Professional Builder columnist Paul Cardis explains why Technical Olympic USA’s Engle Homes division in Orlando defies market conditions to come out ahead with 206 closings in 28 days.
The results of the 2007 Professional Builder Giant 400 survey highlight the dramatic market changes facing our industry and confirm the tough times arrived in 2006.
Before you grab your antacid, we found at least one builder breaking sales records in today's abysmal market.
One of the builders that will show you the market hasn't collapsed is Engle Homes' Central Florida division, Engle Orlando, part of the Technical Olympic USA family. Technical Olympic ranked No. 16 in the Giant 400 list in 2007.
Engle Orlando spent six years preparing for market change. As a result, in February, when much of the industry was bemoaning severe drops in new home sales, Engle Orlando shocked everyone and closed 206 homes and another 101 in March, setting a company record. Engle Orlando is thriving in one of the toughest housing markets because it has always emphasized relationships. "When you think of your first kiss, first date ... you remember how great it was," says Gust Nicholson, director of customer relations for Engle Homes. "That's how we want our customers to feel about buying their first home from us. Everything we do is based on relationships." Even in Orlando, these relationships don't magically happen. Engle Homes has two teams — one in charge of quality assurance, the other in charge of home delivery — that ensure home buyers feel comfortable and confident in their purchase.
"In 2000, those of us in the business knew there'd be a down market one day. We thought this thing out," Nicholson recalls. His staff designed a program to harvest referrals through a comprehensive internal marketing system targeting existing customers, real-estate agents and the trades.
Surveys by AVID Ratings show 97 percent of Engle Orlando's home buyers would recommend the builder to a friend. "Our customers do a lot of our selling for us. We use them like employees," Nicholson says. "They are like a huge workforce out there working for us on the weekend when we can't be there. My job is to build a heck of a relationship with my customers so they'll make referrals."
Engle Homes builds its relationships by getting personal. When doing a walkthrough, for example, employees point out that the house is a lifetime investment similar to a buyer's 401K, which demonstrates how each component within the house works.
When prospects view an Engle home, they often encounter one of the trades. To make sure these subcontracted workers represent Engle Homes well, the home builder has an extensive educational program that trains trades and assesses them.
Nicholson and his team also ensure Realtors feel confident working with Eagle Homes. "We give them a professional walk-through," he says. "We have water for them and a closing table at our home delivery. If the real-estate agent has something to say, we give them the opportunity to talk. We don't make them feel unimportant."
With its convincing story about quality construction, enthusiastic trades and avid customers, it's no wonder sales are through the roof at Technical Olympic's Engle Homes. And it's no surprise the company is still feasting while other builders are facing famine.
|Paul Cardis is CEO of AVID Ratings Co., providing full-service research, consulting and employee training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|