I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Schumacher from Schumacher Homes a few years back while doing plan reviews at the International Builders' Show.
Consumers' Preferences Vary
Different items appeal to different ethnic groups when looking for a home.
When it comes to buying a house, what is a good for one family causes another family to look elsewhere. Although differences in opinion are common, the 2003 Consumer Preferences Survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders reveals that different ethnic groups have different preferences about which items they think are the most important in their soon-to-be home.
“Minorities are becoming a significant part of the home-buying market. We wanted to find out their preferences,” said Gopal Ahluwalia, NAHB vice president for research and presenter of the survey.
More and more minorities are becoming homeowners. According to the survey, in 2001, minorities made up 31.6 percent of first-time home buyers, and 17.4 percent of other recent buyers were minorities. As homeowners, minorities’ preferences appeal to their lifestyles. Ahluwalia hopes this survey will help builders understand what different people want from a house.
Regardless of ethnicity, a laundry room ranked as the most desirable item in a house among all people surveyed. Other items that ranked in the top five for all groups are linen closets and exterior lighting. A dining room ranked in the top five for blacks, Hispanics and Asians, but was seventh on the overall list according to the national survey.
"Minorities are unique in that they’re more family-oriented," said Michael Smith of Harcrest Homes in Buford, Ga. In addition to dining rooms, some ethnic groups want larger-than-usual living and family rooms, because their families spend a lot of time together in these areas.
Exhaust fans and walk-in pantries also are on the top 10 list for all groups interviewed. The bottom items on the list differed among all groups. Asians are the only ethnic group that listed water temperature control on their top 10 list of desirable items, and Hispanics are the only group that listed a fenced-in yard.
The majority of blacks, Hispanics and Asians prefer four or more bedrooms because some minority families live in the same house with their extended families, especially when they are new to the United States. For example, a Hispanic homeowner may have his parents, grandparents or even cousins live with him.
"In the first generation, some minority families tend to have large extended families who they want to live with them,' said Steve Hovany, president of Strategy Planning Associates. "After a generation or two, they tend to start living in traditional family homes."
Since there are often several extra people in the house, Smith says builders often finish basements, add extra bedrooms, create a second master bedroom and expand living rooms, family rooms and bathrooms.
Minorities often have to overcome the barrier of language when it comes to buying a house. As a result, the ability to speak different languages is becoming an important part of marketing to minorities. It helps to have employees who can directly connect with minorities who have not mastered the English language.
"Minority families often buy houses from the same company. One sale might result in three additional sales," said Smith. "They are very loyal."
As more minorities become homeowners, more builders do custom work to accommodate their needs. Smith says that Harcrest Homes has developed a couple of new plans that include larger areas, specifically in the dining rooms and family rooms, that would make it easier to cater to minority needs. They hope that this will limit the number of custom jobs that they have to do in the future.