Currently Reading

The Year of Catalytic Disruption

Advertisement
Digital Marketing

The Year of Catalytic Disruption

Key ways home builders can use digital solutions to cater to consumers in today’s ever-evolving landscape


By Phillippe Lord, EVP and COO of Meritage Homes August 6, 2020
Construction worker sitting with head down
COVID-19 descended and it had an impact across every facet of our lives, and for far longer than anyone could have predicted, as it is still continuing to shape every decision. | Photo: interstid / stock.adobe.com

The year 2019 was a great one for home builders. Home builder confidence hit a 20-year high, with home building activity at a record-breaking 13-year high. The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF index rose by 28%, and buyer demand soared through even the traditionally slower holiday season. Plus, industry experts and media pundits alike were abuzz with forecasts of another banner year in 2020. 

Then, out of left field, came March 2020. COVID-19 descended and it had an impact across every facet of our lives, and for far longer than anyone could have predicted, as it is still continuing to shape every decision.

 

RELATED

 

Catalytic Disruption as COVID-19 Becomes a Mainstay of 2020

COVID-19 accelerated disruption in home building, an industry that has traditionally been slow to embrace change, relying on tried-and-true methods like in-person appointments and paper-heavy trails of contracts to execute the majority of the homebuying process. The home building industry was presented with a number of challenges and little time to adapt. 

All of a sudden, digital communication became essential for every interaction, forcing home builders to swiftly accelerate the adoption curve. 

An immediate and apparent challenge stemming from COVID-19 was the enactment of stay-at-home orders, which immediately halted some of the most elemental interactions between builders and potential buyers. Moreover, it brought a cloud of uncertainty over the housing market and economic climate. Potential buyers began to revisit their plans and budgets, contemplating rainy day funds and lifestyle changes. Ultimately, some put buying plans on hold indefinitely.

To keep up with demand and adapt to social distancing guidelines, leading home builders boosted their virtual offerings in a matter of weeks, quickly shifting to contactless, appointment only, or virtual tours.

On the other hand, stay-at-home orders provided many opportunities for contemplation. Low interest rates and move-in specials encouraged renters to explore purchasing a home of their own, and enticed move-up buyers to opt for a bigger home with more space. According to Redfin, homebuying demand began increasing in mid-April and surpassed pre-pandemic levels by a whopping 25% in June.

In order to keep up with demand and adapt to social distancing guidelines, leading home builders boosted their virtual offerings in a matter of weeks, quickly shifting to contactless, appointment only, or virtual tours across the nation. In tandem, sales centers developed rigorous health and safety measures aimed at protect their employees and prospective buyers. We at Meritage Homes were one of the first to go-to-market with a comprehensive end-to-end virtual homebuying solution, introducing a five-step digital suite of tools to help prospective homebuyers seamlessly continue their search, purchase, and close on a home:

  • Research and get helpful resources, browse communities, and shop for homes online with the ability to view virtual tours and interactive maps, leverage online payment calculators, and more. 
  • Connect with a live Meritage representative, via chat, email, or phone to get your questions answered or to schedule a private in-home tour or personal virtual tour  
  • Find the home of your dreams by working with a sales counselor to tour homes virtually and find the perfect fit.
  • Purchase your home using digital tools to get pre-approved, sign the contract, and even visit the design center virtually 
  • Move in to your new home after completing a virtual closing and attending your new home orientation online.


Since implementing the virtual homebuying process at the end of March, we’ve seen almost 20% of our buyers start their homebuying experience from the comfort of their couch. Their swift interest in leveraging these new digital tools underscores the necessity-driven demand for these types of solutions in today’s world. Our design centers, model homes, and sales centers are now open with health and safety measures in place, but virtual options continue to be of interest to many consumers, who appreciate the added safety and convenience the digital process brings.


The Post-Pandemic Impact of Industry Shifts to Digital 

Virtual homebuying solutions are more than just a COVID-19 workaround. In-person model home tours, sales office appointments, and community opening events will continue trickling back in post-pandemic, but the viability of this new digital-focused business model will continue to prove valuable. 

Housing trends will continue to vary in coming years. Right now, many city dwellers are finding some appeal in moving to the suburbs for fresh air and extra space, accommodating stay-at-home lifestyles, for instance, and more renters are contemplating purchasing a home, as mortgage rates are at record lows. Floor plans with flex rooms and spaces have heightened demand, as homes transform into our schools, offices, and gyms. With the increase of unemployment and uncertainty stemming from the pandemic, more families are considering multigenerational living, citing affordability and convenience. Depending on the landscape in years to come, these preferences may change, but the use of digital communication resulting from the pandemic will fundamentally and permanently shape the housing industry’s business model, as virtual homebuying solutions become expected alternatives for consumers post-pandemic.

Floor plans with flex rooms and spaces have heightened demand, as homes transform into our schools, offices, and gyms.

We can envision these options continuing to evolve and become more robust, as they rise beyond a critical essential for interactions. Offering customers and home builders more options to connect and flexible routes to complete the comprehensive homebuying process, in-person or online, also accommodates various lifestyles for added appeal. 

Quick-turn strategies during COVID-19 have included digital alternatives to replace previously in-person solutions. However, companies should look beyond these pandemic-related day-to-day demands and shape their business strategy with a heavy focus on digitized offerings for elevated experiences that supplement the traditional approach. Organizations that implement digitization will be best set up for long-term success, allowing them to increase profits, stay ahead of the competition, and prepare for any future challenges that limit in-person interactions.

 

Phillippe Lord is the COO and EVP of Meritage Homes

 

Phillippe Lord has served as COO and executive vice president of Meritage Homes since April 2015. He joined Meritage in 2008 as VP of its strategic operations and market research department, which is primarily responsible for evaluation and recommendations on all land acquisitions, product placement, and pricing. He was instrumental in developing this industry-leading research and analysis group for Meritage Homes. He previously held leadership positions with Acacia Capital, Centex Homes, and Pinnacle West Capital.

 

 

 

Related Stories

Business Management

This Builder Transformed His Business By Switching Markets

Sublime Homes CEO Mike Graniczny was presented with an opportunity to switch markets and he took it. It transformed his business from closing on…

Leadership

Business Success: Easy as 1, 2, 3?

Great leadership essentials to turn your business around

Business Management

4 Ways to Reduce Construction Costs

2020 has been a roller-coaster ride. To combat rising construction prices, it's time for builders to look for new ways to cut expenses

Advertisement

More in Category




Advertisement

Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.


Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Subscribe
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.