The Media Has One Job [Hint: It’s Not To Make You Feel Positive]

Let’s be real; it’s been a weird run the last several years. Sure, there was the unexpected pandemic pandemonium buying frenzy—that was great—but also weird because it came with insane supply chain issues, inability to meet demand, runaway inflation, and an overall sense of hurry up and wait. Now we’re in this bizarre time where consumers don’t know which way is up. A frothy market makes buyers desperate, and desperation breeds impulsiveness. When the market shifts, discernment is reintroduced, and buyers need to be inspired again.

I remember reading the Editor's Note in the May/June 2022 issue of PROBUILDER Magazine. Although I found most of the suggestions to be practical and timely advice, there was one tip that stood out to me, and I would like to propose a different approach. The recommendation was to “Cull your house plans to the top 10 sellers and reengineer them on 4-foot modules… Build one model home and put the rest online.” I certainly agree with the theory of simplification because buyers can easily get overwhelmed with too many options. However, this advice suggests a concept that the sage Townley Larzelere of Whitney Research used to call “marketing your designs rather than designing for your market.”

This recommendation seems to imply that what we do in the building industry is to deliver a commodity--a soulless widget. Something that people can just buy online without an emotional connection. We do not deliver widgets. We provide the sanctuary for people’s lives, the place where they will grow families, host countless holiday celebrations, and make memories to last a lifetime. We need to lean into that noble mission and design to inspire our target markets. And after a couple of years of online fatigue, people are looking for tangible, beautiful inspiration that they can experience. Model homes are the original Pinterest.

Speaking with a longtime industry colleague the other day, I asked what he was doing to boost traffic and sales on a project that had opened to a sluggish start. He said that he was going back to the tried-and-true toolbox. Larger flags, refreshed and upgraded sales office spec, refreshed model merchandising, longer sales office hours, rate buy-downs. His young sales agents thought he was nuts, but it worked. They’ve infused the project with new energy and increased their sales velocity exponentially in the month since implementation.

There may not be a silver bullet, but there are a million units of unmet demand that the media likes to ignore. It’s their job to cause panic (hysterics beget clicks, after all). It’s our job not to panic. It's our job to respond, not react. I think we can all agree there is solid demand, but here’s the thing: those potential buyers are going to have to get excited by something in order to make a move right now when they're feeling uncertain. And if you’re trying to inspire them by doing nothing (or the same old thing) and expecting different results… it’s probably not going to work.

Remember: little hinges swing big doors. What small changes have you been brainstorming (or--better yet--already implementing) to surprise and delight your target market? 

Jeffrey DeMure + Associates Architects Planners is an award-winning architecture firm in Roseville, CA. To start your project or learn more about the firm, click here.



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