"Consumers are looking for professionals, not price," says Larry Schaffert, CGR, of Schaffert Construction in Myersville, Md. At the 2000 International Builders Show in Dallas, a panel of three other remodelers, along with Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, agreed that remodeling consumers are well-informed buyers. Typical remodeling clients, at least those identified by this group, are middle-aged and in middle- to upper-income
According to Schaffert; Cindy Knutson-Lycholat, CGR; Lynn Motheral; and Lee Zajic, room additions, master bedroom suites, and bath and kitchen remodels are popular in most regions of the country. Knutson-Lycholat, of Knutson Brothers II in East Troy, Wis., says her clients are interested in custom baths. Her work is somewhat unique--most of her clients are remodeling vacation homes. "Because most of the houses I work on don’t conform to zoning regulations, we build up. Second floor additions are popular," she says.
Perhaps because of the lakefront views in her community, Knutson-Lycholat’s clients want lots of windows. "They want big windows--bay windows, transoms, all kinds--just big," she says. She pays close attention to energy efficiency in her work, too.
Zajic’s clients are similar. In his market, Portland, Ore., he says people want to stay put in the established, older neighborhoods. So he also builds up. Because the houses are older, he does a lot of work matching the look of older homes, too.
Each one of the panelists agreed that they really pay attention to universal design concepts in their work. "Things like making doorways wider to accommodate wheelchairs--we do that automatically," says Schaffert. Knutson-Lycholat also incorporates elements such as grab bars into bathroom designs. Motheral says that he closely follows ADA requirements, and his firm is very sensitive to seniors’ needs.
Each panelist had a list of similar features. According to the remodelers on the panel, as well as 500 remodelers surveyed last November at the 1999 Remodelers’ Show, some of the top features include:
Consumers are educated. They know what the trends are, and they usually know what they want, the panelists say. "With the Internet so accessible, most of my clients have done a lot of research on their own," says Motheral. It’s up to remodelers to keep up with the trends.