April 18, 2011
Nation's Building News

The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB

Sales and Marketing
Merchandise Green to Fortify Appeal to Eco-Conscious Buyers

By Kay Green, MIRM
Kay Green Design, Inc.

These days, housing professionals in almost every segment of the industry — builders, remodelers, designers, architects, merchandisers, salespeople, etc. — are turning all hues of green as they work to become experts in the growing green trend in home design and building.

With today’s new-home buyers caring more about better health and low-impact living, many of us are pretty much on board with the green movement.

To hone their expertise, builders and other professionals are attending annual conferences, such as the upcoming National Green Building Conference & Expo in Salt Lake City on May 1-3, to learn more about sustainable construction and the value of green buildings.

Vendors are expanding their green product lines by innovating and offering new eco-friendly products, and nearly 5,500 home building professionals have earned NAHB’s Certified Green Professional educational designation.

Frankly, I feel especially qualified to discuss sustainable design because I’ve been green — Kay Green, to be precise — for almost my entire life.

All joking aside, as an interior merchandiser and Master in Residential Marketing, the fact is that appearing green is just as important as being green when you want to appeal to eco-conscious home buyers. Yes, they crave all the energy-efficient features and options, but their initial impression will be drawn from the style and presentation of eco-eye candy.

We all know the basics about the most popular, practical green home features.

No- or low-VOC paints reduce residents’ exposure to chemical off-gassing over the first years they live in their new home. Energy Star appliances can lessen energy consumption and help them save on their electric and water bills. Recycle bins and a compost chute in the kitchen enable them to minimize the waste they send to the landfill.

Using recycled glass countertops can make consumers feel like all their recycling really did help a little, and using locally manufactured materials permits them to give themselves a pat on the back for preventing unnecessary freight pollution.

The kitchen in the Terra Verde Greenovation — the green renovation of a 1971 ranch-style home in Central Florida — features recycled and renewable materials, with minimal accessorization, all natural finishes and organic colors. The kitchen renovation was a team-effort by Kay Green Design, Lucia & Monday Architecture and Central Kitchen & Bath.

While these eco-friendly features are foundational, a model home’s interior merchandising must demonstrate an eco-conscious lifestyle to convey a consistent and memorable message to home buyers.

Showcase Eco-friendly Features

Here are some ideas that can convey your message of eco-consciousness to prospective home buyers:

  • Mix materials in the kitchen. Incorporate renewable resource cabinets with stainless steel appliances and recycled glass countertops. Complement these cornerstones with accessories such as bamboo serving utensils, natural-ingredient dish soaps and unrefined scented candles.

  • Use paint colors that occur naturally — sage green, sunset orange and browns.

  • Furnish your model with clean-line furnishings that demonstrate a clutter-free lifestyle and soft-contemporary style. The green movement is all about eliminating and minimizing waste — including having too much stuff. So rather than accessorize shelves with too many small items, display fewer, but larger pieces.

  • Forget wallpaper. Instead, substitute simple faux paintings that mimic popular applied floral decals. I suggest this technique simply for style, but it is cool and reflects a more minimalist approach to wall coverings. If you do choose to use wallpaper, be sure it’s made from recycled materials applied with toxin-free glue.

  • Stock the pantry and fridge with food containers and fake produce that portray a healthy lifestyle — fruits and vegetables in the produce bowls, soy milk in the fridge, granola boxes in the pantry and green tea on the countertops.

  • Merchandise your home with lifestyles that reflect eco-conscious consumers. Plant a container vegetable garden — carrots, lettuce, mint and other aromatic herbs — for display on the back porch or deck. (Use fake plants if your salesperson doesn’t have a green thumb.)

  • Merchandise a child’s room to reflect participation in a local non-profit, such as a sea turtle conservation organization. Showcase a bonus room as a Zen space with a water feature, perfect for yoga and meditation.

It’s not only ethical, it’s also trendy to right-size our impact on the environment.

Terra Verde’s living room features furnishings by La-Z-Boy that are stuffed with renewable soy cushions and covered in sustainable fabrics. Their soft-contemporary style complements the eco-friendly environment with a suitable and consistent clean- line appearance.

Eco-merchandise to Your Targeted Market

Keep in mind, however, that the ideas and goals of “green living” vary among the different demographics of home buyers.

For instance, eco-conscious 50+ home buyers generally want green features and options in their homes — such as energy-efficient appliances and low-e windows — that can help them save money. Their younger counterparts just entering the housing market generally have a stronger philanthropic urge to preserve the environment through recycling and buying locally.

Certainly, your buyers all have their individual notions about green living, but a general awareness of your targeted prospects’ interests can help guide you in determining what eco-friendly features to showcase in your home.

When positioning a model home to convey eco-friendliness, complement your sustainable construction features and building green practices with interior spaces, furnishings, accessories and merchandising that speak to their earth-conscious prospects emotionally.

Essentially, send them a consistent and powerful message about your commitment to green building — and give them the green light to buy.

Kay Green, MIRM, of Kay Green Design, Inc., based in Orlando, is a nationally recognized leader in the field of model home and sales center merchandising. She is an NAHB Institute of Residential Marketing, a past chair of the National Sales and Marketing Council, was named Associate of the Year by the Florida Home Builders Association and was inducted into NAHB’s prestigious Society of Honored Associates. For more information, visit the Kay Green Design website at http://kaygreendesign.com; or e-mail Green, or call her at 8OO-226-5186.

A version of this article originally appeared in Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine.

Value of Green Building the Focus of Upcoming 2011 Green Building Conference

Taking place on May 1-3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, the 2011 National Green Building Conference & Expo will focus on “making the value connection” and communicating to prospective home buyers and others the value of green upgrades in their homes.

The conference kicks off on May 1 with a Green Building and Technology Tour of the latest applications of green building techniques in local homes and communities.

The conference also features a range of educational sessions to meet the needs of both relative newcomers and experienced green building professionals, including “Connecting Home Owners With Their Homes,” “High Performance Homes at an Affordable Price” and “How to Develop a Green Building Product.”

For information about the conference, visit www.nahb.org/greenbuildingconference; or e-mail Chad Riedy at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8225.

Option 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 through NAHB BuilderBooks, click here, or call 800-223-2665.

In Today’s Market, 'Think Sold!' With Help From NAHB BuilderBooks

Think Sold! Creating Home Sales in Any Market,” available at NAHB BuilderBooks, is a practical, how-to guide for developing the self-awareness, knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the competitive field of new home sales.

The book covers everything from the home buying process and new home financing to strategies for making better sales presentations and sizing up the competition. It teaches readers how to overcome customers’ concerns and provides specific examples of how to explain the benefits of new home features in customer-friendly language.

“Think Sold” provides insights on how to approach sales and life from a position of optimism that will create successful outcomes; how to improve upon potential customer prospecting and follow-up skills; and how to communicate effectively with various types of buyers and learn how to adjust communication strategies to increase rapport and alignment with buyers’ motives.

To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.

Subscribe to Sales + Marketing Ideas Magazine for Cutting-Edge Information

For additional cutting-edge sales and marketing information, subscribe to NAHB’s Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine (www.smimagazine.com).

Click here to learn about membership benefits of the National Sales and Marketing Council and the Institute of Residential Marketing.

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