Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lifestylist Design Trends 2010 Published

Our 2010 design trends story is now online - check it out at Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management. This is also a great source of what is going on in the factory built industry.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Time For a Change


Change is a very scary word to most builders, especially when there is a cost associated with it. One of the objections I hear many times when looking at existing models and communities that aren't doing well is that because it's been slow they don't want to invest any more money into a community.

@home Builders is doing well in this economy because they understand marketing and their buyers. When sales slowed down to three in a year at The Preserve they realized it was time for a change. The Home Idea Factory did the first two models and as a Lifestylist I had done my homework on what these buyers were looking for. Entertaining at home, taking advantage of the four seasons living that took place around the beautiful pond, river, and forests in the community and families were definitely the focus.

The new model and sales center have been a huge success! Last month they sold 8 homes and now they are taking reservations in the next phase instead of having to offer incentives. If your sales have stalled, the right course of action might be to see if your model, plans, and lifestyle you are displaying are still on trend or if it might be time for a change. The Home Idea Factory can come in and help you with this evaluation to see what is the best approach at the right cost.

Time For a Change



Change is a very scary word to most builders, especially when there is a cost associated with it. One of the objections I hear many times when looking at existing models and communities that aren't doing well is that because it's been slow they don't want to invest any more money into a community.

@home Builders is doing well in this economy because they understand marketing and their buyers. When sales slowed down to three in a year at The Preserve they realized it was time for a change. The Home Idea Factory did the first two models and as a Lifestylist I had done my homework on what these buyers were looking for. Entertaining at home, taking advantage of the four seasons living that took place around the beautiful pond, river, and forests in the community and families were definitely the focus.

The new model and sales center have been a huge success! Last month they sold 8 homes and now they are taking reservations in the next phase instead of having to offer incentives. If your sales have stalled, the right course of action might be to see if your model, plans, and lifestyle you are displaying are still on trend or if it might be time for a change. The Home Idea Factory can come in and help you with this evaluation to see what is the best approach at the right cost.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where Am I?

Model dining chair  1276Model Brown Dining  1280One of the things I spend a lot of time doing even when I am on "vacation" is visiting new communities and model homes. It is always an invaluable education and a way to track trends in different regions.The Frisco / Little Elm corridor of Dallas has had an incredible growth spurt so I decided to spend a pretty Saturday out there seeing what's going on. I visited probably 25 model in 10 or so communities and after the first few I couldn't tell you which was where or who the builder was. I took 100's of photos and from doing this a lot I've learned to keep notes on what order I visit the homes in because sadly, after awhile they all start looking the same.
Here are some tips and observations to make your homes stand out or fade in with the rest.
1. Attitude
I'm going to put that first, because no matter what the model looks like, if the home has a great sales person who promotes the builder they will become the memory point. One of the worst homes had the best sales person, and she made the best impression out of all of the homes I visited. I'm not going to tell you which community because any smart builder would try to hire her off, but it was a Meritage Home :) This community was in a closeout situation and the model was hopelessly dated and over-merchandised, but she was fantastic and I would trust her to sell me a home or refer her to any of my friends. Her attitude is what stood out and made the experience memorable.
2. Color
There is such a fine line between when color can help or hinder a sale. Not only does the wrong color taint the buying experience, if your homes are merchandised with the same color pallette as others in the area they are merely going to blend in. Amazingly I walked at least 4 models withing 2 miles of each other and they all had the same color palette -browns, rust and red. Even worse is that they were built years apart so if the merchandiser had walked the competition before deciding on a color scheme they woudl have realized they had a great opportunity to make their homes stand out from the competition.
Model Skii  1275
3. Theming
It saddened me to walk homes in master planned communities that the new homeowner would be paying HOA fees to that didn't relate in any way to the amenities they had to offer. One community was absolutely amazing, but when I walked the models they were beach, surfing, and snowboarding themed. Keep in mind we are talking about land locked Dallas, Texas. What could they have gone with? The schools, golfing, swim club, school activities... there was a lot to chose from. Model homes are there to help the buyer see themselves having a better live in their new home - show them how great theirs can be in yours.
Model Over merchandised  12824. Over Merchandising
Some builders (and merchandisers) believe that if there isn't something on every wall, and if there's a sq. ft of countertop without something on it the house isn't merchandised. Wrong! Many times consumers are living in clutter in their existing home and they want to move to have more storage so they can get out from beneath the clutter. We are selling and merchandising houses - not furniture or decors. This is a common mistake a furniture store will make because they are there to sell their merchandise and services.
There's more, but I think this will give you a place to start to think about why you should use a Lifestylist® to merchandise your next model home.

Friday, November 6, 2009

HomeAid and Shared Housing build Sweet Houses

SSF Cookies  1271Gingerbread Launch  1270HomeAid Gaylord03HomeAid Dallas is teaming up with Shared Housing Center this year to host "Home Sweet Gingerbread Home" at NorthPark Center in Dallas. There will be two separate competitions on which is the traditional contest where chefs will create their elaborate gingerbread houses in their kitchens and then bring them to NorthPark to be judged. This part of the event will be held on December 1st and the homes will be offered at a silent auction until December 3rd when they will go home with the lucky winners.

The other competition will be "Builders and Bakers". Ten celebrity chefs will team up with builders, Realtors®, and others active in the home building industry to create their gingerbread homes live at NorthPark on December 3rd. Celebrity Chefs will include executive or pastry chefs from Samar by Stephen Pyles, Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan, and Todd Events.

Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber, Bob Cresswell - president of HomeAid/Homebuilders Care Dallas, and Sherry Turner of HomeAid/Homebuilders Care visited the Gaylord Texan to view in person the incredible display that Art Surman - Executive Pastry Chef of the Gaylord Texan created. Chef Surman will be participating in the traditional contest.

For more information on how you can get involved, please contact Sherry Turner at: Sherry.Turner@dallasbuilders.com

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Missed Opportunities

PalmHarbor SFTYesterday was one of my favorite days of the year - the opening of the State Fair of Texas! Millions of people go through the gates looking for entertainment and many are even looking for a new home.

Big Texas is always the focal point of the fairgrounds, and Palm Harbor Homes has been very fortunate to have a home displayed just behind the big guy himself. I can't imagine how much of an investment this is for Palm Harbor and I was anxious to see the home.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the home, oohing and ahhing and taking a ton of photos and not one salesperson (there were multiple) approached me or said a word to me. Or to anyone else walking the home for that matter except for talking to them about buying a chair.

What a missed opportunity! These sales people had more traffic in this time period than they probably see in a year, a beautiful home to sell and educate visitors with about manufactured housing and Palm Harbor, but instead they stood there looking like they hated being there. I felt really bad for Palm Harbor that their investment was obviously not being appreciated by their sales team.

When a consumer comes into a model home, it's for a reason - they are looking for decorating ideas, they are interested in buying a home, or they may be looking for someone else who wants to buy a home, but bottom line there is an interest that brings them in our front door. Consumers don't want to be sold anymore, they are looking to us for information and to be educated to help them feel secure about their buying decision. Until we open a discussion with these potential buyers, we won't be able to sell them a home. As a Lifestylist® I make make the homes as beautiful, meaningful and interactive as possible, but it's still up to the sales team to engage the buyer and sell them the home.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Buy a Manufactured Home?

Hobbs Spa Trop Overall AfterHobbs Kitchen AfterThe days of being able to tell if a home is manufactured or a site built are quickly coming to a close. Today's manufactured home can offer as many options as it's site built competition if not more. Technology and manufacturers have come a long way in what we can offer consumers today anywhere in the country.

I just got back from Hobbs, NM working with an amazing retailer - Young's Factory Built Homes. This isn't your "old school" retail center - even though they have been in business since 1958 nothing at this retail center is aged or dated. You can tell be the photos that the homes are well presented and would make anyone a proud homeowner. They asked me to come in and add some design trends to their interiors and I'm hoping to share what we accomplished in the next few months.

Making your house feel like a home doesn't have to cost a fortune - something as simple as adding color with colors in trendy colors and adding a few accessories can make all the difference. Pillows are another easy way to add warmth and softness to any interior - plus they are great to curl up with on a cold day!

If you have a chance stop by Young's and experience in person the trends we have shown. Tell them The Lifestylist® sent you!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Family Style


As I’m sitting here watching my grandchildren, nieces and nephews run around having a blast this week I’m realizing what’s missing from most of our model homes – life. Real Life isn’t perfect, and that’s what makes things interesting. It’s those special touches like a handwritten note from a 4 yr old or a handprint on the wall that make us remember how precious life is.

That’s why I love being a Lifestylist – it’s all about injecting those memories that make life exciting into living spaces that then become very personal.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Social Networking


Every day I'm realizing how important the new ways of communicating are becoming. Think about how much "snail" mail you get each day and how it's changed from letters and handwritten envelopes to junk mail and catalogs. My handwriting has become awful because I'm always on the computer! That's what being a Lifestylist® is all about - zeroing in on how people's lifestyles are changing and how that effects that way they live, work and play.

As part of these changes , Twitter, Facebook, and my blogs are the first thing I do (besides pour a huge cup of Tim Horton coffee) in the morning. Then I read all of the emails that came in overnight and check my favorite blogs and online publications to see what's new in the world.

To address these changes I have a new Facebook page that anyone can become a fan of and I would love to have you join us! Some of the great features of this page will be the discussions and my Inspiration photos - you can see what I'm seeing visually as trends and changes.

I'm really looking forward to a new way to interact with my peers and clients and friends- I hope that you'll become an active part of the network.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Referrals are Priceless

Nothing can hurt or help more than words and they are something that's truly priceless.

I was checking my LinkedIn page today and saw that a few people had given me recommendations including Sam Weidner Jr who was the VP of Patriot Homes and who had written the following:

"I have had the honor and the privilege to see a true artist at work. I hired Suzanne Felber to help Patriot Homes take a new, innovative, and aggressive role in helping redefine manufactured homes as people new them. Without question she tackled that task with enthusiasm, and a creative vigor unlike anyone had seen in our industry at the time. Suzanne has a brilliant mind for knowing design trends and how to present her designs in a way that attracts buyers from all walks of life. With her help Patriot was able to win over 9 housing design awards including an award for best marketing campaign awarded by the NAHB. If you want your products to look the best the hire the best, Suzanne Felber."
Service Category: Professional Lifestylist
Year first hired: 2002
Top Qualities: Great Results, Good Value, Creative

It's one thing when you think that you have given a job your all, but when you receive something like this out of the blue it makes you want to go out and work that much harder, and give that client a big hug!

I'm honored to have worked with Sam and his company, and I'm looking forward to working with him even more in the future!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Simply Summer



Summer is here! I was fortunate enough to start mine off with my kids and grandbabies in simply-summer-1258Florida last weekend and it reminded me of those wonderful innocent summers I enjoyed when I was growing up. Special days of running free at my grandparents farm sitting in the raspberry patch stuffing ourselves with delectible juicy fruits, spending time on the rocky shores of Lake Erie floating under the summer sun in an innertube with not a care in the world, and evenings of family dinners featuring fruits and vegetables that we had helped raise and pick on the farm.

Spending time with the kids reminded me how uncomplicated life can be sometimes if we let it and that the more simple our lives are the more sometimes we can enjoy those special times.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Being Supportive

I heard some disappointing news today - Michelle Kaufman Designs, one of the best green designers has closed their doors. If you have ever seen one of Michelle's designs you wouldn't forget it - they combine beauty, simplicity, form and function into a beautiful green package. This is a woman who saw the future and tried to draw the rest of us to it.

Doing the right thing isn't always the least expensive way to go, but it's still the right thing to do. If we don't support the people and companies that think outside of the box and are willing to give their all to what they believe in we will lose that talent and energy.

Building Green typically has more upfront costs but the savings realized long term can be incredible. Plus the difference we can make in the environment can't be measured in dollars and cents but how do you put a price on the quality of life for your children and grandchildren?

I am bound and determined to make a difference. I've got Michelle's website up on my other computer and just watching the slideshow is motivating me to think about ways that I can make the Home Idea Factory more green and I'm excited! A Whirlpool Sustainable kitchen  definitely in my future and my goal is to use as many local, green-friendly sources as possible.

The thing about Patriot Homes is that they were never afraid to push the envelope and the Weidners always supported what they believed was the right thing to do.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

HUD or Modular?

clayton-seguin-ext-1244clayton-seguin-kit-1243I was in Seguin, Texas recently and was introduced to the team at the Clayton retail center. This beautiful model home was in the front of their location, and what a beauty! Talk about understanding how to do things right - they are doing the details to show this truly is a home, and one that anyone would be proud to own.

What really caught my attention was that this home with high ceilings, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a dream kitchen was built to HUD specifications, not modular! I was intrigued to see what I have thought all along is true - a great home is a great home no matter how it is constructed. I hope that this home is shared with some of the financial entities and government people who don’t understand how superior factory built housing can be.

If you get a chance you should stop by and take a tour of this home - I promise it will change the way you perceive factory built housing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Green Evolution

So you say you want an evolution... well it looks like the Green Evolution is here, and here to stay. No matter what industry you are in, everyone seems to be getting on “The Green Train”. But what does this really mean to you, and the world you live in?

Defining Green is not an easy task, and the definition seems to be changing every day and mean different things to different people. It can be as simple as putting your trash in the appropriate container or as complex as an off-grid solar home. The important thing is that you do something and incorporate a green lifestyle into the way you live today and in the future.

I heard an excellent example this week at the Manufactured Housing Conference where we were blessed to have Mark LaLiberte as a speaker. He used the example of a green builder in Connecticut who was bragging about the great granite he was able to get inexpensively in China. Being that New Hampshire - the granite state - borders Connecticut Mark asked why he didn’t source the product there. Sometimes we have to look at issues besides price - think about all of the energy that was wasted getting the product from China as well as the jobs locally he might have saved - and those employees that might have become customers - and to me it puts a different spin on how we forgo value for price many times.

I see the greening of America as being an evolution instead of a revolution because it’s not going to happen overnight, but if everyone starts asking the question about what their choices are going to mean for ours and our families quality of life in the future hopefully we can start turning things around.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Great News!

038-dining-kitchenGreat things are starting to happen in the housing industry, and buyers are realizing that now may be the time to buy.The Dallas Morning News had a great article this morning about a survey that was conducted by Century 21, and results show that first time buyers are now out actively looking fortheir first home. Be sure to do your spring cleaning at your models and make sure they are ready, and your sales team is ready for these buyers!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Ultimate Fan

I have a favor to ask of all of you that really doesn't have anything to do with this blog but it does - my 10 year old nephew is learning an important lesson about marketing and the power of the internet.

Sam lives in Oklahoma City and is the ultimate sports fan - he is crazy about the OKC Thunders and goes dressed to show his support to almost every game. His parents have always been wise enough to let Sam find his own calling, so his enthusiasm (and his outfits) are all his idea. Because of this, Sam was nominated to be part of the Ultimate Fan Finale.

He is also a great well rounded child (and I am a proud aunt!),does very well in school and loves to cook with me - we entered the State Fair of Texas Cooking contests this year and Sam won two 2nd place ribbons!

If Sam wins this contest he gets to go to Boston and see his team play there as well as learn some valuable history lessons when he gets to tour the city.

Please help me encourage Sam to follow his dreams. The link for where to vote on the NBA site is here, and you can vote was many times as you would like. Most of the others that are up for this honor are adults so I'm even more proud of what he's accomplished. Please vote for Sam Davis and vote often!

The Ultimate Fan

I have a favor to ask of all of you that really doesn't have anything to do with this blog but it does - my 10 year old nephew is learning an important lesson about marketing and the power of the internet.

Sam lives in Oklahoma City and is the ultimate sports fan - he is crazy about the OKC Thunders and goes dressed to show his support to almost every game. His parents have always been wise enough to let Sam find his own calling, so his enthusiasm (and his outfits) are all his idea. Because of this, Sam was nominated to be part of the Ultimate Fan Finale.

He is also a great well rounded child (and I am a proud aunt!),does very well in school and loves to cook with me - we entered the State Fair of Texas Cooking contests this year and Sam won two 2nd place ribbons!

If Sam wins this contest he gets to go to Boston and see his team play there as well as learn some valuable history lessons when he gets to tour the city.

Please help me encourage Sam to follow his dreams. The link for where to vote on the NBA site is here, and you can vote was many times as you would like. Most of the others that are up for this honor are adults so I'm even more proud of what he's accomplished. Please vote for Sam Davis and vote often!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Partnership Marketing

preserve-zoo-269preserve-dining-265preserve-zoo-270I just got back from installing a new model home, model apartment and clubhouse in Upstate NY and thought I'd share how it turned out. This client is a wonderful innovative, market-driven builder and developer and is always looking for something in his communities to create a memory point and set his homes apart. These homes were a great example of how we work together.

Riedman Development is very involved in the community - especially the Seneca Park Zoo which is one of the best run small zoos in the country. To play up the zoo we created a child's room that focused on the zoo and animal conservation complete with graphics that played up the zoo's animals and logo. The kids bath was a "penguin palace" which featured one of the favorite exhibits at the zoo. We also geared the buyer profile so that the wife was a volunteer at  the zoo and we have marketing materials from the zoo in her home office. The builder plans on having some fundraisers for the zoo at the home. As is the case with most of us these days, budgets were a huge concern so this model was done "recycling" furniture and accessories from the builders previous models to keep costs down.

Timber Banks which was the community with the clubhouse and apartment model was designed to introduce visitors to the builder who was new to this market and let them know about the amazing features this community and location have to offer. The community sits on the Banks of the Seneca River and has it's own enclosed harbor. Within a 1 to 3 hour drive, you can experience the Adirondack Mountains, the Thousand Islands, and Finger Lakes wine country. Lakes Ontario, Onondaga and Oneida as well as the Erie Canal provide true sailing and boating opportunities on a grand scale. To play this up we focused in on the antique boats that you can see cruising down the river, and the Antique Boat Museum which is nearby. Furnishings and decor were geared to show the lifestyle and quality that people coming to the community would experience.

Making a project memorable and helping to stimulate sales is what we do best. Incorporating the lifestyle of the buyers is what being a Lifestylist is all about, and the Lifestylist Design difference.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Letter From a Happy Patriot Homeowner

Weathering the Storm

Needless to say, being x thousands of miles away from my home on the Texas coast while stationed here in Baghdad, I spent a sleepless night a couple of Fridays ago when Hurricane Ike was about to roll thru the Houston-Galveston area. My brother was able to make it out to my place on Saturday evening after the storm had rolled thru. Amazingly, not a SINGLE scratch on my 2006 Patriot home...not even a missing shingle! On top of that, all my animals/livestock were well & accounted for. I just wanted to thank you & Patriot Homes for building a good, solid product. After seeing all the photos depicting damage from the storm, it was almost unbelievable that my place survived unscathed. I guess "God takes care of Soldiers & fools." Thanks again...

Best Regards,
Lt. Col. Bill Gazis, USA