One of the primary certainties in life and business is that change is inevitable. But of what kind and how much can be difficult to pin down. Custom home clients are undergoing a significant—though not radical—evolution that likely will have a lasting impact. Here, a few observations and predictions from a survey of distinguished custom builders:
Clients have become less focused on ostentation and have shifted emphasis to slightly smaller houses, quality construction and detailing, outdoor living, and sustainability. They also have become far more cost-conscious and prudent; they want to be assured they’re spending their money wisely and getting high value for every dollar. — Jim Murphy, president of Jim Murphy & Associates, Santa Rosa, Calif., and Custom Home’s 2011 Custom Builder of the Year
They’re more analytical and pragmatic, but the biggest change is the higher value they now place on design. Clients have a better appreciation for quality, detail, and innovative design over vast square footages, and the concept of the suburban mansion as a marker of success and wealth has evaporated. — Keith Waters, president, Keith Waters & Associates, Eden Prairie, Minn.
A financial phenomenon is taking place that promises to impact future projects: the current generational transfer of wealth, said to be the largest in history. “Easy come, easy go,” is the expression that applies to the beneficiaries of these funds. Those who inherit wealth tend to spend it much more freely than those who built it through hard work. —Matt Oliver, co-owner, Oliver Custom Homes, Austin, Texas
Some markets, particularly second- and vacation–home destinations, have seen an influx of younger and international clients. What could become a critical element of the custom building process is the increasing role of technology in builder/client communications. High-powered and remotely located professionals no longer have the patience for uncommunicative, though highly skilled, builders. Technologies such as video and online conferencing services will help maintain relationships and ensure clear communications. — Peter Polhemus, president and CEO, Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders, Chatham, Mass.
The wealthy are exhibiting greater financial caution and far less extravagance, but greater attention to detail. Rising energy prices are encouraging some clients to go green. Rising generations are generally more environmentally conscious than their predecessors, and those who become custom clients will prioritize sustainability. —Frank Dalene, president, Telemark Inc., Bridgehampton, N.Y.