Internet Redefines New Home Selling Strategies

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For all of you still wondering whether web site selling is worth the necessary investment, consider the experience of the Giordana family in Atlanta.

January 01, 2000

For all of you still wondering whether web site selling is worth the necessary investment, consider the experience of the Giordano family in Atlanta.

With only five days to find a new home in the Georgia metropolis, these Raleigh, N.C., residents jumped on the Internet and, with a few clicks of their mouse, found the house they wanted at Morrison Homes’ Senator’s Ridge development.

"Through the Chamber of Commerce, we found several area home builders, but many didn’t have photos (on their sites) or links to other neighborhoods," said Rosemary Giordano. "The Morrison site showed great pictures, and we fell in love with one of their homes. We were ready to send a check to hold the house until we could get there."

When they arrived in Atlanta, the Giordanos spent five days looking at nearly 50 other homes, but eventually committed to the one they found on the Internet. As builders charge at breakneck speed into e-commerce, no one can say for sure where the technology is leading. But there are a few clues. Relocating families like the Giordanos seem to be the low-hanging fruit of the Internet sales market for builders. National builders are already picking that fruit.

Morrison Homes web site led the Giordano’s to a new home.

"We’re getting 800 hits a day on our website," says Morrison Homes vice president of sales and marketing John Rymer. "That’s three times the number of people who walk into our models. When we register people in the sales office, about 3-1/2% say they first learned about us from our web site. We made 48 sales from those Internet contacts, through the first ten months of 1999. That’s about 1.3% of our total sales, so Internet selling has not really come into its own. Not yet anyway."

But Morrison’s research shows 53% of its buyers visit the web site before they close on a home. Builders large and small know they have to get into this arena, but when they do, they face tough choices.

"You have to decide how advanced you’ll make the technology on your site," says Rymer. "We sacrificed a more sophisticated site to allow 98% of the market to load." The potential impact of Internet selling, especially among corporate relo buyers, who have to make quick decisions, is certainly immense.

"I was in one of our models here in Atlanta," recalls Rymer, "and I saw a guy walking through the home with his daughter. He had a cell phone to his ear, and he was talking to his wife in Houston, while she was looking at the floor plan on our web site. She was asking him if their couch would fit in a specific location. That was unbelievable to me, but we’d all better get used to it."

Along with the ability to load a site quickly and see photos of the homes, the Giordanos said quick response to their shopping inquiry was important: "Morrison was the first one to respond to our on-line information request," Joe Giordano said.

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