Ask Brian: Women with Dirty Hands Doing DIY Projects



Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to askbrian@realtybiznews.com.

Question from Christine in Portland, OR: Hi Brian. First, I want to thank you for sharing the woman’s point of view when it comes to do-it-yourself projects. I have a group of friends that work together regularly on projects in our separate homes. This might sound a little weird but we try to schedule one Saturday each month to work on a project. Some of these are big projects like when we replaced Ariana’s bathroom vanities, all of the plumbing fixtures, and did a tile job. To be honest, we only did this once and it took three Saturdays. That’s when we came up with a rotation system based on the number of Saturdays a project takes. It’s actually simple. Ariana was taken out of two rotations until everyone else benefited from the same number of workdays. Almost all of our group projects are finished in a single Saturday.

However, here’s my beef. There are six of us in the workgroup (all single people). Two are women and four are men. I’m the only woman in the group with some professional construction experience as a framer. An important part of our group process is having the person whose house that we will be working on have all of the materials ready to go on Saturday when we show up. Shopping for materials has been less than a pleasant experience for both Ariana and me. To make a long story short, it has been strongly suggested to both of us to come back when we have a man with us that can make the final decision about which materials to purchase. These are big warehouse stores. I’m not talking about selecting the paint color. We need professional help selecting and matching basic plumbing and electrical components and materials. She and I understand the difference between 1/2” and 5/8” plumbing fittings and adapters. What we want help with is putting together well thought out systems for our projects. Brian, do you have any suggestions about how we can get salespeople to take women seriously about DIY projects?

Answer: Hello Christine. Good job on your group’s innovative approach to home improvement. I would hope that the best sales professionals are much savvier these days but it doesn’t sound like it. I don’t think I have any magic words that will help you get the attention you deserve but I’ll try to shine some light on the problem. At the least, the big warehouse stores should always pay attention to DIY consumer trends. According to the NPD Group (a leading consumer and retail information provider), women represent 44% of do-it-yourselfers and 51% of people that hire professionals for home improvement projects. Christine, this data is a little dated (2006) but it might help you decide which retailers to use. NPD also finds that Lowes was the number one retailer of choice for women shopping for home improvement products, with Home Depot a close second. Stores like Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and smaller lumber/building supply retailers attract more male customers.

Here is a tip that can help you reward companies that understand women can take on DIY projects. As far back as 1997, Owens Corning (a building materials manufacturer) came to understand the full role woman can have in home projects. They began moving advertising dollars away from male-dominated sporting events and into cable television shows and magazines dedicated to women. I don’t read women’s magazines but I hope more companies have caught on to this reality. Women can take note of this targeted marketing and ask retail representatives to suggest these specific products. It can only help to tell the salesperson the reason you want to support these product manufacturers.

Sales managers of DIY materials can’t afford to ignore that 44% of do-it-yourselfers are women. Other industry observers also note a difference in how women and men make purchasing decisions. They say men tend to buy one item at a time to mix and match systems but women tend to buy entire systems. For instance, men tend to purchase roof shingles one day and come back another time looking for ventilation and gutters. Women prefer to buy an entire system at the same time that is specifically designed to go together easier. For salespeople, that takes less effort to make a larger sale.

As for me, I’m wishing every woman homeowner lots of success taking on more DIY projects with their homes. And creating the home of your dreams!

Let’s hear from more women about their DIY experiences and solutions to working with salespeople that don’t take them as serious as they should. Please add comments.

Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to askbrian@realtybiznews.com.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 12 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, near a national and the Pacific Ocean.