‘Recovery by Design’ Offers Buyers What They Don’t Have
In today’s challenging environment for housing, panelists on a Southeast Building Conference (SEBC) panel in Orlando on July 31 advocated a “recovery by design” approach to sales that emphasizes the latest products and trends in the interior merchandising of models and homes.
Much of the current housing inventory “is not selling because it’s just bad housing,” said Dominick Tringali, an architect whose company is based in Bloomfield, Mich. “The leftover product on the market isn’t going to work for certain people,” he said.
Home prices can represent a great deal, Tringali said, but even a home that’s priced $100,000 below market may not move if it doesn’t meet the needs of prospective buyers.
With demand slow, it is paramount for builders to “give buyers a compelling reason to move,” he said. “Offer the buyer what they don’t already have.”
Tringali recommended jettisoning excess rooms and focusing on living areas, starting with the kitchen as the heart of the home, and providing less square footage but more living space — including flex rooms, family rooms and outdoor spaces.
Flex rooms can include multipurpose laundry rooms with a washer, dryer and storage; computer centers, such as a 6-foot by 6-foot office for the wife or a children’s computer zone in the kitchen area; and 8-foot by 8-foot drop zones, or mud rooms, with a bench in the middle and hooks along the wall.
A pre-fab fireplace can add ambience in the kitchen, he said, and builders should keep up with the latest kitchen appliance trends, “which have really changed nowadays.”
Cost Cutting Details
Affordability and value are key selling points in the current marketplace, he said, and cost-saving details are required even in large budgets.
To pare construction costs, Tringali recommended substituting EIFS materials for limestone and cut brick for real brick; using prefabricated moldings; switching from wood to Styrofoam for bracket details on fascia; using cut stone for trims and sills; and looking for opportunities to use value-engineered details.
On another trend that buyers are looking for, Tringali said that 80% of the homes he designs incorporate outdoor living spaces, and every plan has an option for adding on an outdoor area. “Done right, these spaces can be a tremendous add-on to the architecture of the house,” he said.
Buyers are also in the market for homes that have a healthy design and mainstream green features, although they do keep an eye on what things will cost. This is “the best way to go,” he said. “People want smaller homes and lower utility bills.”
Finally, he cited the advantages of providing authentically historic touches appropriate for the area, which, among other things, can be achieved through door details and window heights. “A house with some historic background gets people in the door,” he said.
Among resources worth visiting to get started on some of these design elements, he recommended the Web sites of Jack Arnold (for chimney pots), Lennox Hearth Products (for pre-fabricated fireplaces), Simonini Builders (for how to make the most of historical references), and Owens Corning’s Cultured Stone, which, he said, “lasts longer and is more durable.”
Cool and Hip
Kay Green, whose design company is located in Orlando, told the SEBC audience that urban references and a clean-line, contemporary look are appealing to both boomers and the Young Gen X and Y crowd prowling the housing market in search of “cool, hip product.”
A three-story town home designed to appeal to buyers who are shopping for something new puts a glass storefront on ground-floor work space that can serve as retail — an art gallery, for example. It can be sequestered physically from the rest of the property, if desired, and also rented out.
For builders selling from a sales center, she suggested giving it some oomph with a coffee shop feeling.
While designers should come prepared to offer the latest products, they also should “always have a more traditional look available” that can be provided for locations or markets where that approach is more suitable, she said.
A review by Green of the latest colors and finishes found: black wood flooring; the return of orange; sage and references to sea foam; chocolate brown; entertaining details in the children’s room; flooring with pre-engineered wood planks, distressed wood or wood inlays in tile or marble; putting stone on the wall to help transform a small space into a spa; and painting a screen behind a bed.
“Furniture is secondary in merchandising,” she said.
Prospective buyers are also looking for green design, she said. In California, she said, the trend is to install toilets that reuse water from the washing machine.
Among new products emphasizing green: Kohler is marketing a toilet that reduces water use by 20% more. Moen’s light sensitive faucet automatically turns itself off. For $300, Tapmaster is selling a mechanism that enables the faucet to be turned off with a toe kick or hitting the cabinet door with a knee. Energy Star-rated appliances include induction and steam washers. Whirlpool has invented an appliance that functions as a refrigerator and an oven. “Appliances think these days,” Green said.
For information on NAHB design resources, e-mail Jennifer Jones, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8469.
Options Selling Can Boost Sales, Make Lasting Impression
In “Option Selling for Profit: The Builder’s Guide to Generating Design Center Revenue and Profit,” authors Gina Gullo and Angela Rinaldi share their hands-on understanding of high-powered selling in the ever-expanding market of options for new homes.
By offering a range of options and upgrades, the design phase provides the best opportunity to make a lasting impression and ensure that buyers will favorably remember the entire buying experience.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.