“It’s raining in the basement!” shouts my 10-year old son, looking up from his video game. Upstairs, our 13-year old daughter is lying on her bed, talking on the phone. The laundry room sink, where she had been washing delicates is still running…and still overflowing! And that the laundry room is on the second floor, with all of the bedrooms. I rush home to standing water and white mush, which used to be kitchen ceiling drywall, soaking into and through the wood kitchen floors. Carpet…pad…walls…floors… ceilings…all saturated. My wife arrives home, crying, “We’re going to have black mold!” A water remediation specialist deploys massive fans. Our brand-new dream home, so meticulously planned, was flooded. Oh, did I mention we had moved in just F-I-V-E days prior?
You weren’t there. In fact, that event happened over 15 years ago. Yet, I’m betting you felt my anguish. Such is the power of story. Uri Hasson, a researcher at Princeton, claims a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience (Harvard Business). We actually see ourselves in a good story, and it turns out our brains are wired that way.
So, you better believe there’s a story behind the humble laundry room drain. And if that’s true, isn’t there a story behind almost everything in the home you’re selling? Facts and figures (3-bedroom, 2 ½ baths, 1,800 square feet), and even bulleted feature lists activate left brain functions where we “think in words.” But story activates both the left brain’s logic and the right brain’s feelings and imagination. Neuroscientists have discovered brain chemistry is partly responsible. Story triggers the release of oxytocin, associated with good feelings, emotions, and in particular, empathy, allowing us to connect with the story. A second brain chemical, dopamine, is also released as we engage in story. Dopamine helps in focusing our attention, aiding memory, and pleasure.
Photo by Skyloft Photography
Simply put: information educates; story sells. You’ve heard the expression “buyers buy on emotion and then justify those decisions rationally.” Story is the key. And how we tell those stories matters, too. A story we’ve personally experienced, such as my water event, are charged with emotion and believability. As such stories educate, and become memorable, we can help shape buyer’s opinions, especially with regard to the desirability of certain aspects of a particular home. Walking in from the garage, there’s a drop zone on your left. Sometimes, story is simply triggered by a question – “When you arrive home from a long day and your hands are full as you come in from the garage, where does everything end up?” Inevitably they answer, “On the kitchen counters/island/table,” which leads to your story about the drop zone. To your right is a pet center complete with elevated shower for small dogs. Simply having an adorable stuffed beagle there begins to tell the story. A couple of potted plants nearby tells another story – it’s a gardening center!
At the risk of overstatement, your success in new home sales hinges on your prowess as a storyteller. This is where your team becomes so important. Make an event of walking through the home together, in particular identifying things you do or offer in the home other builders don’t, and then share your thoughts/experiences/stories regarding those things. What you learn from each other will help you develop your storytelling. Similarly, as you tour prospective buyers through the home, certain amenities may trigger the buyer’s own stories, some of which will become gems you’ll retell.
As you consider new home designs to offer, think too about the stories they will tell. We can help. Call us when you’re looking for that next hot design and we’ll talk with you about some of that home’s inherent stories. Even better, have a Design Basics; storyteller come spend a morning with your sales team, walking through your model home(s), identifying and rehearsing stories to sell!
He’s never had another job. His father has been in construction for over 50 years. In fact, Brian Lantz started working for his father in home building when he was just 10 years old! In 1988, Brian went out on his own, founding Homes By Brian, Inc. The secret to his longevity is simple. According to Brian, “Quality and personal touches pay off.”
Based in Schererville, Homes By Brian built 10 homes last year in Northwest Indiana. That’s a good pace for Lantz, whose quality reputation hinges on his personal involvement. Lantz’s degrees in civil engineering technology and construction engineering are evident in the company’s homes. For example, some builders simply dismiss cracks in garage floors, stating “concrete floors are just going to crack.” But prior to pouring the garage slab, Lantz floods the gravel and sand base with a couple inches of water to aid in compaction, thus minimizing the likelihood of future cement cracking. He heats and dehumidifies his homes prior to drywall application to reduce the chance of drywall problems later on. In addition to both gluing and screwing the floors to eliminate squeaks, Lantz screws the subfloors along with screwing the walls down to the floor, further reducing the potential for squeaks.
Lantz’s personal involvement extends to doing all his own client meetings, bidding, scheduling, and even the materials take-offs. He stakes his own houses and spends the day onsite each time a new homesite is being excavated to spot any soil issues. Throughout construction, Lantz visits each jobsite two to three times per day.
“I like working with Design Basics’ plans! I know what to expect and can ballpark a price pretty easily. And I encourage my customers to look at Design Basics for plans for their new home,” comments Lantz.
Lantz is also his customers’ single point of contact, helping ensure clear and consistent communication. There is no other salesperson; he meets with all prospective buyers and clients in his home office. Customers aren’t assigned to a foreman, either; Lantz personally works with each customer from beginning to end, even attending his own closings. He also works with his customers on modifying plans to get them the design that’s “just right.” Lantz lives in one of his subdivisions among many of his customers-turned-neighbors and friends. And, he has even vacationed with some of his customers.
Northland home plan #2322
Not surprisingly, this high level of personal involvement has resulted in tremendous positive word-of-mouth, the #1 source of new customers for Homes By Brian. The company has never used traditional media advertising nor even been listed in the phone book. Rather, Lantz has always found that his yard signs are effective marketing and more recently, if he’s had a spec home, he holds open houses in that home on Sunday afternoons to meet potential clients and answer all their questions. Lantz wrote his own website but conceded the company’s Facebook outreach to his son.
Customers’ personal experiences building with Lantz have resulted in 13 different clients whom he has had the pleasure of building two houses for. It often becomes a family affair as well. Lantz built four homes for one extended family and five homes for another. He has even built a couple homes for second generation customers – adult children whose parents first chose Homes By Brian for their new homes.
Click here for more about Homes By Brian Inc. and see beautiful photos of their custom designs!
(Cover photo: Ashton home plan #2203.)
A report by the real estate website Zillow found 17% of prospective home buyers are willing to pay the 20% premium for a brand-new home compared to a resale property. But willing and able are different sides of the coin. The median (half lower, half higher) sales price of new houses sold in February 2018 was $326,800 (U.S. Census Bureau), requiring an $85,000+ annual household income to qualify for such a home’s 30-year mortgage with 10% down at a 4.5% interest rate.
Rising land and construction costs have forced many builders to shy away from the lower end of the market. After all, certain fixed costs such as regulatory and permits vary little, if at all, based on a home’s size, constituting a much higher percentage of a less expensive home’s selling price. Yet the limited supply of affordable homes (partly due to investors having gobbled up tens of thousands of lower priced homes during the recession for rentals) can mean wonderful opportunities for builders offering attractively-priced new homes.
Design Basics’ Kuebler plan (#31007) is a charming three-bedroom, two-story home focused on both affordability and livability. At just 35-feet wide, this home works on smaller, less expensive homesites. The streamlined foundation is rectangular (cost-effective), requiring just two steel poles in the basement. Only three different-sized windows are used, simplifying ordering. A half-wall at the top of the stairs is less expensive than railings. A more price-focused exterior could include eliminating the second reverse gable and the covered porch, using single-wide windows with shutters in lieu of the double wide windows, and bringing the master bedroom windows together as opposed to the split windows.
Livability is evident throughout. Coming in from the garage there’s a handy bench and a drop zone helping keep clutter contained and out of the kitchen. The front flex room can be purposed as an eating area or home office, and the kitchen island has dual access. On the upper level, the storage is amazing, the five-foot walk-in shower rewarding, and the second-floor laundry is convenient. Plus, there’s 155 square feet over the garage for a kid’s play room or even more storage!
Take a look at other “affordable” home designs:
Plan #35084 the Dane Mills (featured above): a split entry home with main floor laundry or our signature Pocket Office™
Plan #8656 the Irvington: a 4-bedroom, 2-story home that maximizes square footage under roof
Plan #8530BL the Calverton: a top-selling 3-bedroom ranch less than 1,200 sq. ft.
In 2018, Design Basics is celebrating 35 years of providing home builders and home buyers with quality home plans. In an age where only 20% of businesses are still in business after 20 years, we are grateful for the many wonderful people who have contributed to our success. We hope that in sharing some of the lessons learned on our journey, you will find applications leading to your ongoing success!
Our products have evolved. Building codes and building materials have changed, household composition has become more varied, and home buyers’ design preferences have changed. Design Basics has both embraced new design trends as well as introduced design amenities, which have since become today’s hottest trends. The secret is actively listening to our customers’ challenges and dreams, resulting in some of today’s best-selling home plans.
How we create our products has evolved. Most obvious was moving from manual drafting to CAD of the construction drawings, making plan creation and modifications more efficient. While Design Basics has always used a team approach to home design, by the mid-2000’s we have utilized a co-ed design team, elevating the importance of women’s preferences in home design. Technology also now makes photo-realistic presentation renderings attractive and affordable, helping customers better envision the built home.
How we deliver our products has evolved. Back in the day, Design Basics ran lots and lots of blueprints and vellums, which were both erasable and reproducible. They were shipped out by the next business day via UPS or FedEx. Today, most home plan orders are sent as digital files (PDF or CAD formats), both making for a quick delivery as well as more economical for all parties involved.
How we market our products has evolved. In the 1980’s, our marketing was pretty much word-of-mouth, ads in BUILDER Magazine, and the NAHB International Builders’ Show. Starting in 1990, Design Basics added a very successful self-publishing program via direct mail distribution of publications for builders and developers. By 2007, the Internet and digital marketing replaced most of the company’s direct mail efforts, but has given us added flexibility in creating and disseminating marketing materials and home plan designs.
The bottom line? It’s great to love what you do, but it’s not okay to be infatuated with how you’ve always done it. Embrace the changes that keep us moving forward, while continuing to provide innovative design and exceptional customer service. Design Basics…Where Great Design Matters!
We have a retriever that loves to run around a nearby lake made by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. She especially loves to roll around in the bait and any dead fish left on the banks of the water. The smell…
When we get her home, it’s bath time—no big deal if the temperature’s above 40 degrees—but when it’s cold, we bathe her in one of the bathtubs or showers. Unfortunately, we have a two-story home and all of the tubs and showers are upstairs on the second floor with the bedrooms, which means picking up the stinky, wet, dirty dog and carrying her to an upstairs bathroom. The struggle and the mess!
Oh how I wish we had designed a rear foyer with a pet center, complete with storage for pet food and other supplies AND a doggie shower! What a convenience to have everything right there and not have to traipse through the house. When it comes to pet centers, there are many ways to design. The photo above shows a pet bath, while the photo at left shows a pet shower. With a larger pet, the shower may be more ideal than an elevated shower for getting her in and out. Also, think about storage needs – bathing, brushing, food, treats, leashes, etc.
Keep in mind, a pet center isn’t just designed for a dog, a cat or other pet needs a place for their stuff, too. And, that shower is handy for rinsing off after working in the garage/yard or dirty kids or equipment/toys!
For more on designing with your pet in mind, visit our resources library for “Home Design Dogma, Creating a Pet-Friendly Home.”
Recent studies by the National Association of Realtors® and Zillow reveal about 90% of new home buyers are using the internet in their search process. In fact, the internet has replaced real estate professionals as the #1 source of information for today’s home buyers. Whereas before, new home shoppers talked with family, friends, co-workers, and agents about various home builders as part of their information gathering process, and then visited numerous builders’ model homes – today much of that search happens online.
Now for the bad news. Prospective home buyers are ruling you out based on your website. Like most other builder websites, you probably have some beautiful photos, a portfolio of home plans to review, a list of communities and/or available home sites, a couple testimonials, and an “about us” page. Perhaps something on your website piqued her interest…but how did her visit to your website make her feel about your company?
More specifically, why should she buy from you? “We’re a family-owned custom builder that’s focused on quality and customer satisfaction,” you say. She got the same message from half of the other builder sites she visited. At this preliminary stage, most prospective buyers are simply looking to save time and minimize the risk of choosing the wrong builder – especially with some of the horror stories out there surrounding other home buying experiences.
We suggest something along the lines of a “Customer Bill of Rights” or, as in the following example, a tailored version of The 10 Commandments. For such a large purchase, prospects will take a couple minutes to learn what to expect if she chooses you.
The bottom line: builders tell us this approach works, and we can help you make it work, too.
Contact us today!