Homeowners still putting emphasis on design: Exclusive Research

For many clients, design matters more than ever

October 04, 2011
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Homeowners still care about quality design when it comes to remodeling their homes, even as they look to limit the scope of their projects, according to the latest Professional Remodeler research.

More than half of remodelers said design was at least as important, if not more important, to homeowners than it was in the past.

“I think more clients are more interested in lasting value than current design trends, which is good for the quality of design,” said a Texas remodeler.

Meeting design demand

Smaller jobs are driving more, not less design, many remodelers said.

“The jobs are smaller and clients want more for the dollars spent and are willing to pay for design in order to accomplish that,” said a design/build remodeler

To that end, most remodelers are offering some sort of design services to their clients.

Just under 94 percent of remodelers said they do so – 37 percent of them with their own in-house design staff. Just less than 30 percent of remodelers offer design through partnerships with outside designers and architects, while 27 percent work with a combination of outside and in-house designers.

Those numbers were basically unchanged since our last design survey in December 2009.

Most remodelers said they will bid on a project designed by another firm, whether another remodeler or an architect.

“We are not in business to create designs. We are in business to build and remodel,” said a full-service remodeler from the Northeast.

Still 29 percent said they will never bid on another company’s plans.

“Our clients come to us because they want excellent design and are sophisticated enough to require professional help,” said a Washington state design/build remodeler. “Our design services are what sets us apart from the competition.”

Most remodelers said they are designing the majority of their projects themselves, with 58 percent saying they design more than half of the projects they build. Nearly 40 percent said they are designing more than 75 percent of their projects. Only 14 percent of remodelers said they are designing less than 10 percent of their work.

Price pressure on design

Despite the importance of design, it’s not immune to the budget crunch.

“Design is important for many customers, but cost is more important,” said a Colorado full-service remodeler.

About 15 percent of remodelers said they never charge for design, but most remodelers at least sometimes charge for the service and 57 percent said they always charge at least a small fee to design a project.

The amount that remodelers charge for design varies greatly. About 45 percent charge a varying fee based on the scope of the work, while 55 percent charge a flat fee regardless of project size. Those flat fees range from less than $500 to several thousand:

• 9 percent charge less than $500

• 13 percent charge $500 to $1,000

• 15 percent charge $1,000 to $3,000

• 7 percent charge $3,000 to $5,000

• 11 percent charge more than $5,000

The design process is also taking less time than it did just two years ago, probably reflecting the smaller projects remodelers are designing.

In 2009, 28 percent of remodelers said the design process on their average project was two months or more. In this year’s survey, only 16 percent of remodelers said their process took that long. Most remodelers (66 percent) said their average project takes less than a month to move through the design process, compared with less than half of remodelers in 2009.

Magazines still top design source

Despite the growing importance of digital media,

remodelers say that homeowners are still using magazines as their top inspiration for design ideas.

Seventy percent of remodelers said that magazines were at least somewhat important as a source of homeowner ideas and 36 percent said they were very important. Websites were next, with 25 percent saying they were very important and 63 percent saying they were at least somewhat important.

Only 38 percent of remodelers said friends and neighbors were an important source of ideas, while about 30 percent cited television and 23 percent said travel served as an important inspiration for design ideas. Social media is not playing a major role in design ideas, according to remodelers, with nearly 60 percent saying it was not important.


473 remodelers responded to the survey via the Internet. Participants were a random sample of subscribers to Professional Remodeler print and digital editions

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