While many builders are expanding their use of design centers, Centex Homes has elected to move in the opposite direction in its Dallas-Ft. Worth headquarter market. Packed with an array of options and staffed by 18 "designers," the extensive showroom, located in Lewisville, Texas, has been closed as Centex Homes realigns its business model to target value-oriented home buyers. To better support the company's strategic changes, option centers are now located in each neighborhood's sales office.

"It all transpired because of the change in our business model," says Phil Warnick, president of the DFW region. Moving away from the semi-custom buyer market in the DFW region, Centex now focuses its primary business on first-time buyers and first move-up buyers with its Fox & Jacobs brand and Centex Homes division. The change is serving customers in 43 neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area well. In the past, customers in the elaborate design center were faced with so many choices it often created confusion. "This change makes the process simple," says Warnick. "Many of our home buyers today are coming out of apartments and have never done this before. It still seems like a lot of choices to them, but they would have been totally overwhelmed in our old design center."

This customer-friendly approach has had other benefits as well. In some cases, home buyers were driving more than 45 minutes from a neighborhood just to reach the design center. Now, with centers on-site, people are making their choices faster. "It used to take us two to three months to get buyers to make their selections," says Warnick. "It really delayed the whole construction process." Now, they make their choices and turn them in with their sales contract. "It's really simplified and expedited the process."

Each neighborhood now uses a modular sales center instead of transforming a model home's garage. A section of the modular is dedicated to showcasing options and color choices to customers. "It's worked out really well for us," says Warnick. "We can create something that's really a lot better looking and it gives us the ability and the space to do this kind of thing."

For consistency, all Fox & Jacobs options are exactly the same for every neighborhood and the Centex options are pretty close to being the same. "It's consistent all across Dallas in all our selection centers," says Warnick. When a neighborhood closes, the modular is moved to another location. Since the options are identical, the sales center is established very quickly. The portables also eliminate the need to reconfigure the garage area in either neighborhood. This strategy creates less confusion for the home buyer and the sales staff. "Plus, we're buying fewer products and we're able to get better pricing, so it all contributes to better value," says Warnick. "It's really been a win-win deal -- the customers like it and we like it.