KB Home pulled out its marketing howitzer this week to launch a new community near Orlando, Fla. Martha Stewart came to town to see the newest house to bear her name, extol the virtues of her five-year and 11-community partnership with KB Home and to judge a cupcake contest.
“We are always amazed when we finally see one of our homes come to reality,” Stewart said, addressing a crowd of mostly women who won the chance to see Martha by recently visiting a KB Home community. “Even though this is a smaller house it is beautiful. KB does such a good job.”
While only the lottery-winning “VIPs” were invited to attend the Martha event in person, it was streamed live on the Internet where more than 300 people signed on to watch. It was KB’s first live stream event.
Before seeing the model home, attendees were fed and given cupcakes to decorate with the promise that Martha would pick a winner from the creations. They took the task seriously, earnestly piping icing, sculpting almond paste, and practicing precision jimmy sprinkling. But when Hollis Wilder, two-time winner of the Food Network’s "Cupcake Wars" culled the entries so Martha only had a dozen or so to choose among, some participants pouted, crossing their arms and pushing their chairs back from the tables.
In classic Martha fashion, one chocolate cupcake decorated with white marshmallows sent her on a tale about her two black sheep who were old enough to shear for the first time this spring.
“I sheared them myself, washed the wool, and sent it out to be spun,” she said. “Somebody else spun it for me. I didn’t have the time. I think I’m going to weave something” from the wool.
KB’s Martha-fest will continue on Saturday when it holds a special grand opening and food festival at Mabel Bridge, the first Orlando community to bear the Martha Stewart brand. Visitors will get to sample summer offerings from Martha’s recipe collection. The homes range in size from 2,294- to 3,277-square feet, have four to six bedrooms, two to four baths, and two- or three-car garages. Prices start at $260,000.
The four model-home floor plans are similar to the KB Home GreenHouse, a net zero-energy concept house sponsored by Builder built nearby and showcased during the International Builders’ Show back in January. However, the four new models, while Energy Star rated, are not net zero. They lack the extensive level of energy-saving and energy-producing systems.
In the near future there will be a net-zero production home built by KB Home, promised George Glance, president of KB Home’s Central Florida division. There were fears that the GreenHouse was so loaded with extras that whoever bought it would have trouble getting the home to appraise at full sales price. However, said Glance, the home did sell, and it came close to appraising at the full sales price. Glance sees that as a sign that appraisers are beginning to factor in energy-savings features in valuations. “We got a significant amount of value for the energy-efficient features in that home,” he said.
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.