Beyond choosing a location and price offerings within a community, builders must be creative in showcasing the functionality and livability of the homes they sell.
Insert the role of interior design and home staging.
“We mix up the finishes in our models to display various flooring, countertop and cabinet options, but we also incorporate design themes and colors to create memory points within the homes,” explained Karri Kelly, senior vice president of residential and commercial design at Robson Communities. “Having each model designed in a different way helps the buyer remember which homes they liked.”
“It’s a balance between showcasing standard features and also the upgrades and options that are available,” Kelly said. “The designers also space plan in a manner that helps buyers envision their own furnishings in the home.”
Steve Snoddy, vice president of sales for AV Homes, echoed that philosophy saying, “It’s about showing how a home lives. A home may have space that needs to be defined. Furnishing that area can help the buyer see how to utilize the space and maximize every square-foot of the house.”
Designing vs. staging
For builders, there are two schools of thought when it comes to designing and staging homes.
“Models that are situated next to a community’s sales office each have design themes and schemes that include distinct colors, styles and hobbies,” Kelly said. “Staging a move-in-ready home, for us, is a softer package that centers on certain areas of the home like the great room, master bedroom and dining room.”
The goal of staging a move-in-ready home is to help the buyer see it as a home and not just an empty house. Staging may include subtle paint colors, a few wall hangings and some strategically placed furniture. However, not all inventory homes are staged.
“We don’t usually stage our spec homes,” Snoddy said. “If we find that a particular home isn’t selling, we’ll stage it. Homes sell fairly quickly after they’ve been staged. It all comes down to helping the buyer see how it lives.”
Snoddy notes that the key to staging move-in-ready homes is appealing to the masses.
“We pick the top-selling model for that neighborhood, put it on the best home-site and choose the most popular structural options,” he said. “We opt for neutral paint colors and popular counter and cabinet options. Trends come and go, so it’s about choosing elements that will stand the test of time.”
Of course, trends have a lot to do with home building and design — after all, a model home serves as a showpiece for a community. Deciding how to design it requires research, training and money.
Robson’s in-house design team — known as Robson Design Group — attends interior design shows and conferences to ensure they’re on-point with the latest color and design concepts. They apply those trends to the unique buyer profile for each community. Then the magic happens.
“We may incorporate the ‘color of the year’, but we try not to get too trendy since the model’s design needs to last beyond today’s trends,” Kelly said. “It’s about making sophisticated choices that will last.”
Raising the bar
Today’s buyer has some pretty high expectations. The ever-increasing popularity of interior design and home-flipping television shows along with popular social media sites that are bursting with design inspiration and innovation have raised the bar.
“We’ve definitely had to step up our game because of HGTV and online sites like Pinterest and Houzz,” Kelly said. “People see things they want to duplicate and they expect to see the latest design elements incorporated in the model homes. One of the designers on my team used an interesting wallpaper with a fun shoe pattern in the master bedroom closet. It made the home memorable and we got a lot of calls about it.”
The trick to all of this, however, is designing within reach.
“Our buyers can actually get everything we show in terms of flooring, counters and fixtures when they purchase one of our homes,” Kelly said.