But it’s not like the model home . . .
The single most important promotional tool we new home builders have is models homes. We fuss over them greatly, and spend a great deal of time and money building them just so, selecting the best custom options, decorating them, and keeping them clean and bright.
Out of our extensive selection of home designs, it is no surprise, then, that we end up selling quite a few of the model home designs.
So when a customer says “I want a new home just like the model”, we feel a little bit pleased with ourselves, that we got it right, and that the model home is working for us as it should.
But sometimes the benefit of having a dynamite model home can become a bit of a curse.
We make every effort to identify the standard home features and the upgrade options. We also always have one model home that only had standard features for people to view. This way buyers can see exactly which upgrades to purchase, if they want their new home to be just like the model. But it doesn’t always work. We still have the occasional instance where a buyer moves in to their new home and they are disappointed because “it’s not like the model.” It can be the subtlest thing. I think some people respond emotionally to the model in the first place, which drives their buying experience. Even though we think we have covered all the bases in the buying process, their new home just doesn’t re-create the initial emotional experience.
A second issue is the evolution of the architectural design of all our homes. We have built many Royal Edwards, which is our most popular design. However, no two Royal Edwards are built in exactly the same way. Firstly, the locations of switches, plugs, lights, drain location and so on will still meet the building code, but will vary from home to home, and will almost certainly not be in the same locations at the model. There are numerous reasons for this: the stud layout can be different, the location of a custom plug will change the sequence of remaining plugs, a new trades person will begin the sequence of plug or switch locations from a new starting point, and so on.
Secondly, and more importantly, the design of the homes evolves over time. We might find a better way to run ducts, a better location for a load-bearing post or simply improve the overall design based on customer feedback. We might start using an improved component in the home. We might come upon changes that improve the structural integrity of the home. Such improvements might result in slight changes to room dimensions, or stair and door locations. And while subtle changes are allowable in the building code as well as with Tarion Warranty, they can still evoke disappointment, because “it’s not like the model”. To us, the changes are at best imperceptible improvements, and at worst they are inconsequential. But every once in a while a buyer will notice.
It’s true; I can tell a disappointed buyer that our marketing material and sales agreements say that small changes are permitted. But resorting to the fine print is almost like saying “you should have known and it’s your fault”. This is hardly a sterling example of customer care and in these infrequent instances, I always feel like I’m letting the customer down. We haven’t done anything wrong, but the model home experience has not worked. I then wonder if there is something else we can do, and I review the ways we present and talk about our models with prospective buyers. I end up concluding that we are doing the best we can. All I can say to prospective buyers is this: if you want it just like the model, make sure all the sales people know. Try and identify the parts of the model that resonate with you, and ask this question: “Are you still building this house the same as when you built the model? If not, what are the changes?”