Buy by night.
That's a suggestion for new home buyers from the Sales & Marketing Council of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.
The flip side of the council's plan, of course, is: Sell by night.
Taking an old leaf from the retailing world, builders are being urged by their organization's marketing leaders and consultants to keep their sales and information offices open longer--to cultivate a relaxed, "after-dinner" crowd of shoppers/buyers.
About 250 informational packets have been mailed to builders urging them to take part in a "twilight sales" program every Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m. through the end of daylight savings time in October.
Although night selling has been tried before on sporadic and special occasions in various parts of the nation, this campaign appears to be the first intensive effort to keep the new-home fires--lights, gas-log fireplaces--aglow longer, accompanied by soft background music. Without any prompting, crickets add their natural touch.
This all started after Sandra Kulli, vice president of marketing for Griffin Homes, Calabasas, was motivated during a marketing seminar last November to extend business hours of her firm's various housing projects. A speaker, Roger Holloway, president of Impact Images, a Santa Ana-based designer of sales and information centers, had suggested the longer-hour sales program.
Shopping for that new home in the late afternoon and early evening hours--as you contemplate the biggest purchase of your life--makes a lot more sense than being one of scores of "tire-kickers" and those who are "just looking" on Saturdays and Sundays. Traditionally, weekends attract the most shoppers.
During evening hours, you can get what Kulli describes as "quality attention" from a sales representative. On weekends, that person is usually attending to several potential buyers at one time, and often no one is satisfied.
On weekends, a builder is also competing for time against customary family activities.
In an evening setting, the buyer and the sales representative can communicate one-on-one. In typical cases, two incomes are needed today to buy a new home--that's the case with 65% of her buyers, Kulli said--and the night-time sales plan provides a couple a far better and unhurried period of time to shop and discuss financing.
Holloway believes evenings of this kind are made for "quality traffic," attracting persons who are really on the verge of making that big purchase.
A skeptical and cautious attitude among many builders has limited this "twilight sales" program to one night only--a sort of "Thursday Night Live." Their concern is additional costs generated by staffing and bigger utility bills.
But Kulli and Holloway contend that visitors coming to a sales office at 7 p.m. have a serious interest in buying. It would be as good a bet as someone coming by in the rain.
Kulli didn't waste any time after that seminar last fall.
She convinced her firm to experiment with night sales and a six-month trial run was launched. It ends this week but its success has assured its continuation. It has been in effect at the firm's two Simi Valley projects, Autumn Wood and Sun Place, and at its two Pomona tracts, Vista Mancayo and Country Park Villas, from 2 to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.
"The house models look better at night, with all the lights on, the fireplace going and with a little coffee and wine for the customers. No one's under pressure although some of our sales people don't like working nights," Kulli said.
She also promoted night-time sales with special functions such as an interior-decorating seminar conducted by Pat Yeiser and a drawing for a night on the town and dinner.
The sales results? Twenty homes sold, but she hesitated to attribute all of that to the evening hours. Supportive advertising was a major factor, she conceded.
Among immediate supporters of the plan are the Baldwin Co., Irvine; Lewis Homes, Upland; Woodhaven Development Inc., Riverside; and Inco Homes, Upland, according to Tim Galvin, past president of the council, working with Don Marr of Transamerica Title Insurance Co. to launch the program.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, Harry L. Summers became the first builder to stay open late on week nights, using "After Work, Come to Our House" as a campaign slogan.
Spokeswoman Jan Percival says all the Summers homes are now open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. As many as 50% of prospective home shoppers visit the models after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Can you picture this?
Alexis and Jeremy hurry home from work, make a quick change to more casual clothes and head for the Shady Acres housing-tract office to make the big choice.
How much will the soft lights and muted music influence them? And will they end the evening by going out to dinner to celebrate their dream house?