When, How Crucial to Teaching Home Owner Maintenance
Until we learn how to imprint on home buyers the importance of taking excellent care of their new homes, complaints and litigation will continue to plague builders.
I learned about the power of imprinting ― establishing or fixing an idea firmly in the mind ― when I took my new kitten to the vet. To teach my indoor/outdoor cat to be traffic-wise, my vet suggested that I carry him to the side of the road and, when a car whooshed by, yell or otherwise startle him so that he would associate the sound of traffic with danger. That “kitten” has since stayed safely away from traffic for the past 14 years.
So how, you may ask, does pet training relate to home owner maintenance? Read on.
Three Problems That Reduce Learner Effectiveness
Shortly before most home owners close on their new homes, they begin to feel overwhelmed with all that must be done. Closing on the old house, arranging for new schools, starting utilities and handling countless other chores raise their stress level.
This is also about the time when most new home buyers receive their home owner maintenance education as part of the new home orientation. Is it any wonder that home owner maintenance manuals that are given at closing are rarely read?
- First, most home owners are only half-listening because their minds are elsewhere.
- Second, they’re feeling too much pressure to notice any detail that may need attention before closing.
- Third, they don’t see how the information matters to them, even though it seems to matter to the builder.
They’ve moved into their new home, are surrounded by moving boxes and are more than content to just push buttons until each appliance works in some fashion.
The time to teach them about proper use and home owner maintenance is long gone. If you doubt this fact, conduct your own informal survey at any gathering. Just ask your owners how many of them have read the manuals that came with your home’s products.
Seize the Right Moment
There is an optimal time to educate new home buyers about maintenance. Step into their shoes to determine when.
From the time they have signed a contract and made their selections, they have ranged emotionally from being somewhat excited to completely obsessed. After all, building a new home is creative and adventurous. The best time to teach home buyers to be expert home owners is when their excitement level is high.
On the Web. If a builder puts photos of buyers’ homes under construction site on a Web page or has each production model photographed at various stages of construction, chances are his buyers will sit at their computers studying the photos and floor plans well into the night. Take advantage of that interest by putting home owner maintenance information on the Web as well.
In Model Homes. Model homes also make excellent learning environments. Invite all “expectant” home owners to attend a party and allow each a turn at setting thermostats, changing air filters and operating the appliances — possibly while baking cookies. While engaged in this kinesthetic activity ― which can make learning fun — they also will begin to bond with their future neighbors.
For Smaller Builders. Smaller builders can stage similar events in an upscale design center that caters to the custom and remodeling markets. Alternately, they may have recent buyers who would be willing to host a party for their future neighbors. Hosting the event would give them an opportunity to show off their new home and create some community bonding. It also helps if builders reward their hosts with gift certificates or some other appreciative item.
Fear and Sunshine: Speak in the Language of Benefits
While home buyers are enjoying themselves learning about their new homes, inject a little healthy fear into the process.
For example, as buyers are setting the dishwasher to run, let them know that the selection dial should always be turned before shutting the door in order to avoid stripping the gears. (When this information, whether true or not, was related to me, I was so impressed that I have never failed to heed the warning!)
Also, allow everyone to see a beam of sunshine streaming through the window. Let them know that by regularly changing their air filters, running exhaust fans and operating the fresh air exchanger or furnace fan, they will be circulating healthier, safer air for themselves and their children.
By teaching your home buyers about home maintenance at a time and in a place conducive to learning, they will hear and remember more of what they need to know. This, in turn, will make them better new home owners.
Sara Lamia, M.A., MCSP, CAPS, CGA, is president of Home Building Coach, Inc. and the author of "Housebirth®," a workbook for "expectant home buyers." She also is a contributing editor of Green Building Magazine. For more information, e-mail Lamia, vist her Web site at www.buildingcoach.com, or call her at 970-402-2600.
Subscribe to Sales + Marketing Ideas Magazine for Cutting-Edges 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.
Marketing Courses, Designation Programs for New Homes Sales Professionals
The Institute of Residential Marketing (IRM) offers four designation programs for sales and marketing professionals:
- The MIRM designation programs for new home marketing professionals
- The CSP and MCSP designation programs for new home sales professionals
For more information on these designation programs, click here.
Your New Home and How to Take Care of It' Available at BuilderBooks
“Your New Home and How to Take Care of It,” available through BuilderBooks.com, has a new look. Give your customers invaluable, well-presented tips on maintenance to help keep their homes performing like new. This customer care booklet has useful checklists and a detailed log for home maintenance — the key to ongoing home owner satisfaction and critically important to your warranty program. To view or purchase this software online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.