New Home Sales: A Creative Cure

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For several years now, the housing industry has struggled to boost interest in new homes.  Competition from foreclosures and distressed sales coupled with an oversupply of resale homes, has led to the fewest number of newly constructed homes on record.  In any other industry, developers would be seeking out new technologies and designs to stimulate interest, but not the stodgy housing industry.

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.

So goes the Malvina Reynolds 1962 song.  And here we are nearly 50 years later building the same boring tract houses.  What the building industry needs to do to revitalize itself is start designing interesting architecture for the average home buyer.  Technologically we are seeing some builders offering “Green” upgrades like solar panels and tankless hot water heaters, but what they really need to do is stop building Tuscan “wanna-bees” and look to Eichler, Cliff May, Frank Lloyd Wright  and Greene and Green for inspiration.  If you want to find buyers when there aren’t any, produce something that can’t be found elsewhere: see iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad for recent examples.

Imagine driving up to a new subdivision… maybe you’re a young couple looking to buy your first home, or an older couple looking to downsize or maybe you just want a new energy efficient home.  But instead of seeing a two car steel roll up garage door, red tiled roof-stucco box with stucco over Styrofoam covered trim, you instead see smoked glass garage doors, a low sloping roof line with a fenced entry courtyard concealing a wall of glass entry.  Maybe it’s a two story with an entry porch; a Stickley-looking oak front door and shingled redwood siding.

Builders will argue that land costs force utility over this type of style; that those products simply costs too much; that their margins are too tight and that the risk is too high to take a flier on some “funky” architectural design.  Don’t believe it.  Again, just look to Apple Inc.  People will pay for creative design.  Buyers will seek it out and find it.  Can’t be done?  Look at Ikea; who do you think is buying all that sleek Euro furniture?  It’s affordable, interesting and allows the owner to make a statement about who they are or who they want to be.  Have you ever noticed in the home section of any given newspaper, the type of home that is featured?  It’s never-ever little boxes made of ticky tacky, but rather it’s wood and glass, concrete and steel; it’s bold, inspiring and exciting.  If the building industry is going to help our economy recover, it cannot be business as usual.  Instead they need to look to design, look to form and look to function and in it, they’re union shall be their salvation.

 

 

 

 

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