By Allison King
What if the steps to buying a home could be simplified and streamlined while offering more than expected — all wrapped up in an exceptional experience? This was the question that launched the concept for Fresh Paint, a production line of homes with a designer soul.
In an increasingly complicated world, buyers are gravitating toward an easier approach to the home buying and home building process. With websites and apps such as Houzz and Pinterest setting expectations that few builders can meet at an affordable price point, Fresh Paint was designed to create an entire brand that sets a new bar for how much could be included in a home built on a production platform.
Instead of taking an existing portfolio of plans and stripping them down to the bare minimum features, the creators of Fresh Paint by Garman Homes in Durham, North Carolina, asked their trade partners and vendors to deal with them on a much higher level of purchasing prowess. They were asked to start from a place of sacrifice, trusting that their generosity would be rewarded in consistency, volume, and transparency.
If the process was consistent enough and the quantities sufficient, Fresh Paint could offer higher-end features for a value price. Buyers would receive professionally designed, curated, whole home interior and exterior packages with attributes and benefits often found in custom homes.
Removing the guesswork
Each interior package is curated with a particular aesthetic in mind, such as classically chic, a revival of the farmhouse lifestyle, or refining a rustic view. A few of the outstanding features Fresh Paint offers are package-specific light fixtures, recessed can lights throughout the first floor, 5-inch engineered hardwoods on the majority of the first floor, and decorative legs and valance on the kitchen island.
Surprising no one, paint plays a large role in the success of Fresh Paint, from the cabinets utilizing custom Sherwin-William paint colors to the accent walls in predetermined locations, per home plan. The Fresh Paint home is intended to be a showpiece for its owner, while also inspiring further creativity. The packages are repeatable for ease of use and each buyer has the opportunity to add their own personal touch, layered over already great design.
Fresh Paint is very much a buyer-centric brand; everything is intended to create the best experience for all end users. Each option is pre-priced or packaged for the entire home, meaning there are no surprises. Buyers leave the contract signing knowing exactly how much their new home will cost, which helps immensely with planning, budgeting, and the loan process. There are no design studio visits to create anxiety over what the end product will look like or how much the price could creep up, or disappointment from being shown upgrades and options they want but can’t afford.
Even with careful planning to provide exceptional design features, it’s not unusual for buyers to make appeals to break up a package or revise the pre-designed floorplan. However, to maintain the streamlined process and be able keep the promises made to the trade partners who allow for the incredible value Fresh Paint offers, the packages need to remain consistent.
To address this, the Garman Home team developed a way to say ‘no’ when buyers request custom changes — without ruining the relationship. Once the sales associate explains that following these rules is what allows their home to include the elevated features, buyers become raving fans and invest in the process wholeheartedly.
Getting real estate agents on board
For Fresh Paint to be successful, the real estate community needed to embrace the concept as well. In that spirit, the Test Kitchen was born. In Briar Chapel, a Newland community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, six home sites were designated for inventory homes for Fresh Paint.
Several successful real estate agents from that market were identified and asked to go through the process as if they were the buyer. Two agents at a time selected everything from the floor plan, elevation, and options to the interior and exterior packages. They were then pitted against each other in friendly competition to see who could bring a buyer first for the home they had designed.
It allowed for honest feedback from an important community and ensured the homes would sell quickly. Every agent who participated loved the concept and remarked how easy it was to create a home they knew would be beautiful at a price point that exceeded expectations for that master-planned community.
Refining the process
Launching the Fresh Paint brand was not without growing pains and a giant learning curve. Initial curated packages had to be retired, either because they weren’t received with enthusiasm or because they included trends that were no longer Pinterest-worthy.
While Fresh Paint is an easier experience for the buyer, it can be a diva for the builder. If products within the package are discontinued, they need to be adjusted while homes are in progress. New products come out that inspire the Fresh Paint design team to conceive new packages. Fresh Paint is constantly evolving around the design aspect of the brand, but the rules and structure must remain stable.
While the first home plans for Fresh Paint were small by design and ranged from 1,500 to 1,800 square feet, as the success of the brand grew in the market, more opportunities for new segments were offered in additional communities. Developers of master-planned communities craved a way to offer an entry-level price point with a high design aesthetic that wouldn’t undermine their amenity builders by running the same old, lowest-price-per-square-foot play.
This meant larger home designs were needed and another iteration of the concept became necessary. It seemed fair to offer more options as the price point of the homes increased. Lifestyle Layers were established to layer the existing packages with highly desired features, such as the Foodie, which enhances the kitchen for the aspiring gourmet. While the value, packages, and concept remained consistent anywhere Fresh Paint was offered, the ability to create more pre-designed options for larger homes attributed to its success as it expanded to new communities.
One of the surprising things to emerge from the Fresh Paint experiment was who would be attracted to this concept. The Fresh Paint team originally thought millennials might be the segment of the population most likely to embrace Fresh Paint. But as the concept grew, so did the buyer profile. It seems a refreshing, efficient approach to home buying and a different path to obtain high design are universally desired notions.