What People Want

We all know to be successful in our businesses, we have to give our clients what they want. One aspect of the remodeling profession I love is the fact that client wants are always evolving. That means we need to evolve, too.

In the last several months, I have noticed a decline in demand for large-scale homes and additions. I have also seen a trend away from the upscale amenities that used to dominate the wish list. In their place is a preference to stay in smaller homes and invest in low-maintenance projects and those that will create open floor plans and flexible, informal spaces within the home.

This is true across all demographic segments but it is especially true among aging baby boomers. Many of these clients want to stay in their older homes in lieu of selling and moving to a newer home. They want comfort, especially when it comes to the two areas that impact their lives on a daily basis: the master bath and kitchen.

What I am seeing is consistent with the results of the latest quarterly Home Design Trends Survey published by the American Institute of Architects, or AIA. (It can be found at www.aia.org/practicing/economics/AIAS077115.) AIA surveyed home remodelers (including me) and asked them what home improvements appeal most to their clients. Following are the results—in no particular order:

  • Low-maintenance landscaping
  • Low- or no-maintenance outdoor living spaces
  • Increased accessibility within the home
  • More flexible, open and informal floor plans
  • Finished basements and attics
  • Smaller homes
  • Smaller lot sizes
  • Kitchen renovations or complete tear-out
  • Master bath renovations or complete tear-out
  • Smaller additions or alterations
  • Easier access into and out of the home
  • One level (ranch-style) homes
  • Sustainability

Commenting on these results, Kermit Baker, Ph.D., AIA’s chief economist, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ senior research fellow and project director of the Remodeling Futures Program, said, “We continue away from the McMansion chapter of residential design with more demand for practicality throughout the home.”

I agree. The downturn in the economy coupled with rising construction and utility costs have contributed to this development. I believe these trends will continue. Homeowners will shy away from buying second homes or selling their primary residences and will, instead, improve their existing residences. They will remodel not to impress but to make their homes more comfortable. They will favor more flexible, open and informal floor plans that foster ease of movement and are conducive to family living. With this we will see a drop-off in the popularity of upscale enhancements, such as formal landscaping, large “show” kitchens, decorative water features, tennis courts and pool houses.

So what does this mean to you, the remodeler who has thrived up until now?

If your business model is built on a “bigger is better” foundation, it might be time to rethink it.

Anticipate the changing needs of your target markets and think through how you can utilize your skills to meet those needs.

Listen: Your ears can sell better than your mouth.

Quote of the Month
“The big shots are only the little shots who keep shooting.” — Christopher Morley, American humorist, playwright, poet, essayist and editor

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