Model Home Survey Pinpoints Kitchen 'Landmines' to Avoid

ADRIAN, MI — An ongoing study into how prospective home buyers react to various kitchen features in model homes has uncovered several specific “landmines” – features that are most disliked, and that should be avoided by kitchen space planners.

Results of the research study, which was conducted by Merillat Industries, were released to the trade and consumer press at the recent International Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando, FL.

The aim of the continuing study is to understand the role of the kitchen in the new-home shopping process; to assess the characteristics of the model home kitchen that are of the greatest interest to home buyers; and to provide builders with insights about how to more effectively design model homes.

Merillat Industries conducted the first phase of the study, entitled Model Behavior, early in 2005, employing retail methodology techniques for the first time to a model home shopping environment.

The study found that a new-home shopper is likely to have a high perception of the home and the builder if the kitchen “wows” the shopper with features such as upgraded cabinetry, high-end appliances, upgraded countertops and ceramic and hardwood floors, according to the Adrian, MI-based cabinet manufacturer.

The study’s second phase, Model Behavior II, was aimed at observing and measuring new-home shoppers in comparative model home kitchens. Shoppers spent time in both a “Super Model” kitchen and a conventional model kitchen. The homes in the study were of similar square footage, price and shopper demographics.

However, Super Model kitchens included “subtle merchandising techniques to encourage shopper interaction,” according to Merillat Industries.

Shoppers spent 62% more time and interacted more with the features in a Super Model Kitchen, according to Merillat. Shoppers who visited a Super Model kitchen had a higher perception of the builder and were more likely to buy a home from that builder, the cabinet supplier added. Among the kitchen “landmines” builders (and remodelers) should avoid are the following:

  • Half walls separating the kitchen and family room.
  • Sinks that don’t face the family room or a window.
  • Laminate end panels on cabinetry.
  • Dark, poorly-lit rooms and task areas.
  • Tight spaces between appliances and work areas.

Among the survey’s other findings are:

  • The cabinetry in the kitchen was the most-shopped part of the kitchen, followed by the countertops and pantries (see Graph 1).
  • Consumers investigate cabinetry primarily by looking, although a significant number of people touch and open the cabinetry, as well.
  • The areas of the kitchen around the appliances were identified as “hot zones,” meaning they were the most heavily shopped (see Graphic 2). “If you want to get credit for upgrades, put them here,” Merillat advised home builders.
  • Corner storage areas and areas around the microwave were the most frequently shopped.
  • “The wall cabinets near appliances represent an opportunity to showcase features and differentiate yourself,” Merillat observed.

    Merillat Industries commissioned Murphy Marketing Research/TRENDTOWN for the Model Behavior II study, which involved both observational and one-on-one interviews of 200 model home shoppers in four markets – Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland. The study participants, all between the ages of 30 and 59, were current homeowners in the market to buy a new home within the next 12 months.