By Kimberly Miller
The Palm Beach Post.
The new home sales center, once a supermarket of paint colors and cabinet designs, now sells something more, something less tangible than granite countertops.
Condensed in tricked-out double-wide trailers with free coffee and scones, the American ethos of opportunity, and tennis, oozes from carefully designed showcases worthy of an Epcot exhibit and so secret that developers are often loath to share the details.
Sunrise, Fla.-based builder GL Homes politely declined to discuss, or demonstrate, its super-charged, proprietary technology that allows buyers to manipulate visions of their potential home on a touch-screen model of the community, even though the public can freely wander its sales centers.
A Colorado designer said she was barred for years by a developer from taking pictures of sales centers she set up for fear the competition would copycat. The builder relented recently, defeated by shared images on the Internet.
From the wattage of the lights to the scents in the air, sales centers for new homes have evolved, orchestrating a feeling of not just what your new home will be, but who you will be when you buy it.
“The building side of the home industry wants to make buying a home a journey where you are creating the dream,” said Lita Dirks, CEO of the Denver-based design and consultancy firm Lita Dirks & Co. “It’s an atmosphere where the buyer can make it happen, in the spot they want it to happen and at the moment they want it to happen.”
Developers have jumped back in the home-building business in the past two years, buying up land and gussying up sales centers that were quiet during the recession.
In January, GL Homes debuted its sales center at Valencia Cove, a new 55-plus community west of Boynton Beach, Fla. Toll Brothers is working on a revamp of its Jupiter (Fla.) Country Club sales center, which opened at the peak of the market in 2006 but has seen most of its activity in the past two years.