Way back in the early spring, when stay at home orders first went out, we saw a flurry of activity from home builders who wanted to advance the technology they were using to sell homes. From virtual appointment scheduling to fully being able to buy a home online without ever stepping foot in it. We predicted what was coming and wrote about steps builders should be taking to allow for virtual home buying on more than one occasion. People moved quickly and sped up the adoption of technologies that were previously not even on the horizon for many builders. We saw sweeping changes in marketing efforts too. The team at ONeil was pumped and ready to help our clients leap into the future of online sales.
But did it pan out like we thought it would 6 months later?
Yes and No. Clients showed interest, we did the legwork to figure out how to implement it, but buying a home completely online still isn’t the norm, it’s barely even the exception. We’ve only seen a handful in the industry provide buyers options to reserve a home online. However, builders have made huge strides in other areas of virtual technology. Many have taken up the use of apps like calendly for virtual appointment scheduling, and Utour and Nter Now for on demand access for home tours. Not to mention new virtual design services, like online design studios or virtual selection appointments, and being able to favorite photos as a registered user on builder websites. Plus the use of DocuSign and other apps for closing (I’m pretty sure real estate closing docs are some of the last left on earth that still involve fax machines and in person signatures).
But what if a builder did want to go big and let people add a home to cart and purchase online? How would it happen and would Jenna and I take advantage of it if we were buying a new home?
When tasked with investigating how to implement the reservation and/or purchasing of homes online, the solution that we found to be best was using Stripe. It’s an online payment system that we use for our invoices and that could be easily added to Homefiniti to accommodate both utterances of payment. The reservation system would allow potential buyers to reserve a quick move-in home for 24 hours for a small fee of up to $500 and sometimes it’s even free! Once a home is reserved, it would have a banner added to it’s card online to show everyone that the house is on hold. Potential buyers would then have 24 hours to decide if they want to move forward with the buying process.
As for Jenna and I, we both think that we could buy online down the road, but currently we still feel like an in person visit would be needed. (If and when we were ready to buy online, interactive tools like virtual tours, video tours,and interactive floor plans would be a must to help us feel comfortable moving forward.) Now however, we both agree that being able to reserve a home for 24 hours for a small fee while we make up our minds in that final decision making phase would be extremely beneficial and we’d use that for sure.
The added bonus to builders for the online reservation system is that it creates a sense of urgency in other buyers if they see that inventory is in demand with a bunch of reserved signs on the product. We all know I’m a sucker for a sense of urgency when shopping online, so this would be just the touch I needed to push me over the edge and into the home buying process.
Overall we may have jumped the gun on the online home buying thing, but we do think it’ll happen someday. In the meantime we’ll settle for the awesome advances our clients have made, the incredible growth in new home sales that they’re experiencing and the thrill of the increased pace of technological adoption that we’re seeing everywhere.
Thanks for tuning into another episode of Homefiniti and Beyond. I’ll see you back on the Facebook in two weeks for our second installment of Meet the Team. Join our mailing list to find out who I’ll be interviewing.