Residential development professionals know most buyers consider a combination of cost, quality, location, and amenities when purchasing a new home. Few buyers, however, realize the art and science behind interior merchandising that takes a model home from seen to sold.
With new housing communities continually springing up, competition for buyers continues to increase. In September 2015, Bloomberg reported that annual sales rates for new homes had risen to 552,000, a seven-year high, despite an increase in the median sales price from 2014. With all the competition, developers know the devil is in the details and the details are in interior merchandising.
“Certainly a well merchandised model sells houses faster and at a higher price point than an empty house or a poorly merchandised model,” says Liesel Cooper, Executive Vice President for Century Communities, a national developer headquartered in Denver.
To make models shine, Century Communities values exceptional design. One trusted resource is KimberlyTimmons Interiors (KTI), a Denver-based practice with a national reach and an ability to make the models they merchandise literal sales machines. After more than 18 years in the industry and 30 Interior Merchandising awards since 2008, KTI knows how to entice buyers with a compelling preview of the lifestyle they envision.
“Helping the buyer see themselves in the space comes from a carefully crafted vision,” remarks KimberlyTimmons-Beutner. Working with each developer’s sales teams, KTI’s design is influenced by market research, economic achievability, design knowledge, and exceptionally refined taste.
With naming conventions like “Kids and Cul-de-Sacs” to describe targeted buyers, the developer’s demographic research frequently includes average income, age range and probable ethnicities, where they shop, what they drive, and how they spend discretionary income. KTI then assesses regional influences, emerging design trends, and the functional possibilities of each room to develop a finish and furniture plan that resonates with buyers.
“To create models that reflect the buyer’s aspirations and economic realities, we select furnishings that emulate their desired lifestyle yet are realistically affordable,” comments Savanah Schafer, a project manager in KTI’s Interior Merchandising group. “We try to choose furniture from stores where the buyer would shop themselves so the finished space becomes as much a reflection of them as it is of our design sense.” Schafer points to choosing extra comfortable yet eclectic furniture when designing models for Empty Nesters and durable, vibrant pieces when targeting the “Kids and Cul-de-Sacs” crowd.
“Century’s goal is to take a great product – quality construction, thoughtful floor plans, and a super location – and make it even better,” shares Cooper. “Exceptional interior merchandising creates a ‘wow moment’ when the front door opens and the buyer is overwhelmed by desire to live the lifestyle in front of them.”
Beyond making the buyer feel at Home, savvy designers know that making each space “live bigger” is a critical objective of the merchandising process. Everything from the scale of the furniture to paint color selections help rooms feel bigger. Floor-to-ceiling drapes placed at the outer edges of windows to make them look larger and allow the full height of the room to be seen as livable space. Carefully blended colors and strategically placed art extend sightlines into adjoining rooms and create spatial harmony.
By staging visual cues throughout the home – shopping bags from prominent local malls peeking out of closets or local memorabilia in children’s bedrooms the design is imbued with local sensibilities. These are placed in “drop zones”, strategic sight points where the eye will naturally fall when the room is scanned. Subtle connections to life in the area helps buyers see a long-term future that feels reassuring.
“Clients like our design process and willingness to be flexible,” says Timmons-Beutner. “ To stay connected to the project from inception to completion we attend frame walks and make recommendations to enhance the floor plan, lighting plan, and functionality.”
“Developers know a lot about selling homes, we add a sense of style that people can see themselves living in,” adds Schafer. “We want to be partners with our client’s sales force and a design inspiration to the buyer. Collaboration always results in a fun, smooth process, and models that sell homes faster.”
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. For KTI proof is a steady stream of repeat clients. For developers, like Century Communities, proof is a bit more dollars and cents: model homes that exceed sales expectations.
“We had a client come to us for a redesign once, which was awkward because we were rethinking someone else’s work,” adds Timmons-Beutner. “We reworked the design, changed the color palette, created some memory points – and their worst-selling model quickly became their best-selling model. So though our work isn’t smoke and mirrors, there is a little magic in it, and we think that’s pretty fun.”