Recovery is driven by good design

If you want to know what your peers are thinking about conditions within the custom home market, look no further than this issue of Residential Design + Build. For the fifth straight year, we present our annual Market Trends Report, providing you with insight into what builders and architects are thinking about, and even what’s on homeowners’ minds. Is there hope for this market? What kind of margins are others getting? Where do homeowners cut back when push comes to shove? We deliver these answers, and more.

Five years ago, this magazine buried its roots deeper into the custom home market by launching the original Market Trends Report, when no other magazine or website in the market was providing this service. The report hinges on the information you provide to us, which we’re happy to gather, process and ultimately deliver within context and properly framed interpretation.

This year, Kermit Baker from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University provides some of this context in the article on page 16. Baker provides interpretations of our survey results, which include the following highlights:

  • 65 percent of builders and architects who completed our survey have a positive outlook on the custom home market in 2011;
  • Only 15 percent think the 2011 housing market in general will be worse than 2010;
  • Roughly 50 percent of builders and architects say their firm’s revenue will increase in 2011;
  • Only 8 percent plan on reducing staff levels this year;
  • 90 percent plan on building at least one home in 2011;
  • Most respondents don’t expect another major dip in the housing market;
  • Many respondents are unsure about the ability for green products and services to generate revenue.

One of the most significant findings from our report is that among all survey respondents — architects, builders and owners of design/build firms — design skills, above anything else, are what separate their businesses from the competition. To put it another way, design rules.

Long gone are the days when a “good enough” design will win the business. Homes are smaller (most are between 2,000 and 4,000 sq. ft.) and therefore more must be done with less. This is where you can shine — at the drawing table. Figure out a way to use outdoor space as an extension of indoor space. Take the equipment that would have been in a dedicated home theater space a few years ago, and integrate it within the great room.

Rely on good design as you weather the housing market’s recovery. It’s what your peers say makes them stand out from their competition, and keep projects on the books.