Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mary Umberger
House & Homes: On Real Estate

Home-design center moves in with Rolling Meadows Real Estate Brokerage
February 8, 2009

A builder once told me that decades ago, when he got into the housing business, he would walk a prospective buyer out to his car, pop the trunk and whip out little samples of the two or three types of carpet or tile that they could choose for their dream house. Then, of course, came model homes that were decked out to the nines, planting the word "upgrade" firmly into the home-buying lexicon. Next up was the fancy, free-standing "design center" that builders created to simulate an upscale "shopping" experience for their buyers—not to mention supplement their own bottom line.Here's the latest, perhaps surprising spin on the concept: A design center in a real estate office.

Re/Max at Home, a
Rolling Meadows brokerage, is now sharing space with the 6,000-square-foot GMD Home Design Center, an arm of home-products retailer Granite and Marble Depot. Here, one could conceivably sign a contract to buy a house and pick out new window treatments, light fixtures, cabinets—even its roofing. There's a three-pronged rationale behind the collaboration, according to the brokerage.The design staff could advise potential home buyers on how much it would cost for specific improvements on a property they were considering buying.Home sellers could use the design center as a resource for fix-ups to be made on their homes before putting them on the market. Given the increasing likelihood that frustrated sellers might give up and think about remodeling, instead, the design center would be there to advise.Given Home Depot's recent announcement that it would shutter all its Expo outlets, this wouldn't seem to be the best of times for design centers. Nonetheless, the idea does put house-minded people under the same roof with all the stuff that house-minded people love to look at.Besides, maybe the pairing of the two businesses isn't entirely surprising. Basel Tarabein, who owns the real estate brokerage, also is part-owner of the design center.