Pro painters talk home improvement
By NIYAZ PIRANI –
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Mission Viejo residents Pete and Wendy Coticchia recently got into the home improvement business when they purchased CertaPro Painters of Saddleback Valley in Lake Forest.
The pair said they see a rise the number of people ready to begin home-improvement projects after a couple of years of waiting in a shaky economy.
Wendy and Pete Coticchia operate CertaPro Painters of Saddleback Valley in Lake Forest.
NIYAZ PIRANI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Pete and Wendy Coticchia
City: Mission Viejo
Occupation: Owners of CertaPro Painters of Saddleback Valley in Lake Forest
Q: When did you start your painting franchise?
A: (Pete) We purchased the business in December. We happened to purchase the local Saddleback Valley franchise that was in existence for 12 years. We're just about to celebrate the 13th year anniversary. We've retained the crews, the office, the equipment and the customers.
Q: Was there any hesitation getting into business at that time because of the economy?
A: (Wendy) It actually felt like the perfect time for us. ... We were coming in at the end of '09 and I think people are seeing signs of life. A lot of people who put off their projects in '09, or even '08, are starting to say, 'OK, I've waited long enough. Things are turning around a little bit.'
Q: Are you seeing improvement in the home improvement industry?
A: (Pete) Absolutely. If you focus on the metrics, all the metrics are up. We have residential and commercial business. Both of those leads are up, both of those revenues are up. Margins are down, but that's okay because they're steady. Last year they were all over the place.
... As I drive around all the South Orange County neighborhoods, you can see a lot of activity and it's not just painters – it's plumbers, electricians, general contractors, drywall guys. You see people hauling in carpet or taking out tile. There's a lot of activity for contractors right now and that's good. From our view it means people are putting more money back into their homes and feeling more confident.
Q: Is there a trend in your field that you've seen emerge because of the slowed economy?
(Wendy) We have found that online presence has definitely been an effective tool for marketing because people don't open the Yellow Pages anymore; they aren't looking in the traditional places to find their contractors.
We're finding that our website, and a good use of search engines – and we're on Twitter and Facebook – have been a really good way to capture people's attention.
Q: What are the benefits of hiring a professional company versus a service like Craigslist to find help?
A: (Pete) We run into that daily. Craigslist or even the guy standing on the corner at Home Depot are a competitor. They're not necessarily licensed or insured and probably have not been bonded by the state.
... My most tenured crew has been with us over 10 years, our least tenured crew has been with us four. This is their full-time job. They are true professionals when it comes to painting, light carpentry, wall coverings, staining, Venetian plaster.
Q: Do you have a starting price?
A: (Pete) The minimum job is $500.
Q: What if someone has a smaller job they want to do themselves? Do you have any tips to share?
A: (Pete) Preparation is probably the most important part. Properly preparing the substrate – the structure you're going to paint – even if it's on the interior, it's the most important part in making sure the finish you get is long lasting and provides the quality you're looking for.
The other thing to do is go to blogs or Internet sites, particularly certapro.com, ... because we continually post free tips, trends and directions on colors and what's going on in the decorating industry.