Time For Introspection

Lately, almost every day, I receive an e-mail, see a news report or read an article about the slowing housing market and how it’s affecting the economy. You’re all painfully aware of the situation, I’m sure.

One of these news reports tells the story of the 35 percent increase in foreclosures in Maricopa County, Ariz., the largest county in the state, and the similar trend in other areas of the country. The second largest county in Arizona experienced an 11 percent increase.

However, a report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies states that continually increasing upper-end incomes insulate the luxury home market from the general housing downturn, and custom builders in Scottsdale, Ariz., tell me business is booming. Still, generally soft times like these are perfect for placing your business under the microscope and performing some fine tuning as needed.

Ask yourself: Are we headed in the right direction? Are we in the right market? Does our staff need training? Is everyone doing a good job? Are we doing everything to get rid of our inventory? Can we shift focus to efforts such as open houses or land acquisition? Can we trim fat off the budget? Are margins appropriate? Of course, if you haven’t addressed these issues during the healthy times, it might be too late to fix major problems now.

In a market slowdown, competition becomes fierce and the power shifts to the buyer. And some builders in your area might turn their attention to the healthy luxury market to go after your customers. It will be the builders and architects who give the home buyers what they want, and differentiate their homes from others on the market, who will prosper.

To help you determine what home buyers want, the American Institute of Architects has released results of its quarterly Home Design Trends Survey in September. It ranks the most popular home features, including the top five: energy efficient products, home offices, home theaters, exercise rooms and game rooms.

Survey results are compared to the previous year’s numbers, which in this case indicate a dramatically increased level of interest in energy efficient products. “Whether you add insulation, replace single-pane windows, install motorized dampers to close ductwork in unoccupied areas or employ a fully integrated digital energy controller, there are a host of options available to make homes more energy efficient,” said Lisa Stacholy, chair of AIA small projects practitioners committee. Check out the complete results at aia.org.

While riding out this general housing downturn, take a few minutes to make sure your business is in good condition, you’re delivering a product that will sell by giving buyers what they want, and making it stand out from the crowd.