Home Builders: Do They “Get” Buyers?

Written by Posted On Monday, 07 October 2019 05:00

It’s not you, it’s them.

If you shop for a newly-built home and feel unappreciated, disoriented, or overwhelmed by the new-home buying process, it’s them—home builders—not you, who are off-track, according to home building industry experts in a recent webcast for home builders hosted by BUILDER and Meyers Research.

“There is no mystery to what consumers want,” said Tim Costello, President and CEO of BDX, Inc., a provider of digital marketing and sales solutions for the home building industry. “The mystery is why our [home building] industry has been so slow in adopting this.“

• Do you want to buy a brand-new home—one that nobody has ever lived in before you? 
• Are you excited about experiencing the step-by-step thrill of the build and the delight in selecting each tiny thing personally to put your stamp on the home? 

Buying a brand-new home can be an exhilarating experience, but don’t be surprised or put-off if your contact with home builders—at least initially and digitally—does not meet your expectations and draw you into this world of wonder.

Costello went on to contrast the quality and quantity of online content that savvy buyers now take for granted when shopping online, with an admittedly-extreme but not uncommon version of home builder online offerings. To demonstrate differences in what home buyers expect from home builders versus what they find, Costello compared the depth of interactivity and relevant content in a typical Amazon product profile (here, randomly a $350 KitchenAid Mixer) with a home builder’s online non-interactive, low content effort for a $800,000 new house. 

The difference was visually dramatic and unnervingly disorienting. The point was made, at least for this attendee. The Mixer’s multi-dimensional, engaging online profile met and probably exceeded today’s buyer-content expectations. The barebones home-builder offering was neither dazzlingly inviting, nor did it stimulate curiosity to learn more.

Aren’t new houses worthy of having their unique excellence celebrated to buyers at least to the degree that appliances’ receive marketing attention?

Costello, who stressed that there are “2.5 million permutations that we actually build to create something that is uniquely [the buyer’s],” also shared BDX home-building-industry research which revealed “19 friction points.” Any one of these frictions may cause buyers frustration that can result in them—that’s you too—being turned-off a builder or turning to resale homes. Common deflectors are:

• Not knowing who to trust when print and digital information do not create clarity
• Finding the new-home buying process harder than expected, and
• Not being able to visualize their desired kitchen when faced with a contrasting color and style in the model home. 

When buyers hit at least one friction point, then:

• Ten percent of buyers switch home builders 
• Buyers are twice as likely to engage a real estate professional and then 35% of those buyers will “never see a new home again”
• Buyers are four times more likely to buy resale (Which helps explain why 90% of home purchases are resale homes).

If you let go of long-held dreams of a new-build home because builder online postings aren’t interactive phone-friendly resources, model homes don’t say it all, or you have to push to be heard, you may be doing yourself and your family a disservice by giving into frustration: 

• You expect to find all you need online and to have 24/7 access to ask questions and discuss details. 

The Fix: Ask who does know what’s going on. Go up the management chain if necessary. Persist until you discover a reliable source of accurate information.

• You expect home-building companies and builders to be authentic.

The Fix: The problem is many home builders are being authentic, just not in the online way you’re used to. Decide what this means to you and what would resolve the quandary.

• Home builders are in the business of building homes, not in the business of building parallel online experiences of what a home will be like to design, have built, and to live in.

The Fix: Ask how can you acquire the degree of detail you require to proceed. Who “gets” what you want to know or see?

• You live in a “digital-first” world, phone at the ready.

The Fix: Not all homebuilders understand the significance of this fact. What do you want from home builders so you can trust them and make confident decisions throughout the buying process?

Two Sides to Home Buying

The two home-selling industries—resale and new homes—are two very different real estate industries, with two very different histories, and two very different buyer journeys:

• How Does It Work? The resale industry appears to listen to buyers. Resale real estate professionals strive to meet and exceed communication expectations, online and off. Have resale’s digital efforts spoiled buyers for less interactive, less phone-friendly new-home purchasing?

• Who Is Selling What? Resale professionals do not sell product—it’s homeowners who are selling their home. Home builders sell their own new-home product, no one else’s—they are sellers.

• Digital Transformation: Resale professionals succeed by mastering communication, online and off. They are trained to convey the delights of home ownership to buyers who have never owned that particular listed house. The resale goal is to remove friction points and make the buying journey a positive, engaging experience. 

Some experienced home builders, who have constructed homes for years or decades, may not have taken their company through digital transformation or internalized the speed at which online shopping has changed and will continue to transform real estate buying. Builders who concentrate on construction may miss opportunities to communicate in the manner buyers prefer to receive and deliver information—online and through their phones. 

• Managing Expectations: You have expectations of and experience with what your phone can connect you to. If home builders are on a “build it and they will come” track, perhaps they may not feel obligated to invest significant effort into digitally communicating what they offer and what they can do for a buyer.

The obstacle for buyers is communication, not new home quality, nor diversity of design. New homes can be customized to deliver what you want and need. When new-build ownership or working with a particular builder matters, you may have to use different approaches to gather the new-build information you require and to accurately relay your needs and wants. 

• Yes, home builders need to understand how today’s shoppers shop online or buyers will not buy.
• Yes, home builders will benefit from meeting online-shopping expectations or they’ll lose business. 

But here my focus is you! 

What does your dream home mean to you? 

Do you really want to compromise your “forever home” because communicating with you, digitally and otherwise, is a challenge for some home builders?

Shouldn’t this selling-communication gap spell opportunity for savvy home buyers?

If you want a new build, but change your mind and search out resales that are a close match for your dream, don’t you want to be sure you are responding to what is genuinely better for you and your family, not simply reacting impatiently to having to adapt your shopping style? 

Absolutely move on if your new-home research reveals that the house which can be newly built for you will not meet or exceed expectations, stay within your budget, and fit your timeline.

Either way—new build or resale—what you learn in the process will turn you into a buyer to be reckoned with.


Additional Resources:

For an insider view of the home building industry: 

• Here’s the link to the 54 minute webcast referred to in PJ’s article: “Technology in Homebuilding”  The segment featuring Tim Costello of BDX begins at 29:42 (-25:11).
• BDX University —“a resource for builders to explore the latest tips, trends and events” 
• BUILDER Online —“provides home builders with home building news, home plans, home design ideas, and building product information, helping them manage their home building operations efficiently and profitably.”

For professionals: “Get Out of Your Own Way”…visit PJ’s blog: What’s Your Point? 

For buyers: Visit PJ’s “Decisions & Communities” Realty Times blog for more tips, suggestions, insights….For example:

• Construction Nightmare? 
• 4 "Big Regrets" to Avoid When Buying a Home


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PJ Wade —       Decisions & Communities

Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic problem solver and author of 8 books and more than 2800 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

PJ Wade's latest business bookWhat's Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!—further proves PJ's forward-thinking expertise and her on-point ability to explain technical, even non-verbal, communication details in practical, actionable terms. Print publication: Fall 2022.

PJ: “What's Your Point?the pivotal 21st-Century business question—must be answered before you open your mouth, hit a key, tap anything or swipe. Too often 'Your Point' is not clear to you and communication remains an expensive illusion.”

As The Catalyst, PJ concentrates on enhancing communication ROI for experienced advisors, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, and other savvy professionals, who may not have received as much formal training in communication as they have in their own field.

Onward & Upward—The directions that really matter! Reach PJ at pjwade@TheCatalyst.com and visit her What's Your Point? Blog. Keep up-to-date with PJ's popular column  Decisions & Communities


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