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Future Shock: Remodelers, Meet Your Millennial Clients

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Home Improvement

Future Shock: Remodelers, Meet Your Millennial Clients

Remodelers need to get to know the attitudes and ideas of a new generation of homeowners 

By By Jim Cory March 22, 2016
The demographics of remodeling clients are changing
This article first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Pro Remodeler.

Read more about how the rules for selling remodeling have changed.

It’s one thing if the prospect for a high-end kitchen tells you he wants to be assured that your company does good work and that your employees are responsible. But what if, as a sort of test, he wants you to prove that by sending someone over to fix (for free) the bulging seam between pieces of wallboard in his dining room? 

Matt LeFaivre, owner of LeFaivre Construction, in Taneytown, Md., was used to homeowners under 35 expecting free design services, or, when things had finally moved forward and a construction contract was prepared for signature, negotiating for a lower price. But free handyman work to qualify for a kitchen job? That was new to LeFaivre, who has worked in the business for 20 or so years. 

The remodeler told the 20-something prospect that he would only repair the bulging seam as part of the kitchen job. And that’s where the negotiation still stands today. 

One thing that LeFaivre has noticed about the younger generation of homeowners—married a few years, often in their first home—is that Millennials are often resistant to his design retainer policy. They want free design—or five, six, seven designs. “My experience with this generation,” he says, “is that they want what they want, and they want it for a little bit less.”

If that’s characteristic of a generation’s attitudes and ideas, then get ready because Millennials are soon to become the largest demographic group of homeowners, displacing Baby Boomers. Kermit Baker, an economist and project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, says that Millennials are late to homeownership—that is, late to form households and buy—because of the “really serious recession at the beginning of their careers,” an unstable job market, high student-loan debt, and the delay in “getting to significant life events.” But they will be there shortly, he points out. 

A Better Homes and Gardens survey of Millennials and the housing market shows that once Millennials do begin to buy homes and contract for renovation projects, they turn to social media platforms such as Houzz and Pinterest for renovation ideas, check out product pricing online, and are reluctant to simply turn the project over to the contractor and wait until it’s finished. “When they seek professional help, they are unlikely to cede control to the professional; rather, they expect to be partners and collaborators in the process,” notes the website of consulting company Cloverleaf Innovation in a blog

That doesn’t mean LeFaivre is avoiding Gen-Y or Millennial customers. On the contrary, he just hired a 20-something to manage his marketing. She is currently making a series of short, 10-second online videos for broadcast to smartphones in pinpointed areas of his company’s market.

Remodelers need to get to know the attitudes and ideas of a new generation of homeowners 

written by

Jim Cory

Senior Contributing Editor

Philadelphia-based writer Jim Cory is a senior contributing editor to Professional Remodeler who specializes in covering the remodeling and home improvement industry. Reach him at coryjim@earthlink.net.

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