Since opening its doors for business in 1979, BEAM Easy Living Center in Grass Valley, Calif., has built a solid reputation for being the premiere supplier of central vacuum systems to custom homebuilders throughout Northern California region.
As BEAM’s largest west coast dealer, the company prides itself in a 75 percent close rate of a rather unsexy system to a very acceptable custom builder market while finding traction difficult among entry-level homebuilders.
Central Vacuums a Signature Product
The BEAM Easy Living Center’s line of central vac solutions continue to be the company’s signature product, even trumping A/V systems and security systems, which the company also sells to builders interested in offering their buyers technology bundles.
“Central vacuums were our flagship offering from day 1, and continue to be our most popular amenity among custom homebuilders,” says BEAM Easy Living Center vice president and co-owner Brian O’Brien. “We rarely get asked by our homebuilder clients to install an A/V system; it’s almost always to put in a central vac system, then other systems follow from there.”
It’s a surprising statement, given the lackluster penetration rate of central vac systems by builders nationwide. According to the Consumer Electronics Association/National Association of Homebuilders' State of the Builder Technology Survey, 74 percent of builders offer central vac systems to their clients, yet only 15 percent of new homes have them installed.
This disconnect presents a huge opportunity for home systems integrators to help drive central vac sales through better engagement with their builder and home buyer clientele.
Impressive Central Vac Saturation Rates with Builders
The BEAM Easy Living Center has managed to do just that, with its builder partners boasting up to five times the saturation rate in Northern California compared to other regions of the country.
“I’d love to say there’s a trick to it,” says O’Brien, “but it’s really just old-fashioned education that has made the difference.”
He continues, “Central vac systems aren’t one of those amenities that sells itself, but once you’ve explained the benefits to builders, they go out of their way to sell it to their home buyer customers. I also find it necessary but unfortunately not the norm—big builders need to keep their options reasonably priced to have the opportunity to provide a better product to their buyers.”
Health Benefits: Additional Builder Incentive
Because a central vacuum removes 100 percent of contact dust and allergens from the living space, installing a system can help homes earn indoor air quality certification from leading green building programs, including the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes and the NAHB’s National Green Building Standard.
“Everyone can relate to allergies, whether they have them or know of someone who suffers from them,” says O’Brien. “When we educate our builder customers on the health benefits of central vacs over conventional vacuums, they feel obligated to share this information with their home buyers. And when their buyers understand the advantages, they almost always want a system.”
An Upgrade that Makes a Great First Impression
Once a builder has embraced the sales potential of BEAM central vacs by installing it in model homes, often there’s no need to discuss allergies.
“Our contractors tell us that even though they spent $9,000 to upgrade a home’s kitchen countertops to granite and the cabinetry to solid oak, the first thing potential homebuyers notice is the vac pan in the baseboard,” O’Brien notes. “It makes a big impression for very little money spent, and with builders this says it all. A central vac system quickly moves up to the top of the list of upgrades. Frankly, we never expected this to happen in such large numbers.”
Creating Home Buyer Interest at Home Shows
When O’Brien and his team aren’t educating its builder customers of the merits of central vac systems, they are touting their virtues direct to consumers at area home shows.
“My standard approach to consumers who visit our booth is to ask them how much they think it would cost of have a central vac system installed into their home,” O’Brien says. “Their replies are usually at least $3,000, so when I tell them a system can be installed for nearly half that, they are shocked and instantly interested in learning more.”
Home shows are also a good time, says O’Brien, to dispel many of the myths surrounding central vacs, one being that they are tough to install and involve tearing apart sheetrock.
“This resonates with both owners of existing homes and new homes,” he says.
Despite the fact that a high percentage of central vac installations are in new construction homes, what has set the BEAM Easy Living Center apart is its willingness to take on the retrofit market.
“It isn’t as intimidating of a project for the company or customer as you with think, when you commit to it,” O’Brien says.
Staying Focused on the Custom Channel
The BEAM Easy Living Center will continue to focus on the custom homebuilder and the existing home market as an avenue for central vac sales. It’s an approach that has served the company well for more than 30 years, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
BEAM central vacuums remain the company’s bread and butter, and sales forecasts for the BEAM Easy Living Center look as healthy as the clean indoor air that central vacuums promote.