The easiest proposition in consumer product marketing—with homes and cars in particular—is to sell something the market already understands. Just give it an attractive price and stylish detailing and you will likely succeed. “Give them what they want!” 10,000 Maniacs aptly sang in the 1980s hit “Candy Everybody Wants.” But according to Mike Kemmerer, vice president of operations for multistate homebuilder Meritage Homes, customers can expect to get more than they knew they needed.
The Scottsdale, Arizona-based company exceeds building codes in most of the nine states where it operates, providing energy efficiencies that save homeowners a lot of money for years after purchase. There are green features built into these homes—several unseen, literally behind walls—that might not be on homebuyers’ “must have” lists.
These features reduce energy and water bills and improve indoor air quality while still providing all the comforts of a traditional home. Over time, those buyers’ experiences score high in customer satisfaction surveys—scores that win awards for the company.
“We believe it creates a value proposition that sets our product apart from the competition,” Kemmerer says. His statement is backed by the fact that Meritage has delivered more than 145,000 homes since 1985. “The metric is in customers’ satisfaction in the cost savings and increased comfort.”
The firm’s tagline, after all, is “Explore Life. Built. Better.”
A 2019 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that energy performance is a top interest for customers. “The most attractive green features for homebuyers are those that help them save money on energy costs as well as those that improve the air quality inside their homes,” says Rose Quint, the head of NAHB research.
The features that enable Meritage Homes to meet and exceed homebuyers’ expectations include multispeed HVAC systems; air filters that reduce bacteria, pet dander, and some viral particles (MERC 13 filters included); sealed insulated ducts that further boost HVAC system effectiveness; spray foam insulation, which reduces the loss of conditioned air better than standard insulation; Low-E windows that also deflect up to 70 percent of the sun’s heat; Energy Star certified appliances; high performance toilets and other flow-smart showerheads, and other water saving systems.
Meritage builds across a broad swath of sunbelt states in the US, where attitudes and expectations tend to vary. This includes California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The homes are similarly designed and built in all locations, with one exception: Those in California conform to the state’s 2019 Title 24, which mandates solar installations on all newly built homes.
While there is a range of sizes, from 1800-square-foot townhouses to five-bedroom single family homes measuring closer to 4,000 square feet, the smaller homes start under $270,000.
“We sell in a marketplace where these types of features aren’t the norm, particularly in entry-level homes,” Kemmerer explains. “Which is arguably where they are needed most. So we train our sales teams extensively to be trusted advisors and ensure that the homebuyers are well educated on the value added features.”
While Kemmerer says that most buyers are aware of Energy Star appliances and dual-pane windows, “we need to make sure we do a good job sharing all the other energy-efficient features we include so when they shop the competition, they know what makes a Meritage Home better.”
Of course, much of the credit for developing greener homes at an affordable price point goes to the architects, engineers, and builders the company works with. Kemmerer knows very well how homes are built, as he started in the business himself as a union carpenter. After a short stint in commercial building, he knew that home building was his preference. “Building residential homes has given me a purpose,” he says. “Building a home for a family to live and grow is a wonderful feeling for me and very satisfying.”
That love for building homes is shared by the entire team of people who build Meritage communities. The team has amassed a slew of national and regional awards from the US Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR Leadership in Housing, the NAHB, Green Home Builder, the US Department of Energy (Housing Innovation Award), and others. In 2019 and 2020, it achieved the Avid Award, Diamond level, which is based on the customer satisfaction move-in survey taken 35 days after close of escrow.
Meritage indeed gives customers what they want—whether or not they know what those desires are.