The Interior Spec: Then and Now

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Aug. 9, 2009

Tell me more.

Those of us who make, market and sell real estate developments in this new economy are acutely aware that the consumer has changed, dramatically. The old investor/flipper buyer is largely absent, and instead we are seeing a new consumer, one that will, more often than not, actually live in the home you are trying to sell. These new consumers are not solely interested in equity gains; they want to truly understand what they are buying. What marketing messages work for this new buyer? What specifically do we need to talk about to capture their interest and motivate them to purchase?

In all product categories, not just real estate, consumers are seeking trustworthy information, and plenty of it. They want facts, figures, news, data – and then they want to be left alone to make a decision. As marketers, we’ve coined the phrase “Marketing Journalism” to describe this new kind of storytelling; it’s a sharp move away from the lifestyle advertising of recent years, and a move towards transparency and truth.

As an example, let’s think about the way we talk about an interior spec on a condominium in an urban setting. Until recently, we’d describe the spec by saying things like “granite countertops” and “stainless steel appliance package.” More upscale offerings might boast “built-in coffee maker” or “spa-like bathroom.” When we think about it in retrospect, those are pretty vague terms and descriptions to offer in return for a commitment to buy something worth hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.

A Marketing Journalism approach dictates that, instead of saying “granite countertops,” we would say something like “composite stone countertops were selected for several reasons; they are scratch resistant, they do not stain easily, they are environmentally sound, and they make sense from an interior design perspective as they provide a neutral backdrop for your kitchen equipment and personal items, while providing a 5 year guarantee against chipping and cracks.” That “stainless steel appliance package” would instead read something like “stainless steel appliances by XYZ were chosen after extensive research and review of competitive products. For smaller one-bedroom homes we’ve selected European-sized appliances, as it allows extra square footage to be allocated to the living room area. For larger two-bedroom homes, we have selected regular size appliances. These appliances received a favourable review from the Energy Council of Canada, and ranked second in terms of quality and durability in an independent test performed by the Consumer Research Council. Copies of those reports are available at”

Of course I am inventing all the information in the above paragraph to make the point that the new owner/occupier wants a much greater depth of information than anything we as an industry have ever provided before. And not just about interior specs, but about the region, the neighbourhood, the architecture, the interiors, the construction, the floor plans, the amenities, and so on. As you can imagine, this volume of information means we need to rethink our message delivery systems. The way we conceptualize, write and design for brochures, print ads, social media, web sites, sales training…all must be modified to provide easy access to information in a logical way.

It’s not an easy task. It means discarding everything we thought we knew about real estate development marketing. But if done right, with a passion and belief in your product that drives the stories and information you collect, craft and share, the rewards will be tangible. Prospects will trust you. They will thank you by converting into customers. And you will sell new homes, even in these crazy uncertain times.


David Allison, Author and Partner at Braun/Allison Inc.

David Allison is a partner at Braun/Allison Inc.; a Vancouver-based company that provides creative services for residential and resort real estate developers. His book, Sell The Truth, is available for free here. You can connect to him on LinkedIn , follow him on Twitter @BAdavid and read his blog, One Brand Clapping here.

David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

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David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more

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