If you can’t move, improve your present situation
It’s all very well for me to suggest, as I do below, that this is the perfect time to take advantage of our economic mess and the uncertainty it’s created by buying a house cheap but what if you can’t do that? What if, for example, you’d have to sell your current home to buy a new one and you’re not looking forward to some smart ass heeding my advice and showing up on your doorstep with a ridiculously low offer? Well, there’s another way to take advantage of these bad times: stay put, and improve your existing house – all the things you wanted in your next house? Maybe you can add them to what you own and stay put, quite contentedly, for the next few years while you enjoy them.

My fishing buddy, Lou Van Leeuwen, recently sat down with his subcontractors and basically proposed that they all (including Lou himself) cut their prices and offer to do renovation and new construction projects for 20% – 30% less than they’d have charged last year (building material suppliers, alas, are immune from Lou’s gentle persuasive powers, for the moment, or costs could drop even further). The theory is, naturally, that it’s better to be working and making a little money than not working at all. Lou ran an advertisement last week announcing this offer – I haven’t spoken with him to find out how it played but it makes sense. Here’s Lou’s contact information and a list of the sub contractors who are participating – top quality people, every one:
Louis Van Leeuwen,CEO, Greenwich Construction, LLC Office: 203.698.9428 Cell: 203.223.0634 Home: 203.637.3619
Braga Flooring
Complete Carpentry
CTX Concrete & Foundations
Greenwich Drywall
Interstate Lumber
Janeczek Contracting
Mathews Roofing
Pinho Landscaping
Quezada Painting
Roger Arnow & Sons Excavating
Sottile HVAC
Stamford Plumbing Supply
Summer Rain
Vartuli Electric
VPI Contracting

I mention Van Leeuwen because I know he’s specifically offering this. But any contractor should be willing to bend, and bend considerably, to get work in this climate. Dig up Lou’s ad and beat your own contractor over the head with it, if you wish.

Other top people I know who would welcome work, including small jobs: Rick Hvolbeck 249-2297 and his partner, Al Oliveira (914) 273-7316. I’m not suggesting that you call them to build that rabbit hutch you’ve always wanted (but you might) but Rick and Al did an incredible job on our place recently replacing trim, a porch deck, insulating the foundation and replacing rotten windows and columns, all at a price I couldn’t have touched a few years ago. These guys are builders and carpenters, not the half-skilled handymen who were all you could get in years past.

There are more, but you get the picture. If you’re stuck where you are, put some money into addressing long-deferred maintainence issues, add a room or a deck or even completly renovate the entire house (rents are low now, too, so you’ll have a place to stay). You’ll get a good price, save a lot of money, improve your existing house and maybe even increase its value, all while keeping these ruffians off the streets. A good deal for everyone.

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  1. Anonymous

    I do appreciate your recommendations, and the sidebar with links – even though I don’t need a new roof today, I know the time is coming soon, Having followed your blog (more or less silently) since you left that newspaper, you’ve earned a lot of credibility in my mind – so I trust your referrals – hey now there’s a business waiting to be born: Fountain’s List

  2. Anonymous

    you know, I used to use Summer Rain. I think they got a bit carried away in the good times. This spring, five of our sprinkler were all pointing to the center of a small area – which of course looked as green as the fairways at St. Andrews. I asked for someone to come and point a couple of them in the opposite direction, so other plants could get watered (it should have been that way when they were installed, but that is another story).

    So they show up, turn the heads, and leave. Maybe 10 minutes. We’re in mid-Country, they weren’t driving to Darien.

    We got the bill for $250. That was the last time we’ve called Summer Rain. We got another service. I don’t mind paying for good service, but I hate being someone’s sucker. If they need business, it is because they drove prompt-paying customers away.

    CEA

  3. Anonymous

    I agree with you CEA. Summer Rain has gotten too big for their britches. I’ve worked with them on several projects (not by my own choice or recommendation, rather my client’s) and I don’t know of any who are happy with their choice in retrospect.

    I can’t tell you how many times their crew didn’t show up for appointments or left projects unfinished and then billed to come and complete it, at their own leisure, of course. I could accept that from a 2 man operation…but homeowners should expect much more from a company that charges such a premium. That said, I wish I could recommend a better alternative, but I can’t. If anyone out there can, please share it!

  4. Anonymous

    Very interesting – thanks for the tip!

  5. Anonymous

    We used Kevin Zosiak, who has his own business and is the greens manager of a country club. His number is at my office, but if you’re still reading here I’ll post it tomorrow.

  6. Anonymous

    In case you still wanted the name for a sprinkler guy:

    Kevin Zosiak: 203 509 9568

    My parents and I have both used him. He is prompt, he does great work, and is very professional.

    CEA