Thursday, July 12, 2007

The prada bag of the housing market

This is just too bizarre; KB Martha Stewart homes. Of all the decisions you need to make when purchasing a home, does the fact that it was 'designed' in part by a woman on TV living somewhere on the east coast fall under a high priority?

"I love all her things," says Menyon Green, a 42-year-old nurse who recently bought a Martha Stewart-KB Home in the Atlanta suburb of Fairburn, Ga. "I just knew this was going to be a good subdivision."

What? How do you know it's going to be a good subdivision? I'll admit it, I own a Martha Stewart frying pan. It was on sale and it looked nice. But a house? Whether or not you have a door knocker with Martha Stewart's face molded in bronze on your house doesn't change the fact that it's a KB home - not exactly a builder known for its high quality.

"Right now it's a unique type of offering," says Rita Rodriguez, chief executive of Enterprise IG in the U.S., a brand and design agency. "You can invite someone to your home and say, 'This is a Martha Stewart home.' But if it's replicated and stamped across too many odd markets, the uniqueness can be gone. That cachet and aspiration isn't there, and you just become like everybody else."

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but has it occurred to these builders that instead of signing up celebrities in cross-marketing schemes, they should just offer more than 6-7 floorplans? All the new subdivisions going up are full of houses that look exactly the same, with the exception of some trim there or a colored brick here. They also all use the same "style", brick faces with hardiplank siding. The garage is always on the front, the walkway leading along the side right to the front door, and to the side of it a flat or bay window. Some have brick all around, but none of the two story has all brick (the upper half sides/back are ALWAYS hardiplank) until you start getting into the custom or $750k+ homes.

open kitchens and dining rooms suited for entertaining, plentiful windows to capture natural light and an exterior trim available on some homes that supposedly matches the color of Paul Newman's eyes.


Some buyers say they are attracted to the Martha homes because they suggest quality, functionality and class. Others say they expect the homes will have a better resale value than other homes.

Sorry, but the quality of your home is going to depend on the builder, not the designer. This partnership looks like McDonald's selling knockoff prada bags in happy meals. Resale value? How is tying the "designer" aspect of your home to a woman who probably won't be remember 30 years from now help your resale value? Remember, this is supposedly a home that should last 100 years. Do you think anyone then is going to care that it was designed by some celebrity? Martha Stewart never even saw your home, or set foot inside of it. She brainstormed floorplan ideas and color schemes with some team that pulled up 64 plans and started mass producing them.


"It's our version of the iPhone. It illustrates the power of something different with a brand tied to it,"

We're turning whole houses into fads now. Unfortunately, fad and trendy designs tend to hurt resale value in the long run, not help it. Remember all those $100k commercial/industrial stainless steel 800 sq ft kitchens that were all the rage? They're darn hard to sell now. That's what following a fad gets you.

So what ever happened to personal creativity and adding your own personality to your home?

"If I could afford to do it, I would do the whole thing Martha Stewart style," she says. "Matter of fact, I would like her to come to my house and show me how to do it."

So sad.


Jim said...

I don't mind houses that match as I live in a suburb of town homes. Why would I want my house to look the same as everything else? It makes the neighborhood clean, consistent, and everything appears to be in order and organized. The grass all matches, the trees are consistent, the landscaping is even with the one across the street. I have seen some neighborhoods of nice houses and there's always one property where the house is falling apart and the grass hasn't been mowed in such a long time a car might be hiding in it.

I could care less that the house has a brand to it because of a designer. One way or another every home decor comes from some designer's ideas and was sold in a store. Regarding the fad stuff though, a kitchen is always useful no matter what it is worth. People take out HELOCs to redo a kitchen or bathroom thinking they'll pay if off when they sell the house. I would not at all remodel something unless I fully intend to enjoy it myself first, or it’s not worth the time. Personal style went out the window when most people are more concerned with what other people will think about the decor.

MH said...

Have you ever been to one of Martha's KB Homes? We recently relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, and just for the hell of it, when we were looking at homes, we drove over to take a look at Martha's homes in Cary. They were HIDDEOUS. And I LIKE her style a lot! I am a designer and art director, so I know all about photo shoots and making things look nicer than they are, but even I couldn't figure out where the homes in the pictures were. The whole area was a disasterous mess.

First of all, we have been told by a very reputable source, that KB makes the cheapest, most poorly built homes.

Second of all, these homes were out in the middle of NOWHERE! First you drove down this isolated road, with overgrown trees, weeds and rusted out mobile homes with old trucks on cinder blocks on the sides fo the road. You passed over rail road tracks (nice and noisy), past a gravel quarry, and directly under the FLIGHT PATH for the Raleigh-Durham AIRPORT is a big fancy sign for this horrible subdivision. And, to be honest, I was a little nervous about the surrounding "neighbors". There looked to be about 30 homes built on acres and acres of mowed down trees and MUD. It was just mud and taped off "lots" for as far as you could see. If you do plan on buying a house there, you'd better not mind living with construction all around you for the next 10 years. It was a MESS. The houses were just about touching one another, which is ridiculous when some of the homes are 3,000-4,000 sq. ft. I'm a designer. I get paid to make things "look good". It's a lot of work, but a no brainer for me. However, I know most people don't have this particular skill, and yet shows such as Martha and HGTV have made people "aesthetically aware" and wanting their homes to look like this. They just can't do it themselves. I understand and suppose that's the attraction. They were also A LOT cheaper than the alternatives. The well built but older homes in the beautiful established neighborhoods of, say, north Raleigh need some "updating". That;s a lot of work, and I guess people just want to move in and not have that headache. They are well "designed", and I can't say the same for the guy who put the ridiculously unfunctional closets in my house!, but, I'm sorry, that Martha subdivision was SCARY!

Beyond the Consumer said...

We had also read about the poor quality of KB homes and neighborhoods. They were SO bad that we actually pulled out of a brand new home we were "building", KB, in a new subdivision. Instead we bought a 15 year old house for the same price in a newish established neighborhood.

We ended up with a bigger house, a huge back yard, better (in my opinion) floor plan and construction, and 'higher end' features like brick all around, high ceilings, etc. I don't know what these developers are thinking sometimes. Just a quick buck?

We went by the house after it was finished and it just reinforced our decision.

mh said...

Yes, we too ended up in a house that's about 20 years old in a beautiful established neighborhood, on 1/2 an acre of land and with a brick exterior. Overall, the floorplan isn't bad, there are just small things that builders 20 years ago didn't think through. The laundry closet for instance...I like that it's upstairs, but it's in the hall behind "bi-fold" doors that won't close with the newer sized washing machines, so I had to remove the doors and now need to find another "solution" here. I was also hoping for an entire laundry "room" so my ironing board needn't be a permanent fixture in the spare bedroom. The bathrooms are also very, very small and awkwardly "designed", but it's nothing that a little remodleing won't fix. These houses tend to look enormous from the outside, and have much square footage, but are broken up into a lot of smaller rooms. And the bathrooms need new tile, and as I mentioned in previous post - "updating". It's going to be some work, but in the end, I have copper pipes and overall, this house has excellent "bones". The rest is just cosmetic.