Designing for the Future: Getting Clients to Take the Remodeling Plunge

Tips for selling affordable luxury
By Dick Wolfe
December 05, 2012

A website called remodelormove.com recently came out with its Fall 2012 Remodeling Sentiment Report. The surprising conclusion is that “luxury is back for home remodeling.” The other conclusion is that the remodeling industry will recover from the top down. I’m a little surprised that they are just coming around to this finding since we reported the same trend in this column in July 2011.

Based on the fact that the average income of consumers surveyed in the remodelormove study is $123,000, the skew toward luxury is understandable. This is a group of people who have obviously weathered the financial crisis well. It’s not rocket science to figure out those with money spend it and they spend it on expensive items. Those who have struggled or who make more modest incomes likely didn’t see the benefit in participating in the survey. As we know, not everyone can play in the luxury market. Most remodelers/designers, like the overwhelming majority of consumers, aren’t in the luxury market.


If you’re a “meat and potatoes” remodeler/designer (and I mean that in the best sense), you need a marketing angle for all those potential clients who make a reliable income and are putting off upgrading because they think they can’t afford it. My sense is the reason these folks aren’t remodeling is not just because of economic fears.

Possibly a bigger reason is they see all these luxury remodels in the media and get frustrated. They can’t afford a high-end renovation and no one from HGTV or “Love It or List It” has come along to offer them a makeover they couldn’t normally pay for. They don’t want to settle for less, so they do nothing.

How do you, the remodeling/design pro, convince them they should take the plunge? There is a concept that’s been out in the market for a while and is somewhat overused, but it’s still there for you to take advantage of. It’s “affordable luxury.” I’m sure you have heard of it. It’s the concept that says you don’t have to pay through the nose to acquire quality.


Here’s a classic example of affordable luxury: faucets. A few years ago, Consumer Reports tested kitchen faucets and found that plumbing technology had advanced to the point that an inexpensive faucet, well under $100, performs just as well as a $1,000 faucet. There is little to no benefit as far as reliably getting water in spending lots of money on a faucet. The cheap ones last a good while, too.

Now, if you add beautiful design and some bells and whistles, such as special finishes and pullout capability, the price increases. But you can still get a long-lasting, very functional, stylish faucet in the $200-$300 range. Most home product categories are similar. You can get beauty and durability without paying the premium of “buying the name.”


First off, don’t call your offering affordable luxury. That phrase has been beaten to death and it’s a bit of a contradiction in terms. However you decide to say it, it’s about bringing beauty, comfort, style and quality into someone’s home. It’s about helping them create the space they dream about at a price that won’t give them nightmares.

You need to become a product expert. Take a look at luxury remodels and then go find the products that replicate the look, functionality and durability at a third of the cost. They’re out there. Then show your prospective customer a picture of that luxury layout and tell them you can do something comparable for them. Then explain how.

Don’t position your products as knock-offs. They’re quality products that happen to cost way less. There are some venerable brands that fall into that category. Sell it like you believe it and the customer will believe it. Then give them a design and remodel they’ll be proud of.


The most recent Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) report is calling for a growth year in 2013 that should move beyond the luxury segment. They predict housing will continue to recover which will have a positive effect on remodeling. This is particularly true since housing recently has been rebounding from the bottom up. In fact, the study is predicting over 12 percent remodeling growth in Q1 2013 alone. The opportunity is out there. Position yourself to grab it.

Dick Wolfe is SVP of Cohn & Wolfe, an award-winning global public relations agency that specializes in helping design effective marketing programs for well-known consumer brands and business-to-business companies. Wolfe brings deep experience as a trusted communications advisor to companies seeking successful brand positioning, marketing communications and visibility campaigns. Much of his work has been focused on the design/build community. To contact Wolfe with questions and suggestions on topics for future articles, please email him at dickw1985@yahoo.com
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