It’s no secret today’s homeowners have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating the cost of their kitchen and bath remodel. Many remodelers and home builders are competing for limited opportunities and loyal, luxury clients are leaving them because of price. Today’s new consumers are willing to compromise the value of their homes by working with less sophisticated companies.  Most of these consumers are getting multiple estimates so they can leverage those who are in need of the work the most.

Let’s face facts: There are professional builders and remodelers with years of experience wondering why their previous design and sales strategies are not working. In my opinion, it is because most experienced builders and remodelers have not embraced the fact that the consumer has recognized he can leverage the industry and is controlling the market. You can tell yourself this is not the case. If you do, you’ll probably be out of business before the next election.

Builders, designers and remodelers have two choices: Refuse to embrace this reality and end up without any clients or provide a solution that reduces choices and eliminates labor. The latter means high-priced luxury products need to be used sparingly without compromising your brand. This actually can be a benefit to your business because it will minimize risk on your projects.

A New Creativity

My firm has had success creating functional spaces that meet the requirements of the new consumer while providing consistent profitability for our company. It takes a different mindset to accomplish this. It requires that designers eliminate much of the emotion but not the creativity from the specification portion of the design.

We eliminate the emotion so the process is easier to manage. You must have the ability to approach a project as a sales person and not a designer. Doing this allows my team to quickly establish a realistic and affordable set of specifications. Intellectually, we know what a project’s value is and what we can do to manage the project so that it is profitable.

The solution from a design perspective is easy. Plan the space for function and safety. Then evaluate the customer’s requests and decide based on budget whether he can afford what he is requesting. From my experience, the new consumer can afford what he is asking for and he realizes it is value. However, he still feels entitled to a deep discount. Embracing this knowledge benefits everyone. Begin your consultation and design using a minimum of luxury-based items. If the consumer says he wants more, he can have more. He just has to be shown that more requires an additional investment.

Easy Bathroom Savings

Let’s consider how we can save costs on a bathroom remodel without compromising quality.  My team begins by eliminating a majority of the plumbing choices. For a period of five years, we were installing spa shower packages, which included multiple body sprays, hand-held sprays, shower heads, volume-control valves and thermostatic valves. From a labor and material perspective, all of this added up very quickly. With many of these installations, we had to find the main risers in the home and tie directly into them. Obviously this required extensive interior covering work, involving repairs to plaster, drywall and paint.

These spa shower installations carried additional labor burden and risk. Numerous hours were required to find the correct placement for all the accessories that were going into the walls, including the blocking required for the fastening of the rough-ins respective to their location. We now specify a simple hand-held on an adjustable bar that is controlled by a simple pressure-balanced valve. If the consumer wants more, he has to pay for it.

We also are specifying more chrome finishes in our designs. Bronze, nickel and stainless finishes add additional cost that is not always necessary. Look in your price book and run the numbers on the same bridge faucet—one in bronze and the other in chrome. Chrome can be up to 50 percent less expensive. From my perspective, chrome finishes are timeless. We will probably be pulling bronze and nickel out in 10 years and asking each other what we were thinking when we specified these finishes.

Additional money can be saved in the shower by eliminating recessed storage enclosures. Again, the time and labor is eliminated along with costs associated with the purchase of bull-nose or pencil pieces to trim them. We are successfully replacing these recessed installations with wire baskets that provide the same amount—if not more—storage for bottles, soap and shaving accessories.

Another option to reduce cost is to reconsider the shower square footage. We have been revisiting the idea of custom-sized pans because of the availability of premanufactured acrylic pans. Many designs can be modified so a premanufactured acrylic pan can be incorporated.

Provide options when specifying glass doors and enclosures for the shower. We design with knee walls in our shower surrounds to eliminate some of the glass square footage. We also offer the option of a framed enclosure instead of a frameless enclosure. Specifying 3/8-inch-thick glass instead of 1/2-inch-thick glass also can provide considerable savings. Even with the opportunity to save dollars, we very rarely compromise the design appeal of a clear-glass frameless enclosure.

Look for savings when specifying decorative lighting fixtures. We work with a lighting specialist who helps us find beautiful fixtures similar to those from high-end lighting manufacturers at a lower price point.

In addition, there are a lot of choices when you begin researching what is available from different accessory manufacturers. Grab bars, towel bars and rings, robe hooks and toilet-paper holders can be specified from manufacturers that are not currently participating in the luxury market. These manufacturers are providing current designs and good quality for a considerably lower price point.

Remember, luxury is about the experience, not the price. We can reduce cost by eliminating product choices but we cannot compromise how the client is treated. Respect your core values. Keep your appointments. Keep your studios clean. Ask for the business. And remind the client every day how much you appreciate his business. Your firm will end up memorable and, more importantly, profitable.

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