Those of you who follow Design Basics likely know that we have a home plan book collection based on the four Livability At A Glance™ lenses: Entertaining, De-Stressing, Organized Living, and Flexibility. It may come as a surprise that the top seller from this collection is the Flexible Home Plans title!
We all try to predict the future – what prospective home buyers will want – and plan accordingly, so we can incorporate certain amenities into the homes we offer. This provides better design, and some control over cost and construction. Yet, individual buyers have individual needs as well as a desire for their home to both reveal and augment who they are.
Hence, the surging popularity of homes with pre-planned design options; not just the default 2-foot extension for the dining area, but true flexible spaces. Design Basics’ Harmon Haven (42366) shows an open flex space to the front – think dining room with a walk-thru pantry/server or music room. Or, imagine that space closed off as a home office via barn doors. The original design has a large laundry area that can easily double as a craft/hobby area, but some buyers would be much more interested in a second bedroom on the main floor with its accompanying full bathroom, preferring the convenience of a stack washer/dryer in their owner’s suite because there’s another laundry closet upstairs. And that second-floor loft? Just asking “How would you use this space?” may yield more varied responses than you would have dreamed!
Design Basics’ Elba Grove (42336) is another new plan showcasing flexibility. The original design presents a study/home office with nice storage and adjoining powder bath, so clients and colleagues need not walk through the rest of the house to use a bathroom. But we also show it just as easily could be a nice main floor bedroom suite. There’s a pocket office at the back, which could also be a…planning center…wine room…bulk item closet…or deleted altogether in favor of a larger dining area. The deep garage offers abundant storage potential or may become a workshop, gardening center, man cave, or like Apple and Google, where the next mega-business is born!
Search for other Flexible Living plans via our Plan Search Tool.
The year was 1972. Don McLean’s “American Pie” topped the Billboard charts, “The Godfather” made big-screen history, Billie Jean King won her seventh Wimbledon Tennis championship, and George Parmer founded Fine Line Homes in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In the 45 years since, American Pie still enjoys significant airplay, The Godfather remains one of the top-rated movies of all time, Billie Jean King’s impact on gender equality in professional sports can still be felt, and thousands of Pennsylvania and New York families come home to a house built by Fine Line Homes.
Such enduring legacies are neither accidental nor “good fortune.” Fine Line Homes has not merely survived, but thrived, for multiple generations in part because home building is a process, which Fine Line Homes has honed to near perfection. Then there are standards, such as name-brand building products. Yet it may be the company’s cornerstones of quality and integrity that laid the foundation for success, according to Mark Bittner, the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing.
“Under Mr. Parmer’s leadership, Fine Line Homes has grown to now serve all of Central and Northeast Pennsylvania as well as Southern New York,” said Bittner, continuing, “The company, and the homes we build, have evolved, but our ‘customer-first’ commitment is unwavering.”
Recently, Fine Line Homes’ customers Barbara and Jim Scheifley were interviewed in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette regarding their new home. Jim was quoted as saying, “They [Fine Line Homes] are very honest with you and there were no hidden prices.” And, “Their standard construction options are what other builders offer as extras.” Even the article headline, “On Budget and On Time,” attests to the company’s focus on the customer.
Each of Fine Line Homes’ regional offices (Harrisburg, Lewisburg, State College, Hazleton, and Sayre) has a different model home built for prospective home buyers to tour. There, they’ll meet with one of Fine Line Homes’ Housing Consultants who will help them through the home design, product selections, and purchase processes. Bittner practically brags on the Housing Consultants, “The majority have been with Fine Line Homes for more than 10 years. They know the homes, they know the products, they know the process. They know what can and can’t be done. Their knowledge is a tremendous value for our customers.”
Bittner says “Our home designs have evolved, based on customer feedback and input from Design Basics through their Woman-Centric Matters!® research into women’s preferences in the home. Our plans are more open and inviting, with larger kitchens and pantries, places to work from home, and more spacious bathrooms as well as enviable owner’s suites. Yet square footages have remained fairly constant over the past decade.” How? Most of today’s Fine Line Homes’ buyers favor one eating area as opposed to the formal dining room plus separate breakfast area layout, so the space formerly devoted to formal dining can be re-allocated. Similarly, a high majority of the company’s customers are choosing an oversized shower and dual sinks, but no bathtub in the owner’s bathroom.
Read the full feature story about Fine Line Homes by clicking here.
Nothing says more about a builder than the homes the company builds. Your homes communicate what you believe is important and what [you perceive] buyers want and value. Some aspects are obvious to prospective buyers; others are “hidden assets” buyers might overlook or not notice at all. That’s where your stories regarding those hidden assets can powerfully influence the buying decision. But ultimately, whether or not the home sells is based on the stories prospects tell themselves.
We’ll use Design Basics’ new Beckley Place (42348) home plan to illustrate. The eclectic exterior incorporates shake and horizontal siding plus stone accents. A combination of composite shingles and metal roofing, carriage-style garage doors, shuttered windows, and a covered front porch create a façade that’s new and distinctive. The volume entry foyer is wide and inviting, while the flex room to the left presents a great opportunity to stir the buyer’s emotions. Simply asking “How would you use this space?” will help you identify your prospect’s priorities. As designed, it might be an ideal parlor, music room, or sunroom. But if a craft room or home office is what the buyers have in mind, closing the space off with double doors can provide desired privacy. Just beyond, the staircase landing presents a window seat flanked by built-in shelving. Explaining that the window is both aesthetic and a safety issue (better lighting in the staircase), and that a split staircase, such as this design, reduces fall danger and serious injury, can help your buyers appreciate such an amenity. Some buyers might place books on the shelves; others may display nick-knacks that bring a smile every time she passes by them!
Drop zone stories tend to center around de-cluttering the kitchen; parents recognize the desirability of lockers for organizing their kids’ stuff; and, a bench by the lockers is great for removing shoes. A planning desk is also shown in this space, which could be repurposed as a coat closet or bulk item storage if preferred. A covered patio means your outdoor plans need not be cancelled due to rain, and the corner location offers added privacy as well as making this space more pleasurable on windy days.
The garage is wonderfully sized for active households, including the extra-deep outside bay, which is ideal for backing a boat into or perhaps a collector car. The generous storage area presents workshop opportunities or organization that eliminates the “trek-around-the-bikes-and-garden equipment” routine. Explaining it in this way triggers related memories!
Buyer hot-button issues continue upstairs, starting with the owner’s suite. Three transom windows over the likely headboard wall are a visual delight. The combined shower/bathing area is trending upward and if your hopeful buyers aren’t “tub people,” the bathtub could be omitted and that space given over to an even larger walk-in closet. Because most of us disrobe in the bathroom, a door from the owner’s bath to the laundry room eliminates steps, and there is room between the laundry sink and dryer for a hamper/clothes basket. This is another one of those stories buyers rehearse when they’re contemplating their new home purchase with you. Two sinks AND separate vanities for the compartmentalized hall bath is a great way to reduce conflict, especially when teens are in a hurry. While some buyers love the spaciousness of a two-story entry, others see this as “wasted space.” For those individuals, suggesting this space could be finished and turned into a walk-in closet for bedroom #2 or hall cedar closet or open study area may help turn prospects into customers!
Search our library of home plans here.
Who’s the best home builder?
Actually, that’s answered one home buyer at a time. And, in the Omaha, Nebraska, area, Sherwood Homes and Lane Building Corporation are raising the bar regarding what it means to be best. Part of that solution has been embracing Design Basics’ Woman-Centric Matters!® approach, which helps home builders focus on design, products for the home, and customer experiences from women’s viewpoints.
Though separate companies, Sherwood Homes and Lane Building Corporation build the same home designs, with the same tradespeople, using the same products; however, having two entities allows them to build in a wider variety of neighborhoods. Currently, the companies are building in 20 different subdivisions. Jerry Standerford explained, “Having building lots throughout the Omaha metro, buyers can get the neighborhood and school district they want. Or, we’ll help our clients find and secure a home site in one of Omaha’s other quality neighbor-hoods.”
A Better Experience
It is impossible to build a quality home without providing a quality new home experience. At Sherwood/Lane, that begins with a user-friendly website. But the customer experience gets into full swing when one of Sherwood/Lane’s three agents get involved.
“Our agents are really new home specialists and are very knowledgeable about home building,” Standerford said. “But even more important, our agents care. They’re focused on the buyer’s interests and helping each of our clients get the best home for their house-hold.”
Pre-construction, the agents assist with home plan and building lot selections, product decisions and finishes, and pricing. Communication is key, and with that, education. Home buyers don’t know what they don’t know.
Sherwood/Lane offers dozens of different home plans, which, within reason, can be modified according to buyer preferences. The agents work out of furnished model homes that allow prospective buyers the opportunity to see the construction quality firsthand and experience the livability of the homes. Because it’s sometimes hard to visualize a home’s flow or perhaps a certain room size, being able to walk through the model home eliminates guesswork and avoids future remorse. Actually experiencing a dining area helps buyers know if it might need to be enlarged, for example.
Offering multiple move-in ready homes, Sherwood/Lane is also a market leader when it comes to buyers who are relocating to Omaha. Not surprisingly, many of those buyers are families with children who prefer traditional two-story homes. The company is seeing a higher number of multi-generational household clients and offers several popular two-story homes to incorporate a first-floor in-law suite. According to Standerford, “We’re also seeing the influence of websites such as Pinterest and Houzz among our clientele, which is helping them identify and prioritize what they want in a home.”
Sherwood/Lane opened their Personalization Studio in 2006 and it’s been very popular with their personalized clients. Akin to a “university environment,” prospective home buyers meet there with their agent to further appreciate the included features and learn about avail-able options.
Read more about Sherwood/Lane’s Personalization Studio and home building design process.
Forbes reports that women have a 1 in 7 chance of celebrating their 95th birthday (sorry guys, you only have a 1 in 14 chance of blowing out 95 candles). Today’s longer lifespans, scattered families, and the desire for independence coupled with the fear and high cost of nursing homes has made live-in caretakers a viable option. Similarly, accident victims and wounded veterans may need around-the-clock aides, which, not surprisingly, are often parents moving in. Home plans like Scholz Designs® Bauer Creek plan 56564 are more than dual master suite homes, they really “live” independently for the caretakers with separate garages, entrances, and living spaces, plus direct connections from one side to the other.
The median age of widowhood is 59.4 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). After a lifetime together, it’s no surprise that many of these “suddenly single” widows (and widowers) desire homeownership AND companionship. They’ve told us they’re looking for separate owner’s suites with shared living spaces. Take Design Basics’ Tucker Terrace plan 50039. The owner’s suite and suite #3 achieve maximum separation for desired privacy, meaning neither individual needs to be annoyed by the other’s loud TV programming. The common entertaining space + sunroom + rear covered porch provide plenty of opportunities for togetherness. While more modest, suite #2 could accommodate a third companion.
Particularly due to the aging baby boomer generation, there is a growing number of households with siblings or sometimes cousins moving in together. In addition to the desire to be with family, we often hear this is out of economic necessity, such as a suddenly single widow or even older related couples wanting to split housing costs. Not surprisingly, these are two of the driving forces behind the surging popularity of plans with dual owner’s suites on the main floor such as Design Basics Toulouse plan 50037. Each of that design’s first floor bedrooms is generously sized for a couple. An important consideration for older homeowners, the Toulouse features a zero-threshold front entry, ensuring this home can welcome visitors of all abilities. Similarly, interior passage doors are at least 36″ wide, easily accommodating a walker or wheelchair. And the over-sized flex/hobby space off the garage entry has another welcome amenity – a shower stall; originally en-visioned for pet care, but equally adept as a wheelchair wash-off station.
We recently spoke with a woman with a special needs teenage daughter that will likely be living with her mom for many years to come. This homebuyer wanted a home with an owner’s suite, a separate adjacent suite (so she could hear her daughter), a third bedroom for frequent guests, and a room for her home office – all in less than 1800 square feet. Our search narrowed to the Garland plan 24297, where bedroom #4 was a perfect fit for her and her daughter’s needs, and bedroom #2 being re-purposed as the home office she wanted.
Search more plans with multiple owner’s suites to find the one that fits your lifestyle.
Eureka! You’ve just stumbled upon one of the most obvious advantages your homes offer that’s not found in other builders’ homes. Once they know, customers will beat a path to your door! But before you commit to that advertising campaign, let’s see what we can learn from Apple.
In the age of Sony Walkman personal CD players, Apple introduced the iPod, which could hold a lot more music than a single CD-Rom. Apple capitalized on that benefit with their slogan, “1000 songs in your pocket.” The advantage was obvious…and enormous!
Yet, according to marketing/branding guru Alessandra Ghini who was working for Apple on the iPod at that time, “the tagline failed to take the iPod mainstream.” Apparently, storage space wasn’t the point. As reported in Fast Company, Ghini’s team asked owners, “Why do you enjoy the iPod?” Consumer feedback centered around the emotions music can evoke from each listener. Ghini’s team refocused iPod advertising on the now ubiquitous human silhouettes enjoying their music, and another chapter in the annals of Apple’s success was written.
Holding 1000 songs was a factual benefit of the iPod. Yet, in that context, the appeal was limited. Apple’s home run came with tapping into buyers’ emotions surrounding using the product, specifically music’s ability to affect/enhance our mood.
Now, let’s return to that new amenity offered in your homes. We’ll use the Travel Center in the owner’s suite closet as an example. Properly staged, a Travel Center is obvious and easily understood by your model home visitors. But will it actually sell more homes? That depends on how those model home visitors feel.
Stories are a powerful way to tap into buyer’s emotions. “You know, I nearly broke my ankle when I tripped over the suitcase in my closet.” Or, “I love the travel center because everything’s ready, right there, for an unexpected trip.” Asking, “How do you see yourself using the Travel Center?” or to the frequent traveler “How would it make you feel to have everything for your next trip right here at your fingertips?” can help prospects envision living in the home and using the travel center.
Remember, buyers buy on emotion!
Most any plans with a walk-in closet can incorporate a Travel Center into the design, but here is a selection of plans with Travel Centers already designed: