Content. Great Content. Lots of Content

How a Home Builder Designs the Best Website

When a home shoppers leaves your website, what phrase would you rather them utter the next day?

  1. Builder, who?
  2. Builder X has a beautiful website!
  3. Builder X builds beautiful homes!

I’m always up for a spirited debate, but I’m hoping you went with option 3. Your website’s job is to support your organization — to bring you leads and sales that you would not have secured without it. I hope you take pride in your website, but the most amazing website is invisible. Not literally, of course. That would be a bad website 😉

The best website makes your homes the star of the experience. Or, more literally, the best website makes the content featuring your homes the star of the show.

Your content: Gladys Knight
Your website: The Pips

Your content: Bruce Springsteen
Your website: The E Street Band

What is great content?

Real copywriting.

“There’s only so many ways to describe a 4br/2.5ba house!”

I am guilty of speaking these words, but frankly, they are untrue. If your copywriter says this more than once or twice, fire them and find one with an imagination. It’s tough to write unique copy like this for the average person. A great copywriter might let out an exasperated sigh for a brief moment, but afterward, they lean into the challenge.

What are some unique approaches to community and home descriptions?

  • Details. A home’s “stats,” such as bedrooms, baths, etc, are readily visible. Instead of restating all of this in the form of a sentence, copywriting can focus on the details of a home’s design features. Consider discussing why the countertop edge is bullnose instead of ogee. What was the name of your design center representative that made these selections, and why did they opt for different base and wall cabinet styles?
  • Narrative. Change up the perspective and make your copywriting a narrative – a story of an individual walking through the home and their views and reactions as they experienced the home for the first time.
  • A Day in the Life of ____. What’s the view from the owner’s suite windows? Will the kitchen windows have sun for morning coffee, or will the patio have afternoon shade for leisurely dinners by the grill? What’s the walk to the mailbox like?

None of these may be right for your brand, but it’s both possible and necessary that you have original copywriting for your communities, floor plans, and inventory.

Related: I recommend docking a copywriter’s fee every time they submit copy with the use of a “House Hunters” adjective like “bright” or “airy” or “natural light.” I’m only sorta-kidding here, but these overused words add nothing at all unique and memorable to your website.

[Note] A future chapter in the series will cover some more advanced cross-discipline methods of using copywriting to achieve multiple goals.

Photography – Volume, Quality, and Originality

According to an internal Zillow study (2019), “10 or more photos on a listing has contributed to 35% more listing engagement. However, half of builders have fewer than 10 listing photos today.” I expect any more advice on the need for an abundance of photography would be unnecessary. Good.

As it pertains to the need for quality photography, you need it. This does not mean you need to spend $2,500 on every home for an award-winning architectural photographer (although, I like Vince if you needed a suggestion). It’s no secret that an iPhone and a beginners’ understanding of photography and composition can produce impressive results.

What does quality photography require? Below are some quick suggestions to get you started.

  • Lighting. If the room is dark, brighten it.
  • Perspective. Over-simplifying a bit, but make sure the camera is level when you take the photo.
  • Framing. Show what shoppers want to see. Don’t cut-off the top of the kitchen cabinets only to show the backside of an island.
  • Clean. No dust on the countertops. No dead flies on the carpet. No port-a-johns in the driveway. Please, please, please put the toilet seat down. Apparently, it’s also important to say that inventory homes should not be fire extinguisher storage spaces. ↓?

Does stock photography count?

“A stock photo budget can never be too small.” – Me

I know, I know. Stock photography is affordable and can often be “good enough.” By their nature though, stock photos are not unique. The risks of using stock photography are relatively minor, but the opportunities they replace are tremendous.

Lifestyle photography requires life. It needs to include people, and especially the faces of people, as this is the most direct way to communicate the emotions of those people. Where would you get started on a project like this?

  • Invest in a professional photographer, lighting, and make-up, but ask employees and their families to act as models. You’ll get truly “original” photography and you’ll also be introducing your people to home shoppers.
  • Pets, pets, pets. Your employees might not be comfortable in photos, but they’ll probably all tell you their dog is the cutest dog in the world. Plus, no make-up artist necessary 🙂
  • If it’s in the budget, hire models. It is the most expensive route, but you’ll get high-quality original photos with the least amount of direction required.

Virtual Tours

High-quality virtual tours are easy to obtain and the most popular choices support virtual reality experiences for as little as a few hundred dollars. Just have them done. Yes, have them done for every house.

What brand of virtual tours should you have? I don’t have a strong preference for a specific provider, but I will tell you to stay away from the lame panning-over-still-photos + bad-music + robot-voiceover kind of virtual tours. These don’t add any unique content or unique value beyond your photo collection.

A virtual tour needs to be:

  • Integrated. This means the consumer can experience the virtual tour without leaving your website. Often referred to as an “iframe” or “embed code” option, this method is preferred to opening the virtual tour in a new browser tab or window.
  • Mobile-ready. Any modern virtual tour platform will operate well on a mobile device. However, if you’re looking to use virtual tours created 5+ years ago, you’ll need to test the experience on mobile.
  • Self-guided. The consumer needs the ability to determine their experience – selectively viewing the rooms they want, when they want, and in what order they want. A virtual tour that requires the consumer to sit back and follow your lead? That’s called a video.

Video

There’s a lot of “video is easy” talk out there. “Just grab your iPhone, hold out your arm, and start talking.” Uh, no, don’t do that.

Personally, I think video is hard. And I think the “how” of video is the least of the problem. Everyone knows their iPhones record video. The latest app might make editing or uploading easier, but that’s not where I see most builders struggle.

Builders struggle the moment they realize they have all the tools. Once the “how” is resolved, the only logical next step seems to be to tap the record button. This is the moment things freeze. At this moment, what’s missing is clarity of purpose. Video deserves its own chapter, so stay tuned!

 

Read the Full Series
How a Home Builder Designs the Best Website

  1. Introduction
  2. When is it Time for a new Website?
  3. Your Design. Your Values.
  4. Content. Great Content. Lots of Content.
  5. Video is Simply not Easy.
  6. A Guide to Not Being Awkward on Camera.
  7. Upcoming Chapters
    • Home Builder Video Examples and Inspiration
    • Mobile - First & Friendly is Not Enough.
    • Fast, High-Performance Search.
    • Lead Generating.
    • Search Engine Optimization.
    • Experience Beyond the Homepage.
    • It Makes You Money.
    • It Supports Your Business Operations.

Dennis O'Neil

Dennis O'Neil

President

Dennis has spent over 19 years using the internet to sell and market new homes. He blogs about internet marketing for home builders here, wrote a book about technology's impact on the sales process, and is a respected speaker on advanced internet marketing and the online sales process.