Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Builders Hope to Lure Boomers and Seniors as Home Values Rebound
Seniors who have been itching to trade the old home place for some new digs may get the chance now that the housing market is recovering.
At least that's what builders hope.
They are ready to build a new generation of housing aimed at seniors and aging baby boomers -- not the huge retirement golf course developments of yesteryear, but smaller, age-restricted suburban subdivisions.
During the economic crash, many of these potential buyers put their plans on hold when their houses wouldn't sell or they lost equity.
But with housing values on the rebound, homebuilders are sharpening their marketing efforts aimed at buyers over 55.
"We think this is the housing segment that is going to lead us out of recession," Don Whyte, a Utah builder, said recently at the housing industry's annual meeting in Las Vegas.
"We are seeing the traffic from these buyers is up, and shoppers are coming around looking at houses again," he said.
The National Association of Home Builders is predicting an almost 25 percent increase in home starts this year for properties targeted at 55-plus buyers. And next year, construction for this market will jump almost a third.
"This is a growing share of the market, just in terms of the underlying demographics," said Paul Emrath, an economics researcher with the builders association.
Currently, about 42 percent of U.S. households are made up of 55-plus residents. By 2020, that number is forecast to grow to almost 47 percent.
John Sheleimer, a housing researcher from Northern California, said there are 79 million U.S. baby boomers and almost 80 percent already own a home.
"We are the wealthiest consumer segment in the housing market," Sheleimer said. "We have money to buy homes if we can sell our home at what we think it is worth, and that is also improving.
"We are starting to see the home equities come back," he said. "We are starting to see people feel they can sell their home and move equity to buy a new home."
Home starts for 55-plus buyers should total about 150,000 units this year, the builders predict.
The recession froze sales of homes to seniors in many areas of the country, builders and economists say, and there is pent-up demand.
"We have had a delay of several years where boomers and seniors didn't move," said Bob Karen, a Maryland builder. "In our sales offices, we now see an absolute change in this consumer's behavior.
"They are coming in with lots more optimism and not as depressed about selling the homes they have," Karen said.
Now that older buyers are thinking about moving again, builders are trying to figure out what type of housing they want.
New research shows that most still want to live in the 'burbs, with few opting for central city locations.
But they are less interested in the huge "retirement" communities that were developed in past decades.
"The days of the mega master-planned community with four clubhouses and 27 golf courses are dead," said Sheleimer.
Instead, the 55-plus buyers are looking at smaller age-restricted subdivisions close to traditional housing.
Most of those buyers also aren’t interested in drastically downscaled housing, Sheleimer said.
"Many 50-plus buyers do not want to downsize to 1,500-square-foot or 1,200-square-foot homes," he said. "We have lots of stuff."
While aging buyers may not want golf courses, that doesn't mean they aren't interested in community amenities.
Developers are building walking trails, fitness centers, swimming pools and clubhouses in most of the successful projects.
"The exterior amenities are just as important as the interior," said Andrew Wong of Pulte Homes, one of the country's largest builders of homes for 55-plus buyers.
Wong said Pulte's homes aimed at boomers and seniors are as large as 3,000 square feet.
"These buyers might still be working, or they could be retired," he said.
(Source: The Dallas Morning News, 01/31/13)
||Lexus Again Tops J.D. Power Dependability Study; Detroit 3 Narrow Reliability Gap
Lexus remains the most dependable vehicle brand after three years of ownership, but the Detroit 3 continue to close the gap with foreign rivals, J.D. Power and Associates says.
Lexus, Porsche, Lincoln, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz top Power's 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study. Each of those brands also placed among the top seven in the market research firm's 2012 survey of problems reported after three years of ownership.
Land Rover, Dodge, Mitsubishi, Jeep and Volkswagen finished at the bottom of the latest report.
Across the industry, owners of three-year-old 2010 cars and light trucks reported 126 problems per 100 vehicles, an all-time low and a 5 percent improvement from 132 problems per 100 on 2009 models a year ago.
"Manufacturers keep improving product quality," said David Sargent, Power's vice president of global automotive.
Domestic nameplates improved at a slightly higher rate than imports, and narrowed the dependability gap to 10 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed, Power said.
And for the first time since Power started tracking it in the 2009 study, all-new and redesigned vehicles had higher quality than carryover vehicles, Sargent said.
Launch vehicles, models that were significantly redesigned or new for 2010, averaged 116 problems per 100, while those carried over unchanged from the previous year scored 133.
"The rapid improvement in fundamental vehicle dependability each year is more than offsetting any initial glitches that all-new or redesigned models may have," Sargent said. "That juggernaut of improvement overcomes (traditional) launch problems.
"More importantly, it means that vehicles being launched today are very likely to be more dependable than three-year-old models are now."
Buick, Honda, Acura, Ram, Suzuki, Mazda and Chevrolet also finished above the industry average -- 126 problems per 100 models studied.
Power tallies problems reported in the past 12 months by the original owners of three-year-old vehicles. The 2013 study covers 2010 cars and light trucks representing 32 brands. To create whole-number separation among brands, Power reports problems per 100 vehicles, with lower scores indicating greater reliability.
Dependability scores have improved steadily across the industry in the 24 years that Power has conducted the study. The average problems per 100 vehicles was 216 in the 2007 study, showing an improvement of almost a full problem per vehicle in six years.
Ram improves most
Consumers are less tolerant about problems with their cars and light trucks. Dissatisfied owners are less loyal to that brand based on earlier Power studies, which cross-match survey responses with data on vehicle purchases and trade-ins.
Of owners who reported no vehicle problems, 54 percent bought or leased a vehicle from the same brand the next time. For those with three or more problems, brand loyalty fell to 41 percent.
In the new study, 22 brands improved dependability from last year and nine slipped.
Ram posted the biggest one-year improvement, scoring 52 points better to finish with 122 problems per 100, jumping from No. 29 in 2012 to vault into the top 10 tied for ninth this year.
"Chrysler improved the Ram pickup remarkably between the 2009 and 2010 model years," Sargent said. That era also marked the U.S.-led rescue of Chrysler through an alliance with Italy's Fiat S.p.A.
Suzuki, which is exiting the U.S. auto market, Mazda, Chrysler, Infiniti and Kia also showed major gains in the study.
Power said Mitsubishi, Scion, Cadillac and Hyundai reported the biggest increase in problems in the study.
In this year's Power study, Lexus and Porsche had less than one problem per vehicle (under 100 per 100) and Land Rover had more than two (220 per 100).
Lexus rose to No. 1 last year from the fourth spot in 2011. The brand ranked as the industry's most dependable marque for 14 years until 2009, when Buick and Jaguar tied for No. 1. Porsche and Lincoln had taken top honors since then.
But most brands are grouped tightly in the middle, with less than a third of a problem, 29 per 100 per car separating No. 3 (Lincoln and Toyota tied at 112) from No. 22 (Hyundai at 141).
The industry's continuous improvement in long-term reliability is good news for U.S. car buyers, Sargent said.
"Consumers have more assurance than they've ever had," he said. "If you want to either keep your own car more than three years or are in the market for a late-model used car, you're in good shape."
Power said the most dependable 2010 model was the Lexus RX -- with 57 problems per 100 models surveyed. It's the first time an SUV or crossover has topped the list of models studied for long-term reliability.
Problems per 100 2010 vehicles, average for all models:
• Lexus 71
• Porsche 94
• Lincoln 112
• Toyota 112
• Mercedes-Benz 115
• Buick 118
• Honda 119
• Acura 120
• Ram 122
• Suzuki 122
• Mazda 124
• Chevrolet 125
INDUSTRY AVERAGE 128
• Ford 127
• Cadillac 128
• Subaru 132
• BMW 133
• GMC 134
• Scion 135
• Nissan 137
• Infiniti 137
• Kia 140
• Hyundai 141
• Audi 147
• Volvo 149
• Mini 150
• Chrysler 153
• Jaguar 164
• Volkswagen 174
• Jeep 178
• Mitsubishi 178
• Dodge 190
• Land Rover 220
(Source: Automotive News, 02/13/13)
||Great Food and Service Drive Loyalty to Fast-Casual Restaurants
In a recent survey of restaurant customers in the United States, when it comes to identifying what drives loyalty for restaurants, the most commonly-cited factors in determining which fast-casual restaurant is visited most often are best-tasting food (51%), good service (46%), cleanliness (45%), and highest-quality food (43%).
The survey, conducted by by Consumer Edge Insight, included 17 of the largest fast-casual restaurant brands in the U.S.
The survey asked consumers to rate restaurant brands on different attributes. The fast-casual brands with the strongest perceptions for providing "great-tasting food" among past visitors were Pei Wei Asian Diner (51%), Culver's (49%), Panera Bread (47%), and Chipotle Mexican Grill (46%).
Pei Wei Asian Diner (44%), Panera Bread (43%), Culver's (42%), Firehouse Subs (39%), and Five Guys Burgers (38%) were the top scoring brands for having "good service." The top-scoring fast-casual brands for "high-quality food" were Pei Wei Asian Diner (45%), Panera Bread (43%), Chipotle Mexican Grill (38%), Firehouse Subs (37%), and Culver's (33%).
The survey also asked past-three-month-visitors to each brand how satisfied they were with their most recent visit and how likely they were to visit again. The brand whose recent customers are most likely to visit again is Chipotle Mexican Grill (73% said they will "definitely" visit again), followed by Panera Bread (70%), Culver's and Firehouse Subs (with 67% each), and Five Guys Burgers and Zaxby's (with 66% each).
"For restaurants in the fast-casual segment, the most important factors that drive loyalty to a brand are all related to providing great food and service," said David Decker, President, Consumer Edge Insight. "Pei Wei Asian Diner, Panera Bread and Culver's are among the top scoring brands in the segment on each of these attributes, but with many other brands close behind. Restaurants need to keep raising the bar on providing great food and service while also looking for other unique ways to differentiate themselves in this competitive segment."
(Source: RestaurantNews.com, 02/07/13)
Daily Sales Tip: Closing Too Quickly
It's always rewarding to close a sale and immediately have the new client sign the documents to secure the sale. No matter how many years in the business, this always feels good. We all have stories about new customers who have "fallen into our lap" and bought quickly. For some reason, we can't seem to forget the great rush that occurs from these new clients. I'm here to say that as good as the rush might be when we allow a sale to occur too quickly, we wind up leaving money on the table.
When beginning to talk with a new customer, the salesperson and the customer invariably have the intent of doing so with a specific product in mind. It may be any number of products you sell. The initial interest expressed by the customer always guides the discussion. Once the discussion turns to a specific product, the customer's focus becomes even more closed to any other products. The real danger comes when the customer agrees to buy. At that moment, the customer feels the process is over, and their mind moves to something else, usually something totally unrelated to your business or products.
To avoid a situation like this, the salesperson needs to ask the necessary exploratory questions early to determine the customer's other needs. By asking exploratory questions early, you are able to assess which additional products may interest the customer. If you wait to ask these types of questions until after the initial sale is complete, you will always be behind. This is the whole principle of not closing too quickly. You need and want enough time to explore and determine all of the customer's needs.
Source: Sales consultant Mark Hunter