After 20 years of being asked “How much is a bath remodel?” Dave Van Houten decided to provide an answer by offering bath packages. The president of Homeworks, in Wyoming, Mich., came up with Bath in a Box. “We tried to create a design that had good, middle-of-the-road products and to standardize the process for both purchasing and installation,” he says. Van Houten negotiated with vendors for competitive pricing on specific products and worked out cost-effective installation with his plumber and electrician to create a $6,995 entry-level package. And he created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track costs.
He launched the package in 2008, at a time when the Michigan economy was going down but bath business was picking up. “Things almost had to [get to the point of needing] repair before homeowners would say, ‘Well, instead of a repair, I’ll go ahead and do the remodel,’” Van Houten says. The entry package provides a starting point for customers. “Bath in a Box puts people at ease,” he says. “Everyone is afraid of price, so we get that out early. The fear is gone. It helps us cross that trust line and helps [homeowners] feel in control.”
The clients who want the basic package generally are first-time home buyers on a budget or investors flipping a house. Most Bath in a Box clients choose to upgrade. “They want to personalize it with a nicer floor or brushed-nickel faucets,” Van Houten says. “Master baths are more deluxe. It’s popular to tear out the tub for a big shower.”
Todd Jackson, principal of Jackson Design + Remodeling, put together the Accelerated Bath program in 2008 during the economic downturn. “Our company is known for its high-end products, and we did not have anything in our showroom to show things on the affordable side,” says the San Diego remodeler. The Home Depot’s Expo Design Center in San Diego recently closed. Jackson did not want to miss out on the opportunity to capture that segment of the market.
Similar to Van Houten, Jackson has found that his bronze, silver, gold, and platinum packages provide homeowners with a starting point. The projects range from $11,000 (bronze) to $20,000 and up (platinum) and can be completed in one to two weeks. “It’s turning out to be a talking point,” Jackson says. “We get someone in here, show them what they get for $11,000, then go across the room to a bigger shower with more body sprays and custom tile, and that is what they want.” He says that if customers want a skylight, he puts one in. If they want a window in the shower, he will do that, too. His four tiers provide an outline of what ultimately turns out to be a custom bath. Since Jackson Design + Remodeling is known as am upscale company, Jackson still wants to provide an “experience” for all his customers. “You don’t want to lose your brand and lose who you are,” he points out.
Consultant and REMODELING columnist Shawn McCadden says that you can’t have a bath package — you must have bath packages. “People stay away from a package that is so literal and so defined. You have to have options. If you want your prospect to become a buyer, offer a unique solution for them,” he says. It’s also important to provide an “à la carte” chart for upgrades so that homeowners know the added cost of any changes or upgrades.
Eric Ovnicek, in Spokane, Wash., recently began offering a five-day bath remodel. The owner of Right Way Remodel has been concentrating on bath projects for the past few years, with 60% of the bath projects priced below $10,000. He hopes that the packages, which start at $5,500, appeal to homeowners in the $50,000 to $70,000 income bracket who cannot afford $12,000 to $15,000 bathrooms.
Last year, Michael Hamilton of Mid-City Homes, in Austin, Texas, decided to shift from general and custom remodeling to only bathrooms. As part of that shift, he created the On Time Baths division that offers packages grouped by style, with a small-to-average bath completed in five to 10 days. “We think our average client will be a married couple with both spouses working and with two kids,” he says, noting that they will have likely purchased a production home five to 10 years ago and now want to personalize the generic bathroom. “They do not have the time to design or travel to showrooms to look at all of the different selections,” Hamilton says. He expects the lower-priced packages to appeal to realtors and landlords.
Simply Baths has two showrooms and three locations in and around Danbury, Conn. President Barry Miller noticed that since the recession, clients are spending more modestly on bathroom projects. He decided to create packages of pre-made selections to guide customers through the project. “We don’t want to let any of the market go away because we cost more than they want to offer,” Miller says. He is working on three of what he hopes will be a total of eight packages. “We wanted to streamline the process to make it as efficient and as cost-effective as possible,” he adds.