanding complaints with consumer affairs and pledge to uphold the NARI Code of Ethics. Homeowners know when they hire a NARI member that they are NOT dealing with an unprofessional, unskilled, fly-by-night company.”
"Japan does not have any public association such as NARI which demonstrates a remodeler's ethical goodness and skillfulness, therefore we were all amazed," added Jin Yoshikawa.