Model Homes: Use
Here's an interesting trivia question: What's the number one reason buyers of new homes
cite for not recommending their builder?
If you said the quality of the home, guess again. Sixty-eight percent of new buyers said
the humiliating sales process of their builder soured them on the whole experience,
according to a Minnesota marketing research firm. And who can blame them? Whether you're
in Maine or Oregon, walk into any new home community and the sales pitch is frighteningly
similar. Even Builder Magazine, the official mouthpiece of the National Association of
Home Builders, recognized this problem in a recent article and described the typical sales
process like this:
"The hostess or sales associate greets the customer at the sales office door. Then,
like it or not, the prospects are led to the topo table (the office's centerpiece) to get
a bird's-eye view of the community, hear a spiel on the project's benefits and (to instill
the first twinges of urgency) see all the little red "sold" dots. Next, the
buyers are delicately grilled ('prequalified') about their housing needs and pocket depth,
then steered to the wall-mounted floor plan the sales staffer judges they'd like best.
Then the prospects are released (or if it's a slow day, accompanied) to the models."
"Back from the models (assuming they didn't climb over the model trap's fence), the
prospects are intercepted, steered to the wall-mounted 'builders' story for another canned
spiel, then directed (or accompanied) to a lot. Finally, the sales associate eases the
prospects into a cramped closing room to 'work up some numbers'- and to extract a
'be-back' promise or contract." Sound familiar? The only thing missing is a
soundtrack blaring out Janet Jackson's "Control." (I want to be the one... in
control!) That's what it's all about, after all-manipulating you both physically (why do
you think the models with the fence attached is called a "model trap"?) and
psychologically. Builders are control freaks, who think the only way to weed out
tire-kickers is to treat all buyers like a side of beef that's waiting to be processed.
There are some ways you can take control of the sales process as a buyer. Here are some
Do your homework before you step into a model. Don't rely on the canned
"builder's story." Instead research the builder at the local library- all public
builders will leave a trail of newspaper articles, both good and bad. Another good source
if you have access to the web: Check out Hoover's Online at
http://www.hoovers.com . This
site includes profiles of 8500 companies, including their latest SEC filings and reports
Ask for the price lists and brochures up-front. Instead of being led by the nose
through the builder's model, insist on seeing these documents first. That way you can tell
if you're truly interested or merely wasting both your and the builder's time.
Shop around. Not all builders are blind to this problem- some actually have tried to
make the sales process easier to swallow. For example, at willow lake in North Aurora, IL,
United Development has life-sized plans on waterproof tarps- buyers can walk through the
plans to get an idea of different layouts or to merely figure out how large that closet
really is. Other builders are making their models more interactive, with freestanding
displays of plumbing, windows, and other details. By revealing what's going on behind the
walls, you can get a better read on the builder's quality.
This Homebuyers Tip was excerpted from:
Your New House,by Alan & Denise Fields,Windsor Press, 1996