Interview with Maria Danielides, Principal at Maro Designs
Housing introspection. Ordinarily, these two terms would not be used in the same, single phrase. And yet, this appears to be what architects have encountered with a shift of homeowner perspectives over the last year. Maria Danielides, Principal at Maro Designs, helped shed some light on the current mindset of residential clientele around the San Francisco Bay Area and how it is impacting the rest of the country in an interview with Alex Tran; an architectural sales consultant for BMD in the Millwork division, representing Marvin in northern California.
In her interview, Maria outlined how certain demographics in her target market tended to react to the current situation in one of two ways. Either clients seemed to shy away from completing renovation projects that they had been planning due to anxiety and a desire to maintain their safety, or they actually became hypersensitive to various other deficiencies after spending higher amounts of time in their home and wanted to address them. She took the time to note, however, that those who became more motivated to accomplish repairs and renovations were a more narrow set of her clientele that were confident in their means to complete these projects.
“They just have a heightened awareness of deficiencies or there might be things like disrepair that is really becoming more of a front-burner issue for them, and that could be any number of things, temperature control, noise mitigation, separation, a quiet space. “
But it’s not just interior renovation plans that have been affected by the response to COVID. Maria goes on to describe how they’ve seen a noticeable uptick in exterior projects like outdoor kitchens, playgrounds, and landscaping as residents are desperate to give themselves a break from confinement and spend some time outside. However, as much as residents are seeking to take advantage of record low interest rates and address various pain points, it can be difficult to adjust to sheltering-in-place during a big remodel.
At the end of the day, weighing the pros and cons of moving ahead with renovations or repairs appears to be a bit of a mixed bag as certain demographics begin to turtle up and wait for the “all clear to be called,” while others seize the opportunity to reinvest in their property or take their first plunge into the market. That being said, there is one type of project that, according to Maria, has seen a noticeable increase in volume over the past several years: accessory dwelling units.
Due in no small part to the housing crisis the Bay Area experienced over the past few years, city building and planning departments began to proactively promote these dwellings and allow zoning where previously they may not have been permitted before. Whether because their clients had multi-generational concerns in mind or were potentially convinced by the prospect of passive income from renting these spaces out, the current circumstances only helped to compound on the interest in these separate spaces.
“But then it can be something that they want to build in, so that it legally is an accessory dwelling unit and not just a guest room, so that they have a choice to move forward in renting it, or perhaps somewhere down the road, mom or dad come back and live with them and want their own separate space, or I could also see the adult child coming back from home, back to home from college or between jobs or what have you, and that also is a reality for I think probably a lot of people…”
Maria went on to explain that while these projects definitely represent good, long-term investments, they aren’t cheap and take a good amount of planning and execution to make them work effectively.
So, where does that leave builders and contractors outside of San Francisco and California at large? Simply put; the market is in quite a bit of turmoil and motivations for repairs and renovations are in a state of flux as well. Knowing a given market’s needs and understanding the current mindset of target demographics becomes even more crucial as lockdowns roll on and shift the set of circumstances affecting both business and residential clients. Knowing how to get to grips with new objections and counter them with relevant solutions that take advantage of currently accessible incentives is going to be the key.
In the end, no one can put a price on the long-term success and security of their businesses and families. Every penny committed to permanent improvements and adding value is always money well spent and, in this time of uncertainty, seems like a solid strategy for those with the means who might find themselves teetering on the fence.