Designs must appeal to different buyer life stages
By Lita Dirks
CEO, Lita Dirks & Co. Interior Design
Who doesn’t want to live in a beautiful house? Having a home that inspires joy and induces comfort is the goal. However, defining beauty or determining what constitutes a joy-inducing dwelling is not so cut and dried. These mean different things to different people. As such, creating designs with wide appeal that can be tweaked to different buyer segments is what turns a prospect into a home owner.
The traditional characteristics of various buyer segments no longer hold true. These days, we define buyer segments less by age and more by life stage. Many first-time home buyers are in their 40s. And, due to a lack of savings, many baby boomers are forced to downsize in square footage, as well as features. To appeal to a wide range of individuals within each buyer segment, we have defined the life stages as:
• First-time buyer
• Established home owner
• Down-sizer/empty nester
First-time home buyer
While not defined by an age, first-time home buyers are looking to get as much as they can for their money. As such, we design with prudence in mind and select features that appear more expensive than they really are. Or, we include a smattering of high-end features, but design the bulk in more affordable materials.
For example, while this buyer may desire hardwood floors throughout the home, we may create a design that includes luxury vinyl flooring, vinyl wood-look flooring, or wood tile options. Or, we offer partial hardwoods on the main floor, but carpet in the bedrooms.
We could leave off the backsplash and let them add it later to the kitchen. Moreover, using simple cabinetry, eliminating the island and stove hood, and including luxury laminate counter tops that look like a solid surface or granite, are a few ways to tweak a kitchen design for the first-time buyer.
Established home owner
Designing for the established home owner presupposes that they are also a family. And as such, our designs are tweaked to maximize family-friendliness. For example, for this buyer segment, we will includes designs that have extra storage for the pantry or in the owner’s entry.
We may design a flex room to illustrate that the space can be a home office, homework station, and family game room. A design for the great room may include a cozy gathering area around a fireplace to appeal to this specific buyer segment. And of course, a large island in the kitchen is a must.
Down sizer/empty nester
To create a design to appeal to this buyer segment, we often include higher-end finishes because many of these buyers feel they deserve the luxury. Further, these homes often have a smaller footprint and as such, our budgets allow for higher-end options, such as a waterfall granite countertop or a custom gas stove range with hood and a large island.
Additionally, for this buyer segment, we find the need to create designs that offer plenty of room to entertain. Storage is another factor in designing for this buyer segment as they often have more toys to store (golf clubs, canoe, boats, etc.). However, if this buyer doesn’t find they have the savings they hoped, then selections need to start with a very thoughtful base standard and allow them to add what is important to them.
To turn a prospect into a home owner, we must understand the needs of the target buyer and create designs that exceed expectations. As such, we must consistently tweak our creations to produce designs that appeal to different buyer segments and their individual lifestyle dreams.