Remodelers report improving business conditions this summer as the industry continues to recover from a severe winter. The “value of jobs sold” hit an all-time high in NARI’s quarterly survey, a sign that major projects such as an addition or kitchen remodel have become more common for contractors.
As homeowners opt for larger renovations, the opportunity to sell them on current trends and innovations increases substantially. Contractors must be prepared to discuss popular remodeling features with both existing and prospective customers so that they can maximize the value of each job contract and deliver an exceptional product.
Nearly 90 percent of people age 65 and older say they want to stay in their homes as long as possible. The number of adults between 65 and 74 years old should nearly double from 21.7 million in 2010 to 38.6 million in 2030, presenting contractors with frequent chances to incorporate aging-in-place design features.
“One of the questions we ask customers is ‘How long do you plan on being in the home?’ says Jason Hampel, CEO of Moss Building & Design in Chantilly, Virginia. “If there’s any chance that they’re going to be in the home into their later years, we make sure that we design the space so it moves with them as they work through the stages of their life.”
Major considerations could include a single-floor layout (to eliminate stairs), a no-step entryway, widened doors, lever-style handles, touchless faucets, non-slip flooring and grab bars in the bathroom. Aging-in-place design ultimately depends on the individual person, though, which makes a one-size-fits-all mentality counterproductive.
“It’s a buzzword right now, but really it’s a common sense approach to design that says, ‘Let’s make sure that we design this in a way that gives you the flexibility to change it to accommodate your needs in the future,’” Hampel says.
Open floor plans create houses with one or more large rooms that function as multiple rooms within a single living space. Traditionally, homes were built with many distinct rooms because people believed that extra rooms would offer greater functionality and attract the biggest pool of potential buyers.
But designers and homeowners began realizing that open layouts could fit more living space into the same amount of square footage. The most common feature of this home design has been a ‘great room’ that combines the kitchen, dining room and living room into one shared space on the main level.
“Opening the kitchen to the family or great room is definitely a continuing trend,” says Jamie Gold, an independent kitchen and bath designer in San Diego, California. “Although some single-family-home clients also like having a traditional dining room.”
The desire for open design has extended to other areas of the house, such as the bathroom, where more space can be costly. “You’re limited a lot of times with what you can do without starting to tear down walls and take space from other rooms,” says Mike Blank, president of MBC Building & Remodeling in Millersville, Pennsylvania.
“We’re taking out a lot of those big, whirlpool garden tubs because people never use them—they feel like they just take up room,” he adds.
Homeowners disregard standard design rules at times so they can add their own creative touch to a renovation. Often they want to incorporate a bold color in a neutral room or blend contrasting materials together for a visual effect, but some customers seek even more personalization.
“In one project, we transformed a piece of barnwood from their grandfather's Virginia home into a new San Diego fireplace mantel,” Gold says. “We also used their custom dining room cabinet as inspiration for the kitchen cabinetry's finish and hardware.”
Although many homeowners seek more design freedom, contractors must engage them from the outset and focus on how they intend to use the space. When a client discussed the problem of having toys lying around the main floor, for example, Hampel suggested instituting a ‘keeping room’ for the kids near the center of the house.
“Instead of having a multipurpose great room where you have to put away all of the toys every time guests show up, you have a space that’s dedicated for the kids where you can organize their toys and they can do their homework,” he says. “You can interact with them in a very comfortable way that’s close to the kitchen or the center of the home.”
Mobile devices and software applications have revolutionized home automation systems, which allow users to monitor their house no matter their location. The number of gadgets and accessories available continues to multiply, but most homeowners prefer to limit this technology to their lighting, HVAC and security systems.
“The automated control of their heating and air conditioning has been a big one,” Hampel says. “Playing music around the house in a wireless format has also been popular.”
Energy efficiency might be the greatest benefit of home automation because the enhanced control reduces household demand for electricity and other utilities. Contractors who play up the real cost savings over time improve their odds of selling clients on this technology.
Be sure to join the Lowe’s ProServices LinkedIn Group to read additional content and interact with other Construction/Trade and MRO professionals.