We’re currently dealing with several profiles, including:
The first-time/free-spirit/full-circle buyer. The traditional buying path for starter home/move-up buyers is now more of a spiral, with prospects united less by age than by common interests. What they have in common is a desire for minimum maintenance, more flexible space and freedom.
The family-focused buyer. These move-up home seekers are centered on raising children. And their residences reflect it — from configuration and design to amenities and the larger sense of community.
The fine-living buyer. A gracious home expresses the success of its owners. Don’t dismiss image indicators like double staircases, wine cellars, spa rooms, home theaters, pasta faucets, warming drawers, drying closets and status brands.
The 50-forward buyer. Beginning in 2006, the first wave of baby boomers will turn 60. This generation represents a full one-third of the U.S. population. A few architectural/merchandising strategies merit note here:
Universal design — Homes that allow owners to grow old with ease. Doorways are wider. Thresholds are gone. Doors have levers instead of traditional knobs.
Main floor master suites and a shift from age-restricted to age-targeted communities — Studies show baby boomers are likely to shy away from 55-plus neighborhoods because of the stigma. But they’ll be attracted to smaller, finely detailed homes with touches of elegance — and they’ll have the money to pay for them.
Finally, check your attitude — the attitude conveyed by your model homes and by the salespeople staffing them. It’s all part of the branding process you are creating. Remember, you are marketing the character of your company.
Color Them Comfortable
Design historians note that home interiors mirror the exterior happenings of our nation. Today’s interior trends clearly reflect the uncertainty of our times; balancing post-9/11 uncertainties through careful selection of calm-inspiring, comfort-granting textures and tones. Consider the many ways to say “comfort” in your models.
Color. Early in this new millennium, the Color Marketing Group report predicted: “In a dramatic change from the prosperity of the ‘90s, we believe that many consumers will seek safe and secure colors.” Indeed, we are seeing the following trends now:
Green is merging into blue, with a “graying out” of the more brilliant tones.
The blues — “America’s favorite color” — are more important than ever.
The greens of the last decade are giving way to browns.
Pink is back, but be careful how you use it. It counters the comfort zone and can be a career ender.
Neutrals remain strong, accounting for 75% of all home furnishings sold today.
Lighting. Light is both symbolic of safety and a tool to achieve it. Whether it’s direct, hidden, reflected, up, under, back, track or translucent, fresh lighting solutions are giving added presence to today’s interiors. Light is being used to echo as well as emphasize architectural detail, art and other special features.
Classics. Today’s desire for calm and comfort is proving, more than ever, that “new” and “old” can coexist beautifully. Authentic American design is gaining momentum as seen in the proliferation of red, white and blue color schemes and the resurgence of craftsman décor.
Textures. Buyers today are big on authenticity, making textures more important than ever. They want real fabrics, such as cotton and linen. They want real surfaces, such as granite, fieldstone and marble.
Space. Today’s new homes are being built with greater respect for all family members. Imagination — not high-ticket accessories — is the key to an exceptional environment.
The merchandiser must demonstrate the style and function of the home, emphasizing volume, demonstrating function and aiding the buyer in understanding how the space lives. Models need to increase perceived value. Understanding options and upgrade programs and utilizing them means increased perceived value leading to increased profitability (something we all understand).
Time. It’s being called “the new currency.” And buyers are spending it more cautiously to assure they receive value. Efficiency is critical. Buyers need room to relax and a place to entertain. Gourmet kitchens and dual appliances such as double dishwashers and washer/dryer combos are a huge draw.
Don’t Wait — Anticipate
Put your energy into home designs that surprise, delight and demonstrate. Anticipate your buyers’ needs and questions.
Everything matters when you’re appealing to buyers. They notice and care about the smallest detail. So think twice — and again for good measure — about your philosophy, interior design and merchandising. Buyers want to be respected, appreciated, nurtured and noticed. When a sales manager gives all-important input into a merchandiser’s efforts, everyone wins.
Twenty Tips for Sales Managers and Marketers
- Express a genuine sense of character — in the residence and representatives.
- Think beyond income and family composition to cultural and ethnic opportunities.
- Never assume the man is in charge!
- Consider demographics and psychographics more than ever.
- Rethink age and aging.
- One size does not fit all.
- Make the buying process comfortable.
- More than 80% of consumer-goods purchases are made or influenced by women.
- Anticipate a buyer’s needs.
- Streamline the home search process with technology.
- Sweat the details…they’ll notice.
- Involve women in development of the product.
- Market to multiple facets of her life.
- Give her options for customizations…she’ll thank you.
- The “catalog culture” has raised customers’ levels of style and sophistication.
- Authentic design sells.
- Floor covering news is texture and pattern.
- Color news is coastal water tones, spice tones, Asian neutrals and the “brights.”
- Integrate merchandising with ads, Web sites and other marketing avenues.
- Everything matters.
Doris Pearlman, MIRM, is founder of Possibilities for Design, Inc., a nationally recognized interior design and merchandising firm based in Denver. Pearlman is a past recipient of the prestigious “Excellence in Education Award” given by NAHB’s Institute of Residential Marketing. She can be reached at 303-571-0325. This article was originally published in NAHB’s Sales & Marketing Ideas ©2003 magazine.
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