Understanding the enduring appeal of home styles in a changing market

By Jay Lund, chairman, president and CEO, Andersen Corp.

 

Today’s buyers and homeowners are more interested than ever in the origins of popular home designs and how a specific style influences their purchasing decisions. Given the housing market’s recovery, this is not surprising.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders of potential homebuyers, preferences continue to lean toward existing homes – 45 percent in 2012 compared to 29 percent in 2004. Another report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University shows that the recovery is favoring remodeling over new home construction, as homeowners prefer to improve their current homes instead of building new. It’s a trend that has continued through the first quarter of 2014.

In a business that’s highly customized, manufacturers must ensure that their windows offer the range and features of different architectural styles to maximize customer satisfaction and provide a differentiator. While an engaged, interested client is a dream for builders and remodelers, Andersen Corp. has known through its extensive network of field representatives that homeowners often are minimally informed about the principles of architectural style. Finding a common point from which to grow and learn is key to leveraging what homeowners already know with what they need to know to make their dreams reality.

With the desire to connect contractors and homeowners, Andersen commissioned Cheskin Research to dive into architectural styles. The goal was not only to understand the most popular design elements, but how a window manufacturer could provide professionals and homeowners with a common language of style. The results were informative and lead to changes in how architecture is discussed.

The style preferences many homeowners and buyers embrace today could be grouped as American Classics – Bungalow, Prairie and Farmhouse. Many homeowners aren’t drawn to a mass-produced interpretation of a given style, but want to understand how they can honor their favorite style in their own homes.

What’s so special about these particular home styles? Research identified common elements across all three:

• Pioneering spirit. From farmhouses that spurred expansion of the West to bungalows that made homeownership much more accessible to the middle class, and even the significance of prairie homes as an architectural revolution in this country, each style marks key turning points in our nation’s history.

• Connection to surroundings. None of these styles are established as “cookie cutter.” Rather, each style could be modified to the local geography.  Land can dictate as many construction decisions as the homeowner. For many remodeling jobs, the existing structure will influence design decisions that maintain flow and harmony throughout the building.

• Utility. These home styles were not built to show off or impress neighbors (the Newport cottages were more like the McMansions of their day), but were designed to maintain the flow of daily life. Form was also function by organizing private spaces separately from common areas, and engineering considerations such as cross-ventilation.

These same themes could describe the mindset driving today’s housing recovery. Today’s homeowner is more focused on careful maintenance that respects the spirit of a home’s style. Homebuyers, while aspirational, practice more moderation than homebuyers a decade ago.

Sharing the kind of knowledge and information that genuinely is useful to these clients encourages a deeper conversation about the project and ultimately strengthens the relationship between homeowner and remodeler. Andersen offers its Home Style Pattern Books (online and in print), which present a decade of research exploring the most popular home styles. These can be found at http://www.andersenwindows.com/home-styles/

With tools like these, there are no business opportunities to lose – only better-informed clients to gain. Taking time to educate homeowners about design styles is a minor investment of your time as a remodeler that can yield repeat business and referrals from satisfied customers.

Jay Lund is chairman, president and CEO of Andersen Corp.

 

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