Designing for Women: See It From Her Perspective

Meet four personality types and what homes they are often drawn to.

March 1, 2010

Is your buyer a Margo, an Elise, a Claire, or a Maggie? By knowing which of these personas your female buyers most closely align with, you may be able to narrow that huge inventory of homes for sale and help her find the place that’s perfect for her.

Margo wants to "wow" others with her unique home, Elise tends to prefer the traditional, Claire is so detailed that she might bring a black light to spotlight the imperfections, and Maggie—well, keeping her focused long enough on the home will be your biggest challenge.

These four personas come from a growing body of research from Design Basics LLC, an Omaha, Neb.–based company that designs and sells plans for single-family homes. The company uses the information to create marketable house plans—and to train builders and real estate salespeople on how to forge stronger customer relationships with women.

The overarching goal is to "anticipate what female buyers would want and what they would really appreciate in a home," says Paul Foresman, director of business development for Design Basics and one of the lead researchers.

Why so much focus on what women want? 

Single women alone comprise 20 percent of buyers—up from 14 percent in 1995, according to the 2008 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. And when a woman is shopping for a home with her family or significant other, it’s still often she who has the biggest influence over the final decision, Foresman says. He cites research from Smith-Dahmer Associates LLC that shows women directly purchase or have a stronger say over men in the purchase of 91 percent of all new homes.

Since 2003 when Foresman and former Design Basics president Linda Reimer started gathering data on women’s home preferences, the research has take on a life of its own. The company has conducted surveys, focus groups, and live interviews in model homes, creating personality profiles to gain greater insight into women’s purchasing decisions. Design Basics teamed with a cognitive psychologist to validate the findings.

The research even spurred a new company division, Women-Centric Matters, which teaches businesses how to transform their attitudes and practices based on the female perspective.

Drawing from its data, the company developed four personas that encompass the most predominant characteristics it identified in women home buyers. He notes, however, that these personas may overlap in real life. 

For example, you may have a buyer who falls into an Elise-Claire persona—her status-driven Claire side likes the pricey, custom-built home, but when it’s at a reduced price to boot, her alter ego (practical Elise) just won’t be able to resist it. Free-spirited Maggies and love-for-the-unique Margos tend to go hand-in-hand as well, he says.

Although your women buyers may not always be so easy to classify, these personas may serve as a helpful tool to guide your marketing and customer service.


"My home is unique."

Her ideal home: Modern design and clean lines draw her eye. She likes geometric shapes and unusual features (such as a J-shaped peninsula kitchen island as opposed to a traditional rectangular island), and she prefers edgy, European-influenced trends. A work area, library, or inspiration room is also desirable since she’s work-oriented.

Challenge: It may be difficult to relate to her unique style. She wants her home to express herself, and she does not like to be oversold—if she likes what she sees, she’ll know it.

Tips for working with her: Embrace that she’s nontraditional. When she mentions ideas about home design, never ask: "Why do you want to do that?" Instead, say, "Wow, I never thought of that." Because Margo is an individualist, she wants a home that’s different—not something that everyone else has. She doesn’t care for idle chatter, and she’s willing to pay more for great design. You don’t need to micromanage Margo. She’s decisive.


"My home is my haven."

Her ideal home: Function trumps aesthetics for this traditional, family-oriented buyer. She wants a home that’s easy to clean, low maintenance, and durable. She looks at a home from the family’s perspective, and wants plenty of storage, a large laundry room, and a floor plan that comfortably fits her family lifestyle. She’s more likely to go with a traditional design, such as a country kitchen.

Challenges: Elise tends to be risk-averse. Because of that, she will be the most difficult buyer to close on a sale because she’s afraid of making the wrong decision. Before moving forward, she’ll likely want to talk it over with her peers, coworkers, and extended family.

Tips for working with her: Be patient and provide her with extra information, such as helpful links to Web sites and articles about the neighborhood or home—anything to help validate her decisions. She wants reliability and high performance in her home, so stress those characteristics and affirm her decisions every step of the way.


"My home makes a statement."

Her ideal home: This status-driven buyer is drawn to brand names and quality products, such as nice fabrics and crown molding. Claire appreciates symmetry in design and wants polished, sophisticated spaces for formal entertaining. She’s also drawn to arched openings, columns, and a gourmet kitchen.

Challenges: She wants to be in control of everything. She’s quality-driven and very detail-oriented, so she may be viewed as a high-maintenance client. Don’t be surprised if Claire’s calling you every day with new questions. You also might find her second-guessing what you say and always seeking more information.

Tips for working with her: Be able to communicate and describe what quality is. For example, if an element of a home is antique, be knowledgeable of the details and be able to provide literature on it, if needed. Claire tends to buy more expensive things, so she isn’t necessarily drawn to bargain prices. Instead, she wants to be assured about the quality of the materials so that she can justify the value. She admires preparedness in listing presentations and appreciates extra details that you can provide.


"My home is carefree."

Her ideal home: This adventurous and spontaneous buyer is the least connected to a home’s appearance. She’s drawn to comfort and function and tends to want less square footage because it means less upkeep. She also tends to prefer "green" design and low-maintenance products since she’s always on the go. Maggie is casual when it comes to a home’s design and desires flexible spaces that she can tailor to accommodate her hobbies.

Challenges: You have to keep Maggie focused. She can change her mind easily. She often views homebuying as an overwhelming process, so she may be cautious because of the enormity of the decision.

Tips for working with her: Keep it simple. Assure her that you’re there for her every step of the way. Get her excited and emotionally involved in the process, and make it stress-free. Don’t overwhelm her with too many choices. Narrow her search to the top three homes you think fit; that will help keep her focused.


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