Exclusive Research: The Supply Train

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Builders, architects, and designers share what they want from new products, sales pitches, and manufacturer relationships

New beach home in Avalon, New Jersey

New beach home in Avalon, New Jersey. Photo: Darrenn Williams/Wikimedia Commons

September 17, 2015

New products must offer a benefit to the homebuyer; that’s the price of entry. If those products also can deliver better quality while costing less, then builders may be inclined to try them. But among the barriers to adoption is fear that the product won’t perform, resulting in spending more money on callbacks or, even worse, defending against a lawsuit.

METHODOLOGY & RESPONDENT INFORMATION

This survey was distributed between June 23 and July 21, 2015, to a random sample of Professional Builder’s print and digital readers. No incentive was offered. By closing date, a total of 200 eligible readers returned completed surveys. Respondent breakdown by discipline: 32 percent custom home builder; 32 percent diversified builder/remodeler; 11 percent production builder for move-up/move-down buyers; 6 percent architect/designer engaged in home building; 4 percent production builder for first-time buyers; 2.5 percent luxury production builder; 2 percent multifamily; 1 percent manufactured, modular, log home, or systems builder; and 9.5 percent other. Approximately 58.5 percent of respondents sold one to five homes in 2014, and 14.9 percent sold more than 50 homes.

Builders prefer products with a track record, as expressed in one Arizona custom home builder’s mantra, “Be not the first or the last (to try something new).” They want more education, whether it’s easy-to-understand product literature, how-to videos, or reps who can guide builders through installation.

The holy grail is a personal relationship. “I want to know that there is someone who can help me solve any problem,” an Arizona architect wrote. “Too often we find that products can be purchased for less (cost), but when there is an issue, it is difficult to find a solution from a call center.” More findings about what builders, architects, and designers want from new products and manufacturers follow.

Quality of product and lower prices are the top factors that survey participants said would motivate them to switch, and many respondents added “better value,” which is code for: better quality at a better price.

“I will not use my clients as guinea pigs,” a Wisconsin builder/remodeler wrote. Other builders stated that they would like to see demand for a new product from others before they try it.

The common concerns expressed in the “other” comments were: Will the new product work? Will it bring a return on investment? Will it add more cost but not add value? Will it work as promised? And is it building-code certified?

When deciding whether to upgrade from a product/building material they’re currently using, the question that builders, designers, and architects want answered is, “Will it benefit my customer?”

Builders want reps who understand their business and will be available to help solve any problems with their product/service.

A hands-on trial at a discounted price is the most popular way to get builders to try a new product/service.

Price and quality were consistently mentioned as top concerns for adopting a new product, and open-text comments mentioned worries about long-term durability and warranty issues.

Most participants in the survey build fewer than 50 homes annually, so a hands-on demo at the jobsite was the most popular answer.

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