I was watching my 12-year-old son build a home using Minecraft the other day and couldn’t help but wonder what the future might hold for his generation, regarding home design and the preconstruction process. It hit me that with the technology available today, why can’t it be different?
Homebuyers should be able to point and click to discover the home that’s in their head just like Minecraft enables my son to do. But like my son, most buyers don’t have an idea what it might cost or if they can afford to build a home.
Very little has changed in my 20 plus years of homebuilding, which leads me to believe there has to be a better way to build. I mean, if I can shop for virtually anything online and have it show up on my front step the next morning, why does it take months of meetings with a customer to provide them with a plan and price to build a home?
Bidding For the Project
Then there’s the builder’s side of the story. Too often after months of meetings, the design and bid work goes for naught. Sometimes my price is more than what the customer wanted to spend. Other times they just didn’t understand how to compare my bid against competitors. Although I delivered my bid quickly, and it was very detailed, that darn “pick-up truck” builder down the road flashes a low number without providing detailed specs and beats me again. Customers often pick their builder based on net price because understanding the differences between bids is too hard.
I started thinking about the overall costs involved with the madness commonly known as the preconstruction process. It just doesn’t make sense to have multiple customer meetings, only to pass along the notes to other personnel and to vendors for bidding. Then after the numbers come in, the process swings into reverse to communicate back to the customer. Meanwhile the builder crosses his or her fingers and hopes the client agrees to move forward.
The Buyer's Home Building Experience
Not only is this process frustrating for builders, imagine what the consumer goes through. I recently helped my in-laws build their new lake home. I was blown away by the multiple different formats of bids they received. Even as an experienced builder, the bids confused the hell out of me. It was virtually impossible to demystify the bids and determine which builder was the best fit for them.
Like many others do at this point, they doubted that any builder could deliver their dream. So they debated between buying a resale home or not doing anything at all. Imagine how many potential buyers drop out of the new construction market because of the craziness of the current process.
If the housing industry is going to be disrupted, this is where it has to happen. Automation of home design and simplification of the bid/pre-construction process has to become more transparent to the consumer. The consumer deserves a better, less stressful way to enable them to build vs. buying a used home, and the builder needs easy-to-use tools that allow them to protect, if not increase profit.
The full page “roadmap to building your dream home” with months of preconstruction activities that most builders have today isn’t making the quality of life better for anyone. Imagine the resources that could be available to focus on the customer throughout the process if the preconstruction process was automated. Rather than having five office staff for one superintendent, it could be the other way around. What might that do to customer satisfaction scores?