By Boyce Thompson. Like many people, I have fond memories of the first home my wife and I bought. I wistfully remember the day several neighbors helped me build a huge play structure out of treated lumber in the backyard. I remember pleasant summer evenings with our two young children on the swing I installed on our large front porch. I remember how great our remodeled kitchen looked.

One of the findings in our Continuum research project highlighted this month ("The Main Attraction"), though, brought back darker memories of our first house. It made me recall our seemingly endless efforts to staunch a wet basement, right up until the day we sold the house. I remember the night the hot water heater broke in the middle of winter while I was on the road. I remember spending entire weekends trying to find parts to fix a broken faucet in our Gerry-rigged shower in our only bathroom.

I remember all the maintenance headaches, in other words. We'd spend a good portion of every weekend working on the 70-year-old bungalow. It was fun at first, even if it did get a little competitive--I couldn't hang drywall alone like my neighbor could. But after a while, after we were making a little more money, my driving ambition was to move someplace where I could leisurely enjoy weekends with my family.

Our survey of new-home buyers revealed that the desire to avoid maintenance is the chief attraction of a new home. It was cited by 27 percent of respondents. Another 19 percent said they didn't want to live in a fixer-upper. Taken together, these findings highlight a powerful motivator at work in the marketplace.

I wonder; are you doing enough to tout the maintenance-saving features of your new homes? When we asked builders a similar question--What factors drew buyers to your homes?--most answered "quality."

Every builder believes he or she builds a better house than the next. That's a good thing, of course. But it probably shouldn't be the first thing salespeople talk about when they get to the value proposition part of their presentation.

It would make more sense to find out what prospects don't like about their current home--the roof that needs replacing, the dishwasher that doesn't work, the doors that don't close. Then you could highlight the maintenance-saving aspects of the products that you do use--the 50-year warranty on the roof, the new appliances with fresh warranties, the siding that won't need to be repainted for years.

Maybe you offer a two-year warranty when competitors only go out one year. That could be a huge selling point. Or perhaps owners in your community pay dues to a homeowner association that does routine maintenance.

Our research shows that some people simply prefer new homes; they love the contemporary floor plans, the new materials and finishes. Other people gravitate toward older homes in established, heavily landscaped communities. The real battle is for the biggest group of prospects--the people who don't have a preference. And the factor that could tip them in your favor is the desire to escape maintenance.

Boyce Thompson

Editor in Chief