In today’s competitive housing market, smart builders are stepping up their design game to meet the demands of style-conscious buyers. Savvy consumers want a level of detailing that was unheard of a few years ago, Akron, Ohio, custom builder Tony Crasi told an audience at the 2016 International Builders’ Show. The days of “build it and they will come” have long passed, he said, and many builders don’t realize how badly their homes are in need of a design upgrade. Click here for a list of seven "design don'ts."

“Consumers expect professionally designed homes and the problem is they don’t expect to pay more for them,” Crasi told attendees at the session on Right Sizing Your Design Dollars. The popularity of consumer media TV shows and web sites such as HGTV, Pinterest, and Houzz has put design ideas front and center in buyers’ minds. “It’s raised the bar for a lot of us, which is a good thing because it has made us produce a better-looking product.”

Crasi and co-presenter Lita Dirks, a Denver-based interior designer, advised the audience to understand where to spend design dollars to have the most impact--and where to save. “It’s all about prioritizing,” Crasi says.

But some builders don’t realize that these priorities should be revisited frequently, Dirks says, since styles and consumer preferences change quickly. “Part of it is where to put your money in 2016 or 2017--in 2010 there was probably a different place to put the money,” she explains. “The trends shift and you need to stay on top of them.”

Are your homes in need of a style makeover? Click through for some areas to consider that will optimize your design budget.