Sunday, December 12, 2010

Excitement Builds Around The Opening of The New American Home

I just saw an article in Nation's Building News today about The New American Home.  This publication is the official online newspaper of The National Association of Home Builders, and is available to you if you are a member of this amazing organization.
If you are not a member, please feel free to contact us - we'll get the information to you that you need in time to join us at the International Builders Show and tour the home!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Lifestylist® Article Published

Have you discovered mhmsm.com yet? It is an invaluable resource for the factory built home community, and this month we were honored to have an article published in it on LifeStyling your home. We give 5 great tips on how to take your models from ordinary to extraordinary using things you already have.
The Home Idea Factory not only does model homes using new merchandise, we also are experts in recycling your existing furniture and accessories to create a home that sells.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pixie Dust

I just returned from a magical week in Orlando. Someone said they scatter pixie dust at the airport when you arrive, and I'm starting to believe them. Not only was I able to take part in a home that will probably be one of the the high points of my Lifestylist® career, but I was also blessed to spend some very special time with my kids and grandkids and share my Lifestylist® approach with them. Being a Lifestylist incorporates life and style, and getting creative in the kitchen is definitely part of that.
As part of the staging for The New American Home, I purchased a large amount of beautiful granny smith apples to add color and lifestyle to the kitchen. After we were finished with the shoot, I thought why not recycle them and make a pie with the grandkids? Neither of them had tried making a pie before, and with Thanksgiving being only a week away I thought this could be a great time to make their first.
Jenna may only be 8 yrs old, but she loves to cook and is really good at it. She has taken part in the Jr Chef Camp at the Gaylord Texan that Chef Joanne teaches, and was excited about trying out her culinary skills making a pie. Many adults would be daunted by this task, but Jenna dug right in. After teaching her some basic knife skills and precautions, she peeled and cored all of the apples herself. Brother Christian decided to help us make the crust, and we made a huge mess (sorry Trish!) but I'm sure it was a day that they will always remember.
I am so grateful to have the loving, supportive family I have, and the amazing clients that believe in me and what I do. Here's to the start of a holiday season filled with hope, happiness and lots of pixie dust!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Recycling Model Homes

Welcome to my world. With budgets getting tighter every day, builders are looking for ways to cut costs but still increase sales. One way to do this is by renovating and recycling model home furniture and accessories they already have.
This makes a lot of sense, but when employees or decorators are used for this task that don't understand merchandising, there's a good chance you won't get the desired results.
Youngs Homes in Hobbs, NM asked me to come down and help them with their model home center a few years ago and had the right results - sales and traffic increased without it costing them a fortune.  Since then they have brought in some new models, and realized it was time to look at re-modeling what they had. Employees had helped where they could to decorate the new models, but they just weren't getting the desired results. The Home Idea Factory was given the task of creating some Lifestylist Designed models using only the furniture that they already owned to keep costs down, but we did add some "personality packages" of artwork and accessories to add the lifestyle that was missing and keeping buyers from becoming emotionally involved with the homes.
I'm going to share a few examples of what we accomplished in the next few weeks, but this will give you an idea of the results.
This beautiful Champion Home has everything a buyer could wish for - 9 ft. ceilings, transom windows, a fireplace, and a dream kitchen with  stainless appliances and vent hood, and an island. From the inside and out, people would never guess this is a factory built home. As a matter of fact, it offers more options and upgrades than most site built homes do! The family room had a rock fireplace, and they even showed a front bedroom as a study. The house had furniture in it, but needed some lifestyle added to it.
By raiding the warehouse (notice the gold parsons chairs in the warehouse photo) we were able to pull the colors together more and add warmth to the home. Artwork and accessories highlighted the buyer profile for the area - ranchers - and furniture was re-arranged to emphasize how livable the floorplan is.
This is one of the higher priced homes that Young's sells, so we wanted it to feel that way. Buyers are now comfortable enough in the home to sit down and enjoy the home, and interest in the home has increased dramatically.
If you would like to discover how a Lifestylist Re-Designed model can help your sales, contact us at: answers@lifestylist.com

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Louisville Manufactured Housing Show is Back!

It's a show that always ignites the industry and the Midwest region with new designs, new ideas and new initiatives …the Louisville Manufactured Housing Show is coming back in 2011 and promises to be even better than before. The 2011 Louisville Show will bring back a positive energy to the Midwest region and will show why manufactured housing is the "best way to sell and the best way to build."
Enduring the economy has been the ultimate challenge, especially for everyone in housing. Now, a new year ushers in the return of a show that reluctantly took a year off as manufacturers weathered times like most of us have never seen in the industry. Now, the show kicks off the New Year Jan. 12-14 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC), the best show facility in the nation. The show is back and we welcome all of the retailers, builders/developers, community owners/operators and exhibitors back to Louisville. The Louisville Show was a significant part of the Midwest region for over 50 years. We are excited about bringing back this important event!
Show hours:
Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 – 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011 – 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 14 , 2011 – 9 a.m. until noon.
Note: Registration opens each morning at 8 a.m.
Off to an Amazing Start
As we head into Fall, there is already positive and exciting news to report as we approach "Sold Out" as the status for the manufacturers/exhibitors who plan to join us at the Louisville Show. We'll be ready to name this select list soon and we hope your business is included in that list. As of October 1, just a few manufacturer spaces remain. In addition there will be 85 service and supplier exhibit spaces for the host of businesses that bring so much to the manufactured housing industry. Manufacturers and suppliers across the region are making the move to bring back our industry momentum, and the show is one of the greatest ways to fast-forward these efforts. Don't wait – put your company at the forefront of the new year's industry success!
The Exceptional Experience of Louisville
Start with the Kentucky Exposition Center, a show venue that is considered the best facility of its kind in the nation, where you're assured of a show that offers ample exhibit space and amenities. Couple the great venue with the Louisville Show's headquarters hotel, The Crowne Plaza, located directly across the street from the exhibit hall, and you have an unbeatable combination of convenience, easy access and key amenities all around you. Hotel rates will be affordable, and reservations can be made very soon. A new registration company will be able to offer web-link registration for this year's show, helping make both pre-registration and on-site registration easier than ever before.
The airport is within three minutes of the show site, and there is ample and controlled parking at KEC. As everyone knows, Louisville offers a multitude of fine restaurants and other entertainment venues, including the popular '4th Street Live' area. Discover why Louisville makes the best place for our show. When you exhibit at Louisville, you will give buyers the luxury of an actual walk-through of your home, service or product in a unique hands-on environment. You will be able to relate to your customer base; understanding their wants and needs, as well as answer on-the-spot questions or concerns. With this premier venue as your backdrop, it is time to outshine your competitor and close the big deal. This is a great opportunity for your business to get a grasp on where the future of the industry is headed.
Sign Up for Industry Seminar
The 2011 show will feature an industry seminar with George Allen of GFA Management Inc the 2009 MHI Man of the Year. George has put together a seminar program that will appeal to the industry. Seminar points of interest will include:
How to Price Point a New Manufactured Home  for Private Property and/or Landlease Community Placement. Given an  individual's Annual Gross Income, and/or a local housing market's Average  Median Income, how to calculate maximum "affordable" & "risky" sale prices  for new homes, to be sited on realty owned fee simple, or leased. This topic  is timely for HUD Code home manufacturer "reps", Business Development Managers  ("BDM") and LLCommunity owners/operators selling homes on-site.
Community Series Homes. Their genesis,  definition and description; who manufactures them for in-LLCommunity siting  (with specific reference to appropriate manufacturers and models present at  the Louisville MHShow); and, how to properly meld them into any local living  environment.
Property Owner, or Self-finance, of New  Homes Sold On-site in LLCommunities, with emphasis on the differences  between "captive finance" and "buy her – pay here" methodologies, as well as  other possible alternatives. Moderated by Ken and Donna Rishel of Rishel Consulting Group and Precision Capital Funding the 2010 winners of the MHI Service Supplier of the Year Award.
Three 45-minute seminars provide an opportunity to learn how to start the two processes, evaluate and improve present practices and where to go for assistance and resources. These special seminars will be held at KEC in conjunction with the show.
Industry Comments: We have received these comments from interested industry representatives
Fantastic news on the show – we learned so  much and met so many new vendors – products I had no idea even existed. Great  news – and congratulations on keeping our business alive and well. There is  certainly massive demand right now for affordable housing.
I think the return of the Louisville Show is  GREAT news. It comes at a time when the industry is starting to make a  comeback and could go a long way toward boosting sales in the Midwest. I hope  all of the regions' manufacturers give the show the support it deserves.  Without these shows, the road back would be longer and more difficult.
I agree, I've missed the show. It was the best  event and it's early enough in the year so you could sell the homes ordered,  re-order, and sell again.
I'm so excited to hear about the Louisville  Show in 2011! This was always one of the most important shows of the year for  our industry and we will need to support its return to show consumers and the  media that manufactured housing is here to stay! It sounds to me like this  could be a great start to the image campaign that we've all been talking  about!
If you have any questions regarding this year's Louisville show, please call Dennis J. Hill, Show Coordinator, at 770-587-3350.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Champion Homes Gets Social

I just found out today  Champion Homes has a Facebook page that they are getting ready to add a lot of information and photos to. When I went to check it out, I found photos of the Lifestylist® Designed home we merchandised for them at the Tulsa show and heard that there will be more photos to come of the Texas Show. If you haven't "liked " this page yet be sure to do so - that way you'll be one of the first to see all of the exciting new changes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Using Area Rugs to Warm Up a Room

Today is an absolutely perfect day The weather has cooled off to where I'm thinking about changing my home decor to suit the cooler temperatures. - it sounds like a lot of work, but a few changes can make all of the difference in how you enjoy your home. One of my favorite ways to warm things up is with area rugs.
One of my designers with Shaw Living just sent me a copy of their 2010 introductions and they are stunning! Whether you are looking for a bold, urban look or a more classic pattern they have something for you and the colors are right on trend.They also have rugs in their Ever-Touch yarns which feel amazing underfoot or make a great place to lay down and watch the football games.
With hard flooring surfaces becoming more popular every day, and area rug is a great way to add color and warmth. This is a model home for American Custom Builders that was Lifestylist® Designed, and you can see what a difference it made adding this Shaw area rug. It was a long, narrow space and the rug helped add color and define the space. In The Home Idea Factory I have summer rugs that are lighter and in more coastal textures, and in the fall I bring out my area rugs that are in deep, rich colors. Add a few new pillow covers and a throw on the sofa and I'm ready to go!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Champion Homes of Texas Debuts new Model

Our latest Lifestylist Designed Home debuted at the Great Southwest Home Show a few weeks ago and the response has been tremendous. The home was for Champion Homes of Texas, and it was a chance to show what the new Champion Homes is all about, and if you haven't take a look you need to  - great homes with great value and style.
Take a look at the article we wrote for MHMSM about the show to learn more about where the factory built housing market is heading.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Lifestylist Reviews Tunica Housing Show

What a busy Spring already! Houses to design, design centers to merchandise, and lots of great marketing ideas to talk about.
Last week I headed to Tunica, MS to attend the South Central Manufactured Housing Show which is held every year at Harrah's Tunica. Considering the economy, the turnout was fantastic and it was fun to catch up with people I hadn't seen in awhile. Let me tell you, the homes on display were not your grandma's trailer - these homes compete in design and quality with any comparable site built home.
If you were not able to attend the show, MH Marketing Sales Management has my review in their virtual magazine and there is also a link to tell you where you can view the over 500 photos we took of these very exciting homes.
Please take a look and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Best Buy Case Study: How to Lose Customers and Referrals for Life

Just when you think you've heard and seen the worst customer experiences that you could possibly imagine, a company and it's representatives prove you wrong. I have written before about my disappointment with how I was treated at Best Buy, but that was nothing compared to what they put me through today.
I have just returned from a full week of travels where I met with great clients, got to work on fantastic projects and attended the Tunica Manufactured Housing Show. Today I spent the morning working with Champion Homes of Texas and one of their retailers. Champion understands what customer service is all about, and that's why I love working with them. They understand if the client is successful we will all succeed, and we are all in this journey together. I got to help put together a new model home that is going to be incredible, and also got great feedback as well. Be sure to stop by at Trinity Homes in Abilene and see our beautiful new home!
While I was in Tunica I had heard from Best Buy corporate. They apologized for all of the confusion and promised to call the store where I purchased my projector and have them resolve the issue. I was feeling good about things and thought Ryan handled the issue and my concerns well.
Then I made the mistake of ruining a perfectly good day by going up to the store to change out projectors. I thought it was only going to take a few minutes so I was going to call in my dinner order before I went in - fortunately the person that was with me wasn't as optimistic and she was right. We went to wait in the return line - there were two people in front of us. After standing there for about 5 minutes I asked the other people in line if anyone had been working there and they told me the woman who was working there walked away when they got into the line. I walked to the front of the store and asked if anyone could help us and he told me that three people were working in that area and I needed to just "go back in line and wait my turn".We gave up and ended up sitting on the floor - Tunisha who had left before I guess finally got the hint. Guess what - they had nothing in the system about my issues, and the manager said that no one from corporate had called about my issues and they couldn't do anything. I had Ryan's phone number with me and they called - not there. Then they informed me that what was on my receipt wasn't what I was bringing back, and the projector I brought back only sold for $349.00 and my receipt was for $649.00 so it couldn't possibly be what they sold me.
But wait! It gets even better. James the manager (who said that no one up there had talked to Ryan) calls corporate and puts me on the phone with Katie who was in Ryan's department. She informs me that it's impossible for what I bought to have been rung up wrong, I didn't buy the projector there and pretty much called me a liar. So now I have a 7 month old product that doesn't work that I paid for an extended warranty for that they won't honor. I wasn't sure what made me angrier - finding out I paid $876.00 for something that they said should have cost $349.00 or being called a liar.
So I come home, look up the suggested retail on what I have and it's actually $699.00 not $349.00. So sucker for punishment I am I call the Best Buy store. When I press 3 for sales help, no one answered the 2 times I tried so I called back on the Geek Squad line and got James. I told him the pricing he had for my machine was incorrect that it matched what was on my receipt, and he said that couldn't be right because their system showed it at $349.00. Trust me, there is pretty much no such thing as a $349.00 home theater projector, especially made by Epson. So the system that is never wrong was wrong, but Best Buy refused to even entertain this notion.

The moral of this story? The person with me found something she really wanted and was in line to buy it, and I told her that she would be walking home if she spent a dime there. I purchase a lot of electronics for my clients homes plus our Lifestylist® Designed recommends products for the home. You know that I will be very clear where anyone who asks should not make their purchases.
Then we have the other end of the spectrum where companies like Champion treat their clients how they like to be treated and respected. I had a million things to do today, but when Champion asked me to come and meet with their client I did because I appreciate their business and I want them to succeed. I will always be referring Champion Homes of Texas, Youngs Manufactured Homes in Hobbs, NM and Trinity Homes because I know that whomever I refer to them will be treated with respect, and they will get a great value for their money.

I would love to hear your customer stories - good and bad - and I'll share the best ones here. And if anyone would like a great deal on a projector that doesn't work, give me a call :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Social Are You?

It's hard to believe some days how quickly the world is changing. Am I just getting older or is technology changing the way we live and do business? Social media is changing the way we get our information and how our customers shop. If you don't have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Blogger and Buzz you are missing out. If you think I'm writing in a strange foreign language when I talk about these it's time to do some Google searches and find out what the buzz is all about!
Some of the greatest reasons to join in the conversation with these groups are that:
1. They are free!
2. Information is shared immediately - no lag time for what you want to share to be published.
3. These are great places to listen as well as share your thoughts.
How do you get started? Join us at MHI Congress April 13 - 15 when Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber  will be sharing her experiences and resources with this marketing tool. We have also stared a Facebook group for PreFab Housing to help share between our community as well as get consumers excited about what we do. Please join us and help change the image of our community!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Suite Retreat

There are advantages to working with all forms of housing - I get to see the best of all worlds. There are things that site-built homes do well, there is the efficiency of factory built and modular gives you the best of all types of construction. With all of the changes going on in our industry I'm always looking for a company to refer people to, and today I had the chance to find out what Champion Homes of Texas is up to.
The first thing that impressed me is that when you call their office a real person picks up the phone. I hate the "for xyx dial 123" answering systems -by the time I get through to someone I forgot why I called! They seem very in tune to customer service and these little touches can make all the difference.I went out to their Burleson Texas plant to see what was new, and I can't give away all of the details but there are very exciting times ahead for Champion. They have great people in place that are going to take the company to the head of the class. Their customers love them, they understand and listen to their buyers and they have done some very innovative concepts, including the "Suite Retreat". Everyone talks about doing a luxurious spa bath, but Champion is delivering it. With a fireplace, glass surround shower, and plantation shutters being included, this is a room that has the "wow" feature that customers are looking for. I got to merchandise a few homes with this retreat for Young's Factory Built Homes and they are even more beautiful in person.
If you are looking for a new approach to modular housing, check out what Champion has to offer - you won't be disappointed - tell them the Lifestylist sent you!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Building a Community

As an industry we have done a remarkable job of designing a product that consumers need, but what I am seeing is most consumers don't know we offer that product. The stereotypes of "trailers", "mobile homes" and "sales lots" drive away many people who could really benefit from what we do. This includes everything from the most affordable housing to amazing estates we all would love to live in. There has always been a lot of talk about doing an image campaign (and the cost) but maybe this is an idea who's time has come by taking a different approach.
I've never been very good at doing what everyone else does - that's why I became a Lifestylist instead of a traditional designer or merchandiser. Consumers want more than just a decorated house - they want a home that reflects their lifestyle. This takes a little more time and research but it shouldn't cost anymore - it might even cost less. I also really believe in spreading the word about the great things my clients are doing as well as talking about trends and ideas that can help everyone. I don't charge my clients for this -  I consider it a service and part of my cost of doing business. I also go to trade shows, events and do work in the site built industry so I can bring back more than "what we've always done" as an industry.
This week I got invited to a meeting of the Social Media Club of Dallas. In a few hours I met some amazing new people who I was able to share the message of factory built housing to and they shared with me the importance of social media. Social media by definition is the various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications. These include Twitter, Facebook,YouTube, FourSquare and blogs. For $20 (which included dinner) I learned what to expect from these groups and how to make them work for myself and my clients. They shared case studies that had mind boggling results.
What really made an impression is how easy and cost effective it could be if the members of our community came together and started using social media to promote our industry. There would be minimal or no cost and think about what could happen if every person who benefits from being in our industry got on Facebook or Twitter and started telling the world what a great product we provide. Is this the ultimate answer to change our image? With technology changing as quickly as it does it might be the solution we have been looking for. At least we would be doing something and getting our community connected.
Tony Kovach has done an amazing job in a short period of time sharing the message and bringing the community together with his Manufactured Home Marketing Sales Management site. It is always full of great information and he is always updating what is there and keeping the message current. And I think his idea of having a Virtual Louisville Show is right on trend. I attended most of our traditional shows for the past 8 years and the last two have been painful as far as attendance and sales. We designed some beautiful homes but it was like having a party and no one came. What a great opportunity for the factory built industry with a virtual show to take back our place in the market as an innovative, cost effective and green way to build. I know I'll be attending this virtual show and will also be tweeting and blogging about it.
Let's get this party started and get connected. You can find me at:
Twitter: @homeideafactory
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/LifestylistDesign/104907317529?ref=search&sid=1370651794.2078388608..1 (or search LifestylistDesign)
Blog: www.aboutmodularhousing.com
See you at the show!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Falling in Love

Using color is one of the least expensive, most terrifying but also most rewarding ways to change a room. When I'm designing a new model home most builders will encourage me to use memorable colors, but when they first paint the room and see it without any accessories or furniture I often get a call wondering if they have the right information.
These rooms are a perfect example. You can imagine the call the builder got from the superintendent the first time they saw these! This is a model for Canoa Homes in Tucson, and they trusted me enough to wait and see what happened. This is also a great example of designing for your buyer, not yourself - we were targeting families with school age children. A Lifestylist targets in on what the buyer is really looking for, even when they may not realize it themselves.Once we had a few families go through the home we found that almost every female from 2 - 50 wanted that room with those paint colors. It was something the buyer might not have been brave enough to try on their own, but when they saw it completed they loved it.
This is also a great example of Partnership Merchandising. The Home Idea Factory had a great relationship with Home Interiors and Gifts - a direct sell company that we had done styling and product development with. Many of the accessories and "wallies" - the decals on the bath wall - we theirs and we identified them as such so buyers could reproduce what they saw in the room at a price they could afford. The bedding was from Bombay and the furniture from Ashley so all could be bought at local stores or from a Home Interiors and Gifts consultant.
Let your child have a say in what they want their room to look like. It might not be a color you would chose or a style you would like but by letting them be a part of the decorating decision they'll take ownership of their decisions and be even more proud of what they accomplished.
Happy Valentines Day from all of us at The Home Idea Factory!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Memorable Model Homes

Noted designer and retailer Alexander Julian made the following observation:
“We have to be creative about getting people into our homes and stores now. In deciding if what you offer turns them on, consumers look you over for an average of 15 seconds. In that time, you need to rock ‘em and sock‘em and give them something that moves them. And you can’t do that with anything but product that is visually stimulating and exciting.”
With the contraction of the economy, everyone is on a budget and there is a lot more thought and time spent on how they are going to spend every hard earned dollar. Consumers visiting an average of 30 model homes before they even begin to think about making a decision. What makes your models memorable and brings them back to your sales center/ community? One of the favorite models Lifestylist Design worked on was the Purple Cow model and campaign with Patriot Homes. Tying into Seth Godin’s Purple Cow book by building and merchandising something remarkable, we created a home and marketing campaign people still talk about, as well as winning a marketing award at the Nationals.
Making a model memorable doesn't have to be extreme or expensive - it just needs to be well thought out. Highlighting a local non-profit can bring interest into your home. Doing a room that displays materials from the local Boy Scout troop, a gymnastics team or the aquatic center that is part of the planned community you are building in can give the buyer a memory point to make them remember your model above the rest.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lifestylist Articles Published on MH Marketing Sales Management

This year has started off as a busy editorial one -we had our Design Trends article published, then our answers to the Design Trends 2010 survey, and now we will have a new article published as of Wednesday on merchandising your model homes! There's lots of information that can help the smallest to the largest builder, retailer, and developer - be sure to check it out. Lifestylist Suzanne Felber loves sharing all of the things she see when she travels across the country so be sure to check in often and see what's new.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Adapt, Evolve, or Become Extinct

Today was a big day for us trend trackers - Apple officially announced the iPad which has the potential to yet again change the way we live and do business. I'm already lusting after it, because I see it as the future as in how I can run my business when I am out of town as well as a way I can hopefully cut out some of my handwritten notes that even I can't understand my own handwriting. Will it change the world as we know it? I've learned to never underestimate what Apple and Steve Jobs can bring to the table so you never know - maybe it will. And I will be the first to express my unconditional love for my "geniuses" at my favorite Apple store (Dallas - NorthPark - they are the best!) - they have made it possible for me to do things I never thought could be possible without another 5 or 10 employees and a lot of consultants.
I just got back from the International Builders Show and it was more evident than ever that we need to be open to how quickly our buyers needs and expectations are changing or we will quickly become extinct. Apple is a great success story of how a company refuses to sit on it's successes - every day they are pushing the envelope and coming up with new ways to make our lives much more interesting while listening to the customer and making the experience "all about them".