Want to sell more houses? Try these unique extras
Increasingly, a common upgrade like a den or a third bedroom isn't enough to set a builder apart and sell a home. More homebuyers are looking to builders to create spaces that cater to their unique lifestyles.
A farm next door
A handful of homebuilders are plowing up suburban farmland—but they’re not replacing the green space with subdivisions. Instead, they’re creating small farms and huge community gardens as the centerpiece of new neighborhoods that are attracting healthy eaters and fresh food connoisseurs who want to grow their own produce, or at least live near its source.
Among the first of these “agrihoods,” reports The Santa Cruz Sentinel, is a community called Harvest, built near Dallas by billionaire H. Ross Perot Jr.’s company, Hillwood Development. The 2,130-home community is built around 2,000 square feet of green space, which includes a 300-acre farm that grows produce and raises chickens and goats.
Smaller, but similar, communities have opened near Chicago and Atlanta, where homebuyers whose lifestyles revolve around organic food, farmers’ markets, and the Food Network are settling in. A 547-home neighborhood near San Francisco features a 7.5-acre farm, staffed by a full-time farmer.
The farms are partly a marketing device for builders who need a unique amenity to attract buyers to their developments, and partly a response to demand from a growing number of homeowners who have developed a serious interest in food and health.
Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute told The Sentinel that retired baby boomers and parents who want easy access to organic food for their young families are the most enthusiastic new residents of these unique communities.
Kevin Carson, the northern California division president for the New Home Co., said the concept is “not just a gimmick that will go away when the sales office closes.”
In fact, big builders D.R. Horton and PulteGroup’s Del Webb division are enjoying brisk sales in their “agrihoods” in Texas and California.
A hockey rink out back
Like the only house on the block with a built-in swimming pool, the one with a hockey rink out back is the one that the neighborhood kids flock to after school.
So far, the backyard ice rinks in Northland County, MN, are mostly homemade by homeowners who have crafted shallow frames, filled them with water, and waited for freezing outdoor temperatures.
But remodelers, deck installers, and pool builders could get in on the practice as more outdoor enthusiasts become willing to pay to enjoy their favorite sport any time they want. Homebuilders might add the quirky amenity to the menu of upgrades for homes with large yards in cold-weather states.
One pool service in the county stocks a 20-by-40-foot “Rink in a Box” by Wisconsin-based NiceRink.
Homeowners told The Duluth News Tribune that building and maintaining their makeshift hockey rinks is pretty easy, as long as it doesn’t snow too much.
A house full of furniture
Homeowners who buy from Houston builder and remodeler Lewbonne can move in the day they close on a house—because each one is already furnished.
Since partners Trey Lewis and Calvin Darbonne launched their small company in 2009, the pair has equipped the homes they build with furniture and fixtures that complement each dwelling’s architecture.
“We're looking for that buyer that wants move-in ready. They're a busy individual," Darbonne, a designer, told The Houston Chronicle. He estimated that the furnishings in a recently listed $2.6 million home—which took two years to build—are worth $250,000.
The builders sell to busy doctors and others who work at a nearby medical center and don’t have time to shop for furniture or work closely with an architect or builder.
A room of her own
Relationship experts don’t recommend it, but up to 23% of married couples sleep in separate bedrooms, according to the National Sleep Association. And builders can capture that market by designing homes with two master suites.
Some already do. The National Association of Home Builders reports that nearly 60% of new luxury homes feature two “owner suites,” which might suit couples who sleep apart, but also can accommodate a live-in elderly parent or adult child.
Couples in the National Sleep Association’s survey cited a spouse’s heavy snoring or late-night TV watching as common reasons why they separate at night.