Bernie Iacovangelo
Anje Jager/ Bernie Iacovangelo

Bernie Iacovangelo owns Faber Homes in Rochester, N.Y., which, despite bleak local economic conditions, has averaged 88 closings per year for the past decade. I have two fully furnished models in both of my developments. We believe that home buying is an emotional event supported by logic, and well-designed models are not very different from an automobile showroom full of new vehicles stirring your desire to drive one of them home.

We are a retail business, and we must follow regular retail business policies or we will never sell homes. So we not only fully decorate the models, we also have real estate offices set up in their garages so we are ready to sell. Current real estate conditions have not altered this business plan.

My suggestion [to builders] is to offer a full-blown decorated model and seek more partnerships with subcontractors and vendors, especially with discount furniture retail outlets. These companies want more business and can get it from you based on their willingness to assist you with your models.

Suzanne Felber
Anje Jager/ Suzanne Felber

Suzanne Felber is a Lifestylist for Dallas-based The Home Idea Factory, which specializes in partnership merchandising and model-home makeovers. More than ever, consumers want to be educated instead of sold, and a properly merchandised model home is the perfect tool to achieve this. Consumers can understand how their furniture will fit in their potential new home and how color makes all the difference in the warmth of a room. We’ve merchandised model homes with a number of builders where everything was “gently appreciated,” showing how old and new can work together. The key was making sure each component was right for the space and lifestyle of the targeted buyers. With budgets being an important part of the equation, showing furniture and accessories that the customer can buy and afford is a great benefit. These days, selling homes hinges on educating your buyer, so it’s critical that the sales team and Realtors showing your homes understand the ideas you’ve incorporated into your models.

Steve Ormonde
Anje Jager/ Steve Ormonde

Steve Ormonde owns Orange County, Calif.–based Focus 360, which created the first virtual model home in 1989 and provides virtual new-home sales tools. The brick-and-mortar merchandised model home is a unique selling tool and cannot easily be replaced. However, there is no doubt that a computer-generated virtual model home is more cost effective and efficient, when done properly. As technology improves, the virtual variety will become more convincing. We can create an immersive 3D virtual model home that demonstrates a floor plan and replicates the depth perception one feels when walking the physical model. The virtual model home can show the standard and reverse orientation, structural options and finish options, as well as multiple merchandising scenarios that will appeal to your community’s demographics. And the cost is less than a year’s worth of carry and maintenance on a model home. Today’s buyers use smartphones and iPads to get information immediately. They expect that same experience when making the largest purchase of their lives.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Dallas, TX, Los Angeles, CA.