Merchandising Scenarios That Bring Buyers Back

Big statements combine merchandising and interior architecture.

Today’s most effective interior merchandising has more to do with collaboration than color palettes. Collaboration between merchandiser and architect during preliminary design is the most efficient, affordable way to create the distinguishing features that help make a sales.

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Targeting Your Buyer

Your model home is your company’s best advertisement – but who are you selling to? Knowing your target market is the key to success in the homebuilding industry. Each target market has specific lifestyle needs that must be conveyed to create a highly effective selling tool. Buyer categories are based on age of life and stage in life, and there are generalities for each group. In this article, I will focus on the hot buttons for first-time homebuyers.

First-time buyers generally live on a budget. Options, upgrades and furnishings should be carefully balanced to attract – but not overwhelm – buyers. Wall coverings and built-ins should be kept at a minimum to maintain an attainable appearance. The objective is to create an environment that is nicer than what they own now, but still within reach. Creative, “do it yourself” ideas are also perfect to showcase in entry-level models, including special paint finishes and basic carpentry. When given the opportunity, first-time buyers usually prefer to save money by tackling home projects themselves. Of course, there are exceptions to every “rule”. In some markets, million dollar houses are entry-level homes. The bottom line is that the furnishings, options and upgrades in every model should always complement the price of the product.

In terms of design, comfort and style are essential. These buyers look to Crate & Barrel, Target and Pottery Barn for the latest trends. First-time homebuyers are very accepting of color, provided that selections are made from today’s palettes – colorful artwork and accessories create a strong impact. The key in this market is current, popular style; these buyers watch the design shows and read the home magazines. They may have a budget, but first-time buyers still want “the look”.

Functionality is another key element for entry-level model homes. The spatial benefits of your product should be clearly demonstrated. What will the buyer gain from this purchase? Some first-time homebuyers are motivated by a desire to start a family. For these buyers, secondary bedrooms are generally merchandised as children’s bedrooms, and family eating and gathering areas are also emotional hot buttons. Other first-time homebuyers include singles and young professionals. For this particular market, secondary bedrooms should be shown as multi-purpose guest rooms, home offices, or television dens. Informal entertaining areas and breakfast bars are hot buttons as well. Gender specific marketing can be highly effective, but you must be extremely sure of your target market to avoid alienating prospects. Remember, you’re not just selling a house, you’re also selling the lifestyle your buyers want.

Quality merchandising adjusts to the lifestyle needs of each target market. Creating the ideal model for your targeted buyer is your best form of advertisement. An experienced merchandiser understands the importance of this marketing, and works with you to accentuate the benefits of your homes. In essence, we “package” your product to capture the imagination of your prospects – and the “trimmings” really do make a difference!

The Booming Senior Market

Seniors are the most important market segment in the housing industry today, and with so many Baby Boomers entering this segment, the demographics are staggering. To capture this market, you must “woo” seniors with the right home, fabulous merchandising, and just the right options and extras. Seniors typically spend more time (8 months on average) looking for a home…so, models must be well done and memorable to entice these buyers.

This process begins with really knowing who your buyers are, what their level of sophistication is, and where they are currently living. It’s important to know how long your prospective buyers have lived in their homes. This will allow you to predict what features or products your buyers have had that they did not like (or are tired of) and what features they have seen in magazines or other models and haven’t had yet in their dream homes. In many cases, senior buyers are designing their last house, and because they have probably owned at least two or three houses before, they really know what they want!

Generally, the most important rooms for this market are bedroom, bathrooms, and kitchens. Depending on the price range, master bedrooms should be comfortable and lavish – designed as wonderful retreat areas. Secondary bedrooms should be sized and shown with two twins beds and merchandised for visiting grandchildren. Master bathrooms and kitchens should be shown with all the “bells and whistles”. These rooms are a vital part of every builder’s options and upgrades package. Bathroom design and finishing is essential – seniors will buy as much luxury as they can afford. For this generation of homebuyer, particularly women, upgraded kitchens are also very significant. Many of these buyers were previously full-time career women with no time to cook, unlike those “Donna Reed types” who had dinner on the table at 5:00PM everyday. Retirement is now the perfect opportunity for these active adult women to practice their culinary skills and entertain family and friends. Offering the latest luxuries and gadgetry is a great way to dazzle the senior market.

Functionality is an extremely important consideration for this market. You must convince buyers who may be down-sizing that your smaller homes will still meet their lifestyle needs. Floorplans that offer opportunities to entertain are popular in this segment. Homebuyers see open kitchens and wet bars as augmenting entertainment opportunities. Additionally, forty-one percent of seniors want a home office, forty-four percent want a sunroom, nineteen percent want a media room, and twelve percent want an exercise room. Floorplans, especially extra bedrooms, should be merchandised to reflect these lifestyle needs. And remember that a room can demonstrate more than one function. Multi-functional spaces, properly merchandised, prove the function and livability of your models. Dens are particularly effective rooms to show as multi-functional areas (i.e. computer/exercise room).

Builders are becoming more savvy with options and upgrades (and making more money). Upgrades and options increase the perceived value of your model home, particularly if you connect yourself with recognizable products. Some of the most popular upgrades in the senior market are flooring, cabinetry, and countertops, including the new Zodiaqâ quartz solid surfacing by Dupont Corianâ. And don’t forget about exterior upgrades either – finishes and landscaping add considerable value to the presentation of your community, and outdoor spaces such as courtyards and porches are an exceptionally hot trend. “Bundle” upgrades to make selections easier (i.e. built-ins and lighting, overall appliance upgrades), and choose upgrades that cannot be shopped with competitive buyers or the local home stores.

Try some of these options and upgrades and watch your profits soar!