By Diane Kittower. Sometimes a merchandising idea seems like a good one, but it just doesn't work out. For example, design director Karen Richardson at Kathy Andrews Interiors, who works with David Weekley Homes, vividly remembers a beautiful star-burst tile inset that took nine months to get. That made it impractical to duplicate, Richardson notes, and thus not something to show to buyers despite its attractiveness. U.S. Home's Brian Hutt had a similar experience with a spectacular black chandelier shown in a model home. It didn't come from one of the builder's regular suppliers, the design studio director explains, so U.S. Home couldn't offer it as an option, frustrating buyers who wanted the upgrade.

Another potential problem is taking advice from partners whose top priority might be something other than effective merchandising. Some contractors push for products from whichever vendor offers them the most aggressive builder program. While that benefits the contractor, it may not be the wisest move for the builder.

The biggest turnoff, though, says Hutt, is for home buyers to find out something they thought was included in the sale price is an option that would cost extra. "It's very important as a builder to be up front about what's included and what's not."

Chicago designer Mary Cook, president of Mary Cook & Associates, had that lesson demonstrated in an upper-end development in New Jersey. Her firm did lots of crown moldings and trim as options for the homes. So many buyers couldn't believe that the molding wasn't included that the builder decided to raise the price of the homes by $10,000 and make the former option standard. Buyers seemed unfazed by the price increase, Cook says, and the builder no longer had to debate.

Diane Kittower is based in Rockville, Md.

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Published in BIG BUILDER Magazine, August 2002