To close out 2021 we decided to interview three members of team ONeil about their home buying experiences. The episode was prerecorded on Tuesday. From first time home buyer to experienced pro, the three team members represented a good cross section of today’s buyer. Rachel, Jenna, and Megan walked us through their recent new home buyer journeys and shared the good, the bad, and the ugly as it relates to marketing, technology and communication.
Megan is an experienced buyer with 3 home purchases under her belt. Each of those was a resale home that was built between 1940 and 1960 and needed varying degrees of work to make the home feel current. She recently moved to Houston, TX with her 6 year old daughter and is currently living in a rental in a master planned community. She loves her location and is seeking to stay within the school zone for the elementary school her daughter attends. She’s in the research phase which involves searching the HAR (the local MLS site), doing drive-bys of homes she might be interested in, scouring builder websites for all the details and resources she can find, but stopping short of contacting a sales professional or real estate agent to further her journey.
Jenna and her husband began their search in 2020 using Redfin, no agent, and looking at resale homes. They wanted to live near Columbia, MD (the first master planned community in the country) and were saddened to find that what was available on the resale market in their price range needed a lot of work. They saw a National builder’s townhome community on Redfin and decided to tour it in the fall of 2020. Once on site, they spoke to a sales person who advised them that based on their desire to limit their downpayment and avoid PMI, there was a specific preferred lender with whom they should speak. That lender prequalified them and bumped up their budget slightly which when combined with the closing assistance allowed them to sign a contract on a brand new townhome with the National builder shortly thereafter. They moved into their brand new home in June of 2021.
Rachel and her significant other also followed a similar path and were deterred by the resale market fixer uppers in their price range. They expanded their geographic preferences and discovered a local builder with whom they had become familiar because of a different community that builder had developed near Rachel’s parents home in another area of the greater Baltimore region. And just like Jenna and her husband, as soon as they visited the model home, spoke to a sales person and were put contact with a preferred lender, they too quickly went under contract in the Summer of 2021. Their home has yet to break ground and they eagerly await the day they can move in.
LOCAL BUILDER V NATIONAL BUILDER
Did this influence any of our buyers? Yes and no. The real influence is on brand recognition, regardless of local v national. Rachel knew who her builder was because of the directional signs near her parents home. She felt confident that they were reputable because she could see that they built homes across the region and had a history of doing so. Jenna was also aware of her builder’s brand and after doing some research to confirm that they were reputable also (and not a national brand that she had heard not so good things about) she felt comfortable moving forward as well. Megan is more influenced by her location and is satisfied with the reputation of the builders there regardless of local v national.
ONLINE HOME BUYER RESOURCES
Across all three of our home buyers, a builder’s website and the resources within it were of utmost importance in both the decision to purchase and the level of happiness and customer satisfaction they feel today.
Megan, who has not purchases, uses the builder sites for her research into the plans offered, the history of the builder and to compare price per square foot of various homes. She specifically looks at the cost of spec homes because they tend to include the amenities that she would select herself. Her main goal as a seasoned veteran in the home buying business is to make sure she’ll see a return on her investment.
Jenna, conducted a little recon work on her builder’s website before purchasing but says that the bulk of her website time was spent after the contract was signed. She used the virtual tours and interactive floor plans obsessively to help her feel connected to her home and to plan the furniture that they were going to buy.
Rachel laments that her builder didn’t have such a great site and therefore there wasn’t much to use for either research or connection. She’s saddened about that and it has ultimately left her feeling a little disconnected and perhaps not as satisfied overall with her choices.
Megan is acutely aware of the targeted marketing that she is receiving from the builders and notes that the retargeting efforts in particular are effective in keeping builders top of mind. Rachel found the directional signs at the community by her parents to be the largest influence on her builder brand awareness and it definitely impacted her final decision. Jenna, was aware of her builders brand but didn’t site specific initiatives or ads as having an impact. However, some form of advertising and marketing was at play since she was aware of the brand beforehand.
As a former boss once told me many moons ago, “when you order pizza, you think of Domino’s, you don’t know why you do, but you do. That’s what effective marketing does, and why Domino’s was in the yellow pages until the bitter end. Repetitive marketing works.”
Communication from the sales professional is key as long as the buyer says it’s ok. Megan is at the “please don’t talk to me” phase of research. This is my favorite pastime. I love the thrill of the hunt so to speak. I have no intention of moving anytime soon but I refresh my Redfin feed every day to see what’s happening in my neck of the woods. I drive by and sometimes attend open houses. I never engage a real estate agent or complete a contact form. For two reasons, I don’t want to waste a sales persons time if I’m not committed to making a purchase and I don’t want to feel pressured to make a choice I’m not ready to make. But once I commit to making a decision, you best believe I want a sales person to hold my hand through to the very end; whether it’s shoes, a new car, or a new house. Rachel and Jenna, felt the same way. Once they committed, communication was key. They wanted to be texted, not emailed, to be kept in the loop with any and all updates that pertained to them and their home. <– That part is key, the personalization. They both wanted or want, specific updates about their particular home and its progress.
At the end of the day, while all three feel they have an advantage because of their line of work, each woman found it important to do as much independant research as possible, placed high value on the location and reputation of the builder, and want control over when and how news and information is shared with them. Online tools not only help in the decision making process, perhaps more importantly, they are crucial in the client happiness and satisfaction. And without marketing and brand awareness these home sales would not have transpired.