“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!
Problem: It seems everyone’s goal is clutter-free countertops. Yet, small appliances (e.g., toaster, coffee maker, rice cooker, fondue pot, etc.) are must-haves; and they can be a pain to store and retrieve when needed!
Solution: Lead designer Carl Cuozzo has been designing Appliance Centers in high-end custom homes for years. From waffle makers and espresso machines to crock-pots and woks, today’s home buyers have lots of small appliances. Carl has found the ideal location for the appliance center is just outside the main kitchen, with storage above and below, and plenty of electrical outlets.
Consider how we live: Health-conscious individuals use their blenders–a lot; and stand mixers are bulky and heavy. The bottom line is that we want the convenience of ready access for our most-used small appliances without cluttering our kitchen counters.
Appliance Center shown in the Dandridge plan #42365.
By focusing on energy efficiency, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, sulfer dioxide, and nitrogen oxides) by thousands of pounds per year. Great strides have been made in insulating walls, window quality, and furnace efficiency. But, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, air duct leakage is the #1 home energy loss.
Aeroseal® manufactures an aerosol sealant that is sprayed into your ductwork to seal leaks from the inside. Safe and nontoxic, Aeroseal has actually been shown to enhance indoor air quality. Improved delivery of conditioned air means rooms that were hard to keep warm in the winter/cool in the summer are usually more comfortable while saving you money every month on your utility bills.
According to Aeroseal, “On average, 30 cents of every $1 you spend on heating and cooling your home or building disappears into thin air due to duct leaks.” With more of the air you paid to heat or cool reaching the registers, you may find yourself actually lowering the thermostat.
Another benefit can be noise reduction—with the furnace and/or air conditioner running less.
Learn more about Aeroseal products.
While more and more of our digital life is becoming wireless, wireless solutions continue to be plagued by signal strength issues and download/upload speeds. In a room over a garage finished off as a home office space, a Design Basics customer recently reported intermittent signal losses and average download speeds of only 2-4 Mbps, compared with 50 Mbps throughout the rest of the home. The solution was wiring an Ethernet connection in that space – not an easy task after the home was built.
Whether it’s HD video or the latest multi-player online games, for stationary applications, hardwired Ethernet is preferable to wireless connectivity for dependable performance and to get the most from your entertainment and computer systems. Ethernet provides another important advantage, low voltage power for your device can be run over the same Ethernet cable so you can eliminate additional electrical wiring and those bulky AC transformers.
For more helpful building tips, visit our Resource Center.
More and more products for the home can be monitored and controlled by an App. Some are for convenience, such as an app for your coffee maker; while others are for your piece of mind, like Roost’s family of products.
Roost’s Smart Smoke Alarm has advanced features, such as a Wi-Fi connection. Powered by a Smart Battery (see below), alerts are sent to your smartphone via the Roost App. Depending on which model of smoke alarm you choose, alerts for smoke, fire, carbon monoxide, and/or natural gas detection are in the palm of your hand!
Water and Freeze Detection Alerts
Toilets, bathtubs, and sinks that overflow…water heater tanks that rupture…washing machine hoses burst…such “contained water leaks” in homes (as opposed to flooding due to heavy rains) cost insurance companies more than residential fire damage. Sure, insurance can help with repairs and replacement costs, but you’re responsible for the deductible and then there’s all the disruption and the associated hassles. Roost’s Wi-Fi enabled Smart Sensor detects water leaks and sends an alert to your smartphone (and family and friends’ phones) so you can address the problem before it becomes catastrophic. In addition, should temperature and/or humidity in your home fall outside predetermined levels, the battery-powered Roost Smart Sensor will alert you to these dangers as well, helping you avoid damage from freeze or excess humidity.
Wi-Fi Battery and Alerts
If you’re tired of being startled awake to smoke detector “chirps,” the Roost 9 volt Wi-Fi battery is great technology for standard smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. Roost sends “low battery” alerts to your smartphone to call attention to the need for changing the battery. But you won’t get those alerts very often, as the Roost battery lasts five years (then just replace the lithium battery pack). Everyone at work/school? Roost sends emergency alerts to your smartphone as well as family and friends’ phones.
To learn more, visit: www.getroost.com
(Note: Product spotlights are for informational purposes only; we do not formally endorse any product or service.)
In May, my son graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in marketing. As a high school senior, he set a national sales record for one of North America’s largest electronics retailers. The kid is smart. But when it came time to purchase a new car last weekend, he and his fiancée (who also has a business degree) were novices. Not that they hadn’t researched vehicles online. Not that they didn’t know what was important to them in a new vehicle. Not that they didn’t know what they could afford. It’s just that neither had ever purchased a brand-new vehicle. Rebates or lower APR? Extended warranty? Rustproofing? “Sport” edition? Price negotiation? Then there was the high-pressure sales tactics…
Similarly, how many of your prospective home buyers took classes in home design, home building, or buying a new home when they were college students? With such a monumental decision, how do you help buyers choose you?
Listen…and build rapport. The first salesperson my son met couldn’t wait to demonstrate the vehicle. He quickly identifed the model he thought would most interest this young couple, then spent quite a bit of time showing them the many features. This was followed by the customary test-drive during which the sales person spent most of his time texting.
I’ve met new home sales pros who likewise want to get right to touring visitors through their model home. Most are superb at highlighting the hot-button amenities. But people want to buy from someone they like, someone who cares about them, someone they can trust, and that takes time getting to know them and listening to what they want.
Edu-sell. Price is always important, but selling via lowest price is both difficult and lazy. Difficult, because there are only so many corners you can cut, so many suppliers you can bully into dropping their price. Lazy, because the consumer doesn’t have to think and the salesperson doesn’t have to deal with educating the customer, quality, or other “intangibles.”
The salesman who won my son’s business quickly established rapport over their mutual admiration for Apple products. He segued that into introducing Apple Car Play, found in some of their vehicles. He took the time to discuss all-wheel drive options, various trim levels/options, and what was included, such as explaining the pros and cons of leather seats.
New home buyers don’t know what they don’t know. Your ability to modify standard designs; delightful new amenities prospects didn’t even know existed; product upgrades ideally matched to their priorities; these are all ways to empower buyers to make the best decisions, within the budget they have established for themselves, making you their advisor who has their best interests at heart.
Make the process easy, fun, and (relatively) stress-free. For my son and his fiancée, their salesman turned car shopping into a process of discovery. The vehicle they ultimately purchased was not even on their radar screen initially. From the big touch screen display with back-up camera, to the “Vehicle Protection Package,” to sorting through the business office/finance options, this dealership understood how to respect their customers.
Your homes are designed. Your home building system was designed. Your customers’ new home purchase experience should be designed, too. Looking at the purchase experience through the eyes of the customer is the place to start, rather than what’s efficient for you. Concentrate especially on the areas which can be stressful (e.g., finalizing the design, product selections, and the purchase agreement). Above all else, focus on clear communication, because ambiguity is no one’s friend!
Author: Paul Foresman, VP Business Development, Design Basics, LLC