It’s no secret that these are hard times if you are a new home builder. Many national volume builders as well as local builders are struggling. They’ve sold off inventoried land at a loss, sold inventory homes for no profit and have cut overhead and expenses. They are focused on building products that new home buyers can afford today…that is if buyers can find mortgage financing. Recent buyers wonder if homes purchased in the last 18 months will ever regain the value that they’ve lost as the market has slid away.
The trend is to smaller homes with fewer included features and an emphasis on easy homeowner maintenance and tightly controlled building operations to maximize profit. We’ll be seeing multi-purpose rooms and more sharing of bedrooms; kind of a back to the future scenario.
Many home builders are fighting to find their voice in this market. National volume builders have cut back their advertising placements and many are talking more about price and less about features. They’d do well to remember Al Ries rule of positioning, “Price is position.” Not only will they point out the value of their home, but they’ll continue to reinforce what their brand is.
A bright spot in this market is the ability to speak directly to the home buyer. Marketing is not just about placing radio, television and print ads. It is about creating and maintaining communication with your potential buyer. With the new tools of social marketing, there are myriad ways to connect and converse.
Blogs that advise buyers of important things to know when buying a new construction home, how to select options and what options have been shown to hold value in the home are all important subjects to buyers. Home builders who speak to potential buyers and provide them with transparent information about the building process will earn trust and gain buyers and referrals. The sales agent must truly be the advocate of the buyer, making sure the communication process is complete. Some builders have staff who manage the communication and building process after the contract, freeing the agent to serve new sales customers. This is a great way to manage the flow. Just make sure you get the hand off of the buyer with care. The buyer must feel cared for, not tossed aside! Nurturing the customer is more important now than ever.
Sales agents must be counselors, truly understanding the process and offering the best information that they have and keeping the buyers’ best interests in the forefront. Everyone wants to sell and close on homes, but earning buyer trust as you proceed to these goals creates buyer satisfaction in the long run.
Selection center staff must be armed with all the most up-to-date product knowledge. If your company offers eco-friendly options, remember that many buyers will not be familiar with them. Information is as much of a product as vinyl windows and insulated doors.
In addition, builders who educate first time buyers on all aspects of home maintenance will earn referrals. This is not the climate in which you can build, sell and forget. Sales agents and builders are the familiar lines of contact and if there are warranty issues, you will see and hear from your buyers again. Smooth the transition to the warranty phase after closing by introducing buyers to the warranty department. The warranty department can help buyers by offering seminars throughout the first year of ownership, reminding buyers of the importance of routine homeowner maintenance, thus avoiding future issues. Get product reps to offer advice on ongoing maintenance items. The rep is the source of the manufacturer’s best advice.
The warranty department is now the most important member of the team, resolving problems and keeping buyers happy. This is what earns the sales people their coveted referrals.
People are still going to buy homes. Make sure your company is there with the best product for your buyers’ dollar within your market segment and that all members of the company offer consistent clear communication and true concern for your customer.