An On-Air Construction Education

Each weekend, as millions of homeowners pick up hammers, saws, and paintbrushes to take on home-improvement projects—or even pick up a phone to call in a pro—there’s one more tool they grab to help get their projects done: a radio tuned to The Money Pit. Hosted by home-improvement, remodeling, and repair professionals Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete, the nationally syndicated (on 300 radio stations—plus XM satellite) home-improvement radio show helps homeowners with questions on everything from floorboards to shingles. American Builders Quarterly spoke to the duo about what’s on the minds of homeowners in the midst of a stalled housing market and a blossoming green revolution.

At a Glance

Location
New York City

Founded
1995

Employees
20

Specialties
Call-in advice on the nation’s largest syndicated home-improvement radio program and management of a multimedia content-production company

How are you qualified to host a widely syndicated radio show on home improvement and repair?
Tom Kraeutler: I’m a former high school industrial arts teacher and general contractor. Later, I founded a professional home-inspection firm and completed thousands of inspections for those purchasing homes. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman asked me to serve—and eventually chair—the state’s first-ever licensing authority for home inspection. In an effort to promote my home-inspection business, I frequently participated in radio, TV, [and] print interviews, which eventually led to doing a local weekend radio show in the mid-1990s.

Leslie Segrete: My father was an architect, but my first career interest was theater. I soon discovered I had a flair for set design and creating beautiful in-store displays, skills that translated to opportunities in television set design, including working on The Ricki Lake Show, Good Morning America, and the Oxygen Network. Then, TLC Network, which was launching While You Were Out, asked me to fill in as the female carpenter while they interviewed actresses for the show. They decided to hire me for the role. We filmed 400 episodes over seven years.

You are talking to homeowners for two hours every week. Do you hear different questions today than you did, say, four or five years ago?
TK: Our audience is reflective of the economy. When times are good, they ask questions about building or buying new homes. When times are tough, they remodel. Return on investment is very important; consumers want to know the smartest places to spend their money.

LS: With consumers staying in homes longer than they expected, many are trying to reorganize existing space to accommodate present needs. It’s about how to use all of the home’s nooks and crannies. They want to take advantage of the space they have as efficiently as possible.

Which part of the house is getting the most attention these days?
LS: Basements are popular projects. They offer phenomenal untapped spaces, and there’s so much you can do with them. One big obstacle is water [because] consumers may wrongly believe their basement cannot be finished due to a water problem. That’s just not true. We help listeners get to the bottom of problems like that and solve it—and without a lot of expense.

TK: Energy efficiency is also key. Consumers not only consider aesthetics but the operating cost of any improvements they make. This drives the conversation and helps homeowners identify and prioritize the best improvements for their homes.

How are homeowners responding to other sustainable strategies?
TK: Green has truly gone mainstream. Consumers are more interested than ever in green, sustainable building and remodeling practices. Not only do consumers consider product quality, appearance, and price; they also consider its impact on the environment.

Which group is driving the development and marketing of green products: consumers or manufacturers?
LS: Consumer demand is driving many changes, like better labeling and packaging to present a product’s green features and benefits. Years ago we saw a lot of “greenwashing,” packaging that misrepresented the ecovalue of products. Today, labeling is clearer and consumers are more educated about how to evaluate sustainability benefits.

What does the near future hold for home products, particularly in the green sector?
TK: I think it’s in green connectivity, where smart meters will tell the homeowners the best times to use various appliances. The more consumers have information, the better choices they make.

Is there a neat way to summarize what you do for your listeners?
LS: We’re in the solutions business. Seventy-two percent of all those that call our show do so because they need a home-related solution, be it repair, remodeling, or décor advice or a specific product recommendation.

TK: In essence, we’re home-improvement coaches, helping consumers sort through the overwhelming amount of information coming at them so they can make the best decisions for their home. ABQ