Over the past many years I have had the pleasure of working with some of the truly great residential architects from around the country, many of whom would be considered the legends of the industry. And these exceptionally talented men and women provided my clients and myself with some amazing single family homes, townhomes, condominiums and rental apartments. I am proud to have worked with these designers and to have participated in the process that created housing units that are as livable today as they were when they were designed up to 40 years ago.

In the past, it was typically understood and agreed that the “client”, the builder or the builder’s marketing director, would have done the market and competitive research and combined that with the builder’s capabilities and vision to create the strategy on which the new home designs would be based. The architect would then take that strategy and utilizing experience and talent, plus ongoing input and critique from the client, translate that into livable, exciting, salable home designs.

Most recently, I have been working with a client on a single family community and the client selected an architect with whom he and I have worked before with more than acceptable results. This time, however, it seems that the architect is willing to be satisfied with what I consider to be “82% houses”.

– the elevations are 82% of what they should be (the rooflines are neither impressive nor cost-optimized, the home entries create no exciting sense of arrival, the total feel is rather bland and unbalanced, etc.);
– the room sizes and orientation are 82% of great (some rooms are needlessly oversized, others are too small, there are three distinct dining areas directly adjoining each other, etc.);
– the features are 82% of what we want (the master bath lacks excitement, the kitchens are dated, dull designs with imperfect work areas, secondary bedrooms have undersized closets and lack direct access to bathrooms, etc.);
– the basic designs are 82% of fully usable (the homes lack the ability for optional variations within the basic structure – den into bedroom, game room into master study, bedroom into second master suite, etc.).

Now it may not appear that a new home that is only 82% of optimal would be a problem to sell for 82% was a solid “B” when I was in school but the elements are each, individually, 82% so that the total home is actually only 45% of optimal (.82 x .82 x .82 x .82) and that, by any scoring method, is a “D”. How many of my readers would wish to have to sell a home when the design is universally considered to have received a failing grade? Continue reading


The minister gave his Sunday morning service, as usual, but this particular Sunday, it was considerably longer than normal.

Later, at the door, shaking hands with parishioners as they moved out, one man said, “Your sermon, Pastor, was simply wonderful – so invigorating, inspiring and refreshing.”

The minister broke out in a big smile ready to thank the parishioner only to hear the man add, “Why I felt like a new man when I woke up!”

I write a lot about the importance of USP (“Unique Selling Proposition”) in the homebuilding industry but I do not believe that the message is getting through so I offer this week’s short sermon featuring the parable of the “guilty grandparents” in the hope of gaining further converts.

A few weeks ago we were I-chatting with our son’s family when our son turned to our 3½ year old grandson and said, “Tell Grandma and Grandpa what you wanted to tell them” and our grandson responded, “I miss you and want to see you.”     

Within fifteen minutes of ending the chat my wife got on her computer and began searching for airline reservations to Boston over her Spring break (she is a school teacher).  Unfortunately, as we had not planned this trip well in advance, and her Spring break corresponded with both Easter and Passover travel, the airfares were universally high until she hit the web site for Spirit Air which had convenient non-stop flights to Boston at less than half the price of any other carrier. 

Spirit Airlines

I had avoided flying Sprit ever since our son’s wedding five years ago when two of our guests never made it into town when their flight was first delayed, and then cancelled.  Spirit had no other planes available, and the airline refused to make any effort to accommodate them on another carrier.  So even with this less than wonderful perception of the carrier, and although I am not normally a “price” purchaser, the substantial savings won me over and I booked the flight.  After all, how bad could it be on a three hour non-stop flight?

If you have not flown Spirit ever or even recently, it is an experience as they have branded themselves as the “price leader” and have managed to regularly undercut every other carrier on their routes.  One of the ways that they have managed to do so, apparently at a profit, is to squeeze in more seats than I thought was physically possible.  Fortunately, my wife and I are short in stature so the flights were tolerable but I cannot imagine anyone over 5’8” being able to walk after a two hour or longer flight on that plane. 

They charge extra to check luggage, a common practice today in the airline industry, but offer a discount if you pre-pay at the time of reservation which I did.  They do not assign seats until 24 hours prior to departure unless you purchase a specific “premium” seat (all seats are premium for advance purchase ranging from $6.00 to $60.00).  I took my chances on the early morning outbound flight but as the evening return was booked full I purchased two seats.  And they charge for refreshments – starting at $3.00 for a canned soft drink or a bottle of water.  But even with the extra fees, including the luggage, seats and overpriced snacks, they were still less than half the price we could find anywhere else. 

Except for the inclement weather throughout the Northeast which was beyond their control and delayed our return by two hours, the flights were relatively painless and they served their purpose, I had saved over $500 and I will probably fly them again.  And I became a “price” buyer, at least for shorter flights.

Sale tag #7

The price position is almost always a viable USP in any industry, especially in challenging economic conditions, and homebuilding is certainly no exception.  In fact, there is a phrase I first used over twenty-five years ago in teaching the “A to Z” program and the early IRM courses that expresses this quite clearly – “Price Is The Ultimate Amenity!”  Continue reading