While there may be many challenges to working with builders, there are also major benefits. The key is to develop a process that is sustainable for your closet business and helps your company reap measurable dividends.
Angel Martin, Affordable Closets Plus, located in Bangor, Pennsylvania, says her goal is to partner with local home builders – preferably more than one. Although you can initially start out with one depending on how many homes they build a year, ideally the plan is to become a true resource and vendor for that builder’s design centers.
“My goal is always to be not just a one-shot deal,” she says. “I want to be their go-to person whenever they think of custom home organization solutions – and not just the closets, but for the laundry room and garage as well. That’s my goal.”
It is important to emphasize to the builder that your solutions go far beyond the closet, she adds. The builder may not realize your capacity so the sales pitch should encompass all of the services you provide.
Martin says she is finding, at least in her market, that many of the custom home builders are trying to expand their partnerships with suppliers in a way that can increase the diversity of the consumer in terms of not just getting high-end clientele, but also medium-priced clients who generally opt for just the basics.
“A lot of these home builders are trying to set themselves apart from other standard builders,” Martin notes.
Home builders want to work with customers beforehand and have many of the custom upgrades tied into their mortgage, making the home completely move-in ready.
“You have all the upgrades that you want, so it’s turnkey,” she says.
This approach by home builders provides valuable opportunities for closet design businesses, bringing in more customers overall and providing a path to a more sustainable partnership as opposed to sporadic business.
“Our goal is to be a part of a true partnership with home builders and that’s what I would encourage all closet companies to try to be in their market,” Martin explains.
“If you can become partners with at least one custom home builder and become a true resource for home organization for the go-to person at their design center, it’s key. They can then go and sell the solutions that we can offer to home buyers that drastically [differentiates the builder] from what other standard home builders are offering. It makes the homes much more attractive.”
Affordable Closets Plus has been working with a local custom home builder over the last year. They were referred to the builder by another local custom kitchen cabinet company – a medium-sized business with which they often work. The project consists of eight townhome units priced at over $2 million each. The building is in a city in New Jersey near a train station making it practical for commuters going into New York City.
“The homes are very beautifully designed,” Martin says. “However, each of the buyers that I met with, did complained about their first-floor storage saying it was lacking in terms of having a very small coat closet. Also, there was no mud room and the utility closet was very small. They were like ‘Oh, wow! I have this grand foyer, but I have nowhere to put coats.
Martin believes problems like that can be mitigated by building partnership with home builders early on. “If we're already their go-to resource, we can actually come in ahead of the game when it's in the beginning stages and when things can be altered on a floor plan,” she says.
To resolve some of those space challenges, Martin made suggestions to the home buyers. Due to lack of closet space, she told them that the entry coat closet could feature a basket for hats and gloves, and to split the space in half with a little bit of long hanging for long coats and then double hanging for 3/4 jackets. This way they almost are really doubling their hanging space in such a small area, she adds.
“For the utility closet, I did the same thing, Martin says. “It was this very narrow but very deep. I said let's do some deep storage shelves for front to back storage, but at the same time we had to allow space for an upright or a canister. A lot of times people want to just be able to store their vacuum on the first floor or a dust buster or things like that. So, I incorporated a utility rack into the space, adjustable shelves to allow for an upright or canister to be stored. A lot of people were like, ‘Oh my God! I wasn't even thinking where I'm going to store my utility things like this. I'm so glad you thought about it.’"
These touches were just a few of the things Martin included to help differentiate between what a standard builder would offer versus a custom builder in partnership with a custom closet design firm.
“That's how we set ourselves apart from other closet companies. We go very in-depth with our consultations. We go in and not only just sell you double hanging rods and some accessories, we really go into the customer’s true needs so that when these people invest in their closet or a pantry, they really feel like, ‘Wow! It was worth it. I see the value and it matches my needs perfectly.’”
That response is not only a benefit for the customer but a win-win for closet design firm and custom home builder.
For more information about Affordable Closets Plus, visit www.affordableclosetsplus.com.