Builders “received a very clear, very direct survival crisis message: If you don’t change the way you do business and adopt new [strategies], your sales will go to zero,” says Tim Costello, chairman and CEO of Builder Homesite, a digital services provider. A key question Costello asks builders in helping them design their digital platforms is, “Where’s your Buy button?”
By the end of 2020, 63% of new-home buyers had made an offer on a house without ever taking an in-person tour, according to a survey by real estate brokerage company Redfin.
“They are buying homes at midnight from their sofa,” marvels Ronda Conger, VP of CBH Homes, Idaho’s largest home builder serving red-hot Boise and its surrounding area. “Some have seen [the house in person], some have not. Normally buyers walk away, have to think about it, go home, have dinner, are worried someone else will buy it,” she says. “For them to push that button online has been amazing. The salesperson can get paperwork ready and send it over digitally.”
Says Linda Mamet, chief marketing officer for Tri Pointe Homes, a publicly traded home builder in 10 states and the District of Columbia, “Gone are the days where hundreds would arrive at a model home complex and wander throughout,” she says. “They’ve already been able to do a lot of research online. We are very committed to providing robust digital tools on our site.”
Several builders took up the call to action with a sense of sudden urgency … and ideally some advanced prep. “A lot of things we thought for years would be nice to have but maybe got delayed for other initiatives suddenly got moved up to the top,” adds Chris Thornton, VP of digital marketing and technology for Ashton Woods, an Atlanta-based home builder. “Luckily, we had put a lot of thought into these things but not pulled the trigger. The pandemic made us do some of these things we’d been thinking about all along.”