Do your model homes strategically showcase the Included Features (hopefully you are not calling these “standards”) and Available Personal Choices (hopefully you are not calling these “upgrades”) and properly prompt and prepare your buyers for a fulfilling and enjoyable design studio/home personalization experience? Or do your models waste this valuable opportunity to set proper expectations for how “personalization” works in your company and to reinforce a major point of differentiation between you and your competition?

Your model homes are tools for more than just selling homes. If you don’t have a design studio, your models ARE your design studio showroom. If you DO have a design studio, your models are an extension of your showroom floor.

Models (preferably professionally-merchandised models) SHOULD, first and foremost, sell homes. That means they should highlight the architectural strong points of the floorplan, appeal to the target market’s sense of lifestyle and design style, assist buyers in understanding the plan’s possibilities, and help buyers come to the conclusion that “this home is the right solution for me/my family.”

Nothing happens, with personalization or any other aspect of homebulding, until there is a SALE. But most models I see in my travels all over the country and Canada, don’t powerfully communicate the builder’s promise to support their buyer’s needs to personalize their home, to convince buyers that they WILL be able to get a home that’s “just right for them”.

I was a Vice President for a major interior merchandising firm for many years before I opened Success Strategies, and I supervised literally hundreds and hundreds of model home specification meetings and installations around the country. I know that a talented, smart merchandiser plays a critical role on your marketing team and in the ability of your model homes to convert prospective buyers into real buyers. But are YOU, the Builder or Marketing VP, providing enough strategic direction to your merchandiser regarding the depth, breadth, and specifics for the products you want to showcase in each of your model homes?

Here’s just one example: if your model home has a powder room, hall bath and master bath, are you showcasing a different faucet, sink, cabinet style and finish, counter material and color, counter edge profile, vanity light fixture, mirror, flooring, toilet, and plumbing fixtures in each of those three bathrooms? Believe me, I understand and support, that the style of the model, and other factors should influence the interior specifications, but don’t take the easy way out.

  • For example, if your merchandiser wants an espresso finish on the cabinets in all bathrooms, then show different cabinet styles in the three bathrooms, but all in espresso finishes.
  • If your merchandiser wants to use brushed nickel faucets and vanity light fixtures throughout the model, then perhaps the master bath and powder rooms can show higher level faucets while the hall bath can show the included faucet in that finish (again, provided the style works with the rest of the home).
  • Or perhaps the finish doesn’t need to be the same in all bathrooms at all…maybe each bathroom can have it’s own unique personality and still support the style and intent of the model overall.

When I picture your top-notch New Home Specialist demonstrating the model home, I picture him or her saying things like “Mr. and Mrs. Lopez, our model homes feature just some of the many high-performing products available in our state-of-the-art design studio. You can choose from our quality Included Features or from the numerous Available Personal Choices reflecting a variety of styles, finishes, and investment amounts. Here at Builder X Homes, we’re excited to help you get more of the home you really want.” But that powerful speech doesn’t resonate very much if the model doesn’t appear to show much choice.

Do you encourage your homebuyers to go back through the model(s) after they have purchased a home, as part of their preparation for their personalization experience? If not, then this conversation might be occurring in your design studio: As Mrs. Smith tries to make a final decision on a floor tile, your Design Consultant says: “Mrs. Smith, that tile you’re considering was actually showcased in the hall bath of the model at the neighborhood where you bought.” And Mrs. Smith replies “Oh, we didn’t like that floorplan, so we never went back into the model after we saw it the first time.” OUCH. Big missed opportunity for you, for Mrs. Smith, and for that trendy floor tile. Make sure your homebuyers are visiting all applicable model homes (with proper written notification regarding how features and options may vary between neighborhoods, etc.) prior to their final design studio appointment.

Do you give your buyers a detailed list of every single product showcased in each of your model homes so that you avoid your design consultant having to say “don’t you remember that tile/counter/trim package/shower/fireplace mantle/surround sound/dining room lighting fixture/stone/ceiling detail/cooktop/fill-in-the-product-name was shown in the model home?”

Remember, when that product is seen “in situ”, ie in the environment in which it is intended to be seen and used in the real world, it is so much more powerful than seeing a material sample. This is why design studio vignettes and simulated lifestyle environments are so compelling and successful.

Does that list of model home products use powerful and compelling language and nomenclature to identify each product and whether that product is “included” or “available”?

Do you have a defined procedure to ensure that your new home sales team walks through your model homes every week, noting any items which need to be fixed, adjusted or touched up? I believe that every potential homebuyer deserves to see your model homes in the pristine condition that you rigorously demanded for your Grand Opening Day. That’s why, years ago, we created our “Every Day is Grand Opening Day” checklist, part of our Opt4Excellence process improvement program. To get your free copy, go to and enter the code “Grand Opening” and you’ll instantly receive a free copy of this valuable guide. Remember that the 245th prospective buyer and the 857th prospective buyer are just as important as the first one.

And one more question:
Is every product showcased in your model homes still available and still desirable? If your models feature discontinued or outdated products, you are wasting valuable retail space and doing a disservice to 1)your homebuyers and 2)your ability to sell homes and 3)to sell options. I realize budgets are tight these days, but pay more attention to your model homes and partner with your suppliers to make sure your model homes tell your buyers that you are a leading builder, on top of performance and design trends, who is committed to helping them get more of the home they really want.

If you answered anything other than “yes!” to the above questions, then it’s time to take a new, deeper, and more strategic look at your model homes. You may see more model home traffic this year than in the past few years. Make sure your models, your sales team, and your design studio are ready to maximize that opportunity.