Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Make Life Easier, Sell Homes Faster
Prospective home buyers tour model homes because they want new space.
|As president and chief design strategist for Carole Eichen Interiors, Inc. (CEI) in Santa Ana, Calif., Carole Eichen is credited with introducing "believable" model homes with accompanying sales offices that offer an array of lifestyle choices based on differing buyer demographic profiles. "Interior merchandising," as Eichen terms it, now has become accepted as a housing industry marketing discipline. Over the past three decades, Eichen has been recognized with numerous sales, marketing and design awards, as well as many other industry honors on a state, regional and national level.
Prospective home buyers tour model homes because they want new space. This incredibly simple truth is or should be the linchpin of your entire sales center presentation. To make sure that it is, keep your focus on a second simple truth: if your models and marketing make life easier, you’re on your way to the sale.
Start with time, the most precious commodity of modern life. Americans are logging more work and commuting hours than ever before in our history. In our "spare time" we work out, keep appointments and run the endless list of errands. Children’s calendars are just as full, with hours consumed in activities for all ages and getting to and from them. Hours at home keep shrinking, making our personal space even more treasured as a respite and haven.
|Emerald Square by Greystone simplifies for a serene look.
Show the home as a restorative alternative to a fully-packed, stress-inducing world. Focus on simplicity, ease and pleasure without hassle. Let your models show the dream that sparks the desire and add a thoughtful dash of realism that sparks their recognition.
As with your favorite radio station, the key is in fine-tuning, with precise demonstrations of a quality backdrop for our private lives. When you do this, you create the subtle and very effective sales tool of a home that sells itself.
Analyze every floor plan individually and search for useful mini-spaces that can augment the expected rooms.
Architects are creating delightful surprise spaces in virtually every price range, such as alcoves, cubbies and crannies. These, plus selected hall areas, can mean additional places to read, study, make calls or work at the computer. Built-ins can amplify; desktops with cupboards above can be wonderfully useful in the kitchen, for example. Swing-arm lamps can create a small seating opportunity with charm and real usefulness.
|Lifespaces appeal to target groups (photography by Jeffrey Aron).
In concert with these extra value spaces, review your floor plans as a collective, analyzing the room options that work best with each, and show choices that relate to your buyers. The number of choices you offer may be less important than the validity for their lifestyle.
Organizing: You will never hear "This home has too much storage." If you can beat the competition on this score, you are ahead of the game. Comb each plan for every possible square inch of storage potential, and show the yield with built-ins, mini-closets and extra cupboards. Wardrobe and cabinet systems should be part of your standard or optional package.
Personalizing: Pay attention to demographic and cultural trends and let your models show this awareness, with specific themes, furnishings and features that relate to the particular world of your buyers.
Show the capabilities of flex and optional spaces with a personalizing approach. For example: If your garages include optional cabinets and extra space, show the cabinets in a context for living. Integrate them with a credible work surface, proper lighting and a carpentry, pottery or repair project in progress.
|Lifestyle closet shows off storage options (Jeffrey Aron).
Invest at least as much creativity in personalizing spaces for adults as for children. And let the kids out of their bedrooms! They are just as likely to be working on a kindergarten project or research paper in the kitchen as in their room, so make some space for this kind of portrait.
Simplifying: Effective models create a message of home sweet home without clutter. A smoother, sleeker look dispels confusion, and less confusion automatically promotes serenity. Take the static out of your model homes. Use focal pieces of art and accessories, and fewer tchotchkes.
For example: Arrange two or three pieces on a coffee table, instead of five. Use strategic placement of kitchen accents, in lieu of filling all available counter space. Surfaces and fabrics that are easy to enjoy and easy to live with are also highly desirable and available for all levels of design sophistication. Combine these qualities with colors and coverings (especially for walls) that warm and enrich.
Relaxing: A cousin of simpler space, relaxing space can be demonstrated in many ways. Components should always include quality lighting. Other tranquility promoters include aquariums, window gardens and water features (indoors too). Keep music unobtrusive and the big screen TV family friendly. Blaring cartoons are not the only images that appeal to kids. A travelogue, nature program or classic movie are distinctive alternatives that will invite all your visitors to see themselves in the family room.
Fortifying: All of us understand that home as our restorative is what home is meant to be. In the model home, you create this sense by offering aesthetic "comfort food."
|Harbor Pointe by Johnson Communities, creates a kid-friendly area.
Master baths are gaining renewed attention from frazzled buyers; let yours show attention to thoughtful function and to the ambience of a private spa. Comfortable sink heights, separated vanities and dressing areas with seating are among the functional components. Wall sconces for candlelit baths, artful floral arrangements, intriguing wall coverings and sumptuous towels add the pampering notes.
Retreat spaces can be found elsewhere as well. Show opportunities in the kitchen, den, loft and alcove areas for quiet time with coffee, newspaper, book or journal.
In short, show a model home that feels like the real home of a real family, so that prospects who tour on their own feel almost as if they are sharing in the life illustrated in every room.
With these and other thoughtful and creative ideas, you will show your buyers that their lives will be better in the new homes you are offering. And when personal space is better, with better, more attractive choices, the idea of moving is irresistible.