NORTH OLMSTED, OH — A recession-wrought change in consumer spending is having a dramatic impact on kitchen and bath remodeling, according to a major new study conducted by sink, faucet and shower products supplier Moen.
“Given the current recession, it’s no surprise that consumers are saving rather than spending – and when they do spend, they’re doing so from cash on hand, rather than credit,” says Jack Suvak, senior director of research and insights for the North Olmsted, OH-based Moen. “This change in spending behavior has had a dramatic impact on remodeling projects.”
Moen released the findings of its research study at last month’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas.
According to Suvak, most homeowners are choosing to perform “room lifts” – small upgrades to personalize a room – rather than undertake the kind of major remodels that were commonplace prior to the recession. In addition, Suvak said, homeowners “are choosing to personalize renovations to fit their needs, rather than update a room for the next family that will be living in the house.
“For years, we’ve heard that if you want to sell your home, start by remodeling your kitchen because it has the highest return on investment,” he said, noting that pattern has changed because most homeowners are choosing to remain in their current home rather than sell.
Moen’s research found that families with children living in the home are more engaged in their kitchens than their counterparts without children – and are more likely to view the kitchen as a place where activities or conversations frequently happen. With regard specifically to kitchen remodeling, respondents with children are significantly more likely than those without children to have remodeled or made improvements to their kitchen in the past year, used a kitchen designer or architect, or spent more on kitchen improvements, Moen said. And families with children living in the home are far more likely to say they would spend more money on their kitchen remodel if they had it to do over, the company added.
According to Moen, when designers were queried about the challenges of creating live-in value for families with children, they noted distinct differences between families with children of different ages. For example, the company said, as children grow older, the kitchen evolves from a potentially dangerous place to a space for sharing food preparation and cooking experiences.
Designers stated the top concern when remodeling kitchens for families with children in each of three age groups are:
- Younger than five years old: safety.
- Age five to 12 years old: places to play or work.
- Age 13 or older: the ability to have two or more cooks in the kitchen at one time.
Utilizing this research, Moen said, sample ideas to perform “room lifts” for families with children include: creating a “kid zone” (away from the stove) to enable room for child-friendly cooking, putting in a desk-like environment for computer work or homework, or adding an island with a faucet and sink to allow for two prep areas.
While families with children have very specific desires in terms of creating a kitchen with live-in value, so do the different generations, Moen’s study revealed. For example:
- Millenials (aged 18-34) have the highest demands in what they would want in a dream kitchen. The majority of their “wish list” items include those with technological advances, such as a microwave that allows for swiping a package bar code, enabling the microwave to cook to exact directions; a TV screen built into a kitchen wall or appliance; and technology that would allow putting a dish in the oven, programming it to refrigerate and then turning the heat on from a phone or computer.
- Boomers (aged 45-64) also had specific “wish list” items, mostly around entertaining large groups. Examples include a cooktop with special-purpose features (built-in grill or wok, rotisserie attachment); commercial or professional-grade appliances; a built-in coffee pot connected directly to plumbing; and an oven that dramatically reduces cooking times without microwaves.
Contrary to what many might believe, designers say their clients are more concerned about project costs than about being green, according to Moen. “The costs of environmentally friendly products and materials are still seen as higher than non-green products, and these higher costs discourage consumers who are already reluctant to spend more on their kitchen remodels,” Suvak observed.
He noted, however, that there are certain categories in which homeowners want to be sustainable. Among them, he said, are:
- Energy-efficient appliances.
- Cabinetry, countertops and flooring that use sustainable or natural materials such as bamboo, cork and stone.
- Energy-efficient lighting, as well as water-saving faucets and showering.
- Non-toxic, low-VOC finishes.
Moen also suggested a number of other design strategies to create live-in value for today’s consumer. Among them are allocating an area for laptop and mobile device recharging; specifying a second sink on center islands; and using the sink, and area around the sink, as storage.
“While realtors still keep tabs on the sorts of upgrades that will improve a home’s resale value, we believe consumers will continue to remodel with the idea of improving their quality of life while they ‘stay put,’ for quite some time,” Suvak said. “In other words, homeowners aren’t making huge investments on their homes with an eye toward making more money. Rather, they’re remodeling to create ‘live-in value.’”