Invest in a Parade of Homes

A Parade of Homes event is a terrific opportunity for the design/build industry to demonstrate its best work directly to the public. Show homes inherently require a lot of time as well as capital invested by the participating professionals, but the promotional opportunities are exhilarating, and may reap for your company untold new business through the years.

I am a big proponent of Parades. Show homes have been our main marketing focus since 1991, and we currently are finalizing designs for our 14th and 15th furnished show homes, scheduled for the fall of 2009 (previous show home pictured on the right). Parade of Homes may draw anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 visitors who can’t wait to see the beautifully staged homes in price ranges from perhaps $350,000 to $3 million.

Where else can you hit your target market more successfully and directly and have the opportunity to interact with prospects and demonstrate the actual product? Print advertising just doesn’t render these results!

The success of a Parade home lies in teamwork and expertise in the areas of architecture, construction, interior design, sales and marketing, and financing. If you do not feel confident and fully prepared, don’t do it. It will backfire.

As with any spec home, you’ll need a financial partner, whether it’s a bank or an individual. You will need to bring some equity to the table, perhaps in the form of the lot investment, professional services and more, depending on your financial history with the lender.

Good design is critical to the sale of any spec home, and it’s paramount when prospective clients are critiquing at every turn. Whether design is your strength or you hire out the job, make sure the floor plan is livable and friendly; then throw in some hot buttons to make your home memorable. Good architecture is perhaps the single most influential factor for a successful show, not only for the sale but for your company’s market positioning for years to come. Invest in a top-name architect if you are not a design/build company.

Interior design is a broad area and I use it to refer to the “owner” selections and finishes as well as to the furnishings. The right partnership here is crucial to a successful show home. If you offer integrated design/build services, then you’ll be working with a familiar team player and you will have more control over the final look. If you typically employ a third-party designer, check your ego at the door, allow the professional to make decisions, and be ready to compromise. The interior design of the home is the area that will most affect a positive first impression.

Sales and marketing is an integral part of your success for a Parade home. A sales manager who knows your product and services should be on-site daily to meet with prospects, allowing you to focus on the work week. If you don’t have an in-house marketing person, hire a third party to promote and manage the event. Establish a promotion area, perhaps furnishing a garage, and stage it to promote your company and offer its use to your suppliers as well.

Parade of Homes are not for the faint of heart. Just finding time in your typical 60- to 70-hour work week for creative design is tough, not to mention production of quality drawings. The construction schedule will be grueling, characterized by ridiculously short deadlines and long seven-day weeks. Make sure your organization and the rest of your clients can withstand the toll. It will be well worth your investment.