• Hot Tips for a Smoother Capital CotY

    Do :

    The CotY process is now fully on-line so no more actual binders being brought out to the NARI office.  This on-line process is much easier then before and should you desire to have your project go to NARI National for either/or a Regional CotY or a National CotY that submission is merely a push of a button.

    Get ready early – summer time !! Notify the homeowner well in advance. Advise your clients that photography will take place after the job is complete. Plan on having the job photographed at least 1 month before CoTY entry deadline.

    Don’t force a project that shows it as not finished. Wait another season. You have a 3 year window now.

    Consider showcasing a portion of a larger project that is superior such as a bathroom, exterior, basement, etc. instead of entire job. Have a separate contract for each CoTY entry.

    Utilize categories that have fewer entries – interior, exterior, speciality, green and basement.

    Have plenty of before photos from many angles. Think about where best “after” pictures will be shot from. The quality of “before” pictures is not important.

    Review past winning entries on NARI website as these can be good tips on what the judges tend to appreciate.

    Attend “How to Win a CoTY” seminar whether it is on-line of face to face.

    Use after photos of similar views as before’s. Place before and after pictures on same spread. Make after pic larger.

    Use descriptive captions for all photos. Maybe explain an angle if it cannot match with befores.

    Use labeled before AND after plans. Judges will discount your project if they can’t tell what you did or are confused about what you implied you did.

     Use a detailed mission statement outlining scope of job: goals, needs, and requirements, level of difficulty and outline areas of success in addition to answering required questions.

    Use homeowner’s opinions and sound bites of approval or reference how contractor went beyond scope of work or used creative approach to achieve greater results.

    Tell a compelling story with words and pictures that can easily be understood in 10 minutes or less by anyone over 12.

    Show “completed” binder to others for feedback and critical analysis THEN make improvements.

    Seek advice from past winners – look at their winning binders.

    Encourage NARI partner members to be Team Members and share in the glory of winning.

    Complete checklist BEFORE you submit. You don’t want to get disqualified for missing paperwork.

    Keep trying…just because you didn’t win in one category doesn’t mean you won’t win next year for the same or similar binder in a related category.


    Don’t :

    Attempt to complete binder in a day. Well executed entries take planning and creative presentation. Interview homeowners, designers and workers for insights.

    Use poor grammar, spelling errors or architectural terms incorrectly. The Judges will notice and mentally discount your project for lack of effort and intelligence.

    Submit poor quality photographs. Photographs are the most important element of binder.

    Print pictures on cheap photo paper, use pictures too small to see details, use too many pics on a page.

    Repeat same views over and over. Show multiple viewpoints.

    Place all pictures in front or rear of binder. Do use text to balance it out as if looking at a magazine article. Open with a “wow” transformation sequence and close with an exclamation point of view.

    Highlight unfinished or poor quality areas. Just shoot around weaker elements or don’t present areas that will distract from best quality portions.


    Include logos, signs, equipment, dirty areas or employees. Exception – commercial signage.

    Use too many “during” shots – use only to show key obstacles or elements that will be concealed later. During shots are confusing and messy.

    Submit project in wrong category – read entry form carefully, especially additions and “speciality” projects = portion of larger project.

    Submit same project in 2 categories. Note – there are a few exceptions- Creative Solutions and Green projects. If submitting whole house and then a “speciality” element from same project – DO NOT show same pictures of both areas in 2 entries.

    Showcase rooms that are unfurnished or contain broken or unsightly furnishings.

    Submit a project that is incomplete, dirty, unpainted, untidy or in disrepair.

    Attempt to get homeowners signature at the last minute.

    Rush to submit binder at deadline. Submit the day before with fewer hassles.

    Expect to win on first try or with every project.


    Remember the DC area is perhaps the best remodeling region in the country. Competition is fierce. We will have many fabulous projects; we will have several winning regional awards and we will have several winning National CotY awards.

    Step up to the plate and take your place as an annual Capital CotY winner!

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