Layaway Comes to Real Estate

Sometimes innovation means going backwards. And sometimes it means moving an old concept to a new industry.

Much has been made lately about the return of the layaway plan — a long-out-of-fashion retail program in which an item is kept at the store while the customer makes payments on it. Until recently, the layaway had been almost completely replaced by the credit card; customers preferred plastic because they could get instant gratification.

The credit crunch has made layaway popular again — Kmart, which never dropped it, is now putting renewed emphasis on the program. Parent company Sears Holdings recently brought it back to Sears after a 20 year absence.

Now, with mortgages difficult to come by, real estate companies and home builders are marketing the concept. According to Business Week,

K. Hovnanian Homes and Beazer Homes are offering contracts that let purchasers deposit downpayment installments in a no-interest escrow account. (Buyers who back out of such plans will lose whatever they’ve accumulated.)

This is a terrific example of what Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer call “Swipe-and-Deploy” marketing. As a concept, layaway is nothing new. But by moving the concept from traditional retail to real estate, a couple of enterprising companies are generating publicity, interest, and buyers.


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