Selling While Social Distancing: Real-World Solutions for Home Builders
April 9, 2020
Selling new homes, or any home for that matter, got decidedly more difficult when social distancing became the necessary norm. Now, new home salespeople and agents alike are finding alternative ways to continue working with homebuyers. In this post, we’ve gathered some of the common solutions for new home builders who still have operating sales teams so you can consider what’s feasible to implement for your own company.
All of these solutions are a great way to stay top of mind with would-be homebuyers and offset the loss of foot traffic, while still staying safe.
1. Virtual open houses. With most business meetings moving to virtual conferencing, it’s no surprise open houses are too. Keller Williams is one of the realty companies who’ve started virtual home showings, and it makes perfect sense. It gives salespeople the ability to meet with potential buyers in a more personal and visual way while still maintaining safety precautions. Based on feedback from our own builder partners, it’s also more likely you’ll be interacting with more serious buyers right now.
2. 360-degree walkthroughs of model homes. This is a more robust feature to add to your website, but if you don’t offer it already, now could be a great time to introduce it (here are some tips on how to get it done). It’s a passive way to still let interested people get as much information as they can while they’re stuck at home. If this doesn’t seem like a viable option to complete right now, you could also use this time to take more photos of your model home if that’s not available on your site.
3. Self-guided tours. If you don’t have virtual offerings yet, self-guided tours, where the potential homebuyer looks through the model home on their own could be a better option. One Tennessee home builder uses an app called NterNow that lets “drive-buyers" tour otherwise locked homes, while still keeping the homes secure. But you could also accomplish this with good old coordination. Schedule a time to let prospects into a model home without coming into contact with them (for instance, unlock the door, then stay in your car). Once the prospects have toured, sanitize and lock up the property once more.
4. Drive-thru closings, electronic signings and home appraisals. To maintain safe distances, we’ve also seen some home builders like Lennar initiate “drive-thru” closings, where buyers already in the process of purchasing a home can complete necessary paperwork without leaving their cars. And more than that, electronic signings, are expected to become far more widespread, cutting down on the need to sign paper copies in the first place. It's also worth it to keep in mind how home appraisals are changing. Bankrate reports people are conducting video calls to provide tours to appraisers and their resource delves into which borrowers actually qualify for a waiver.
5. Social media events. While in line with virtual home showings through Skype or Zoom, some real estate agents are taking it to social media with Facebook Live viewings. By promoting homes on social media, you also have the opportunity to make it more of a community event. Naturally, you’ll want to be careful in messaging and sensitive to people who want to buy a home but are concerned about the market or are dealing with coronavirus-related issues. Social media is also a great way to stay in touch with customers without pressuring any sales. You can share news articles, discuss what you’re doing as a company to promote safe transactions and show your human side.
6. Email marketing. In following with social media, it can’t be overstated that now is the right time to be communicative with customers, particularly homebuyers already in the process of purchasing a home, or serious prospects you had contact with before the outbreak. There’s nothing wrong with emailing to see how they’re doing. As with social media, you’ll want to be sensitive in your messaging if you’re sending out more impersonal email blasts or invites to virtual showings of your model homes. Keep in mind that former leads may no longer be in the position to put money toward a home right now.
Not yet a HomeSphere builder?
HomeSphere is a free rebate program offering cash back on over 1,500 products from more than 80 of the top building product manufacturing brands.
Dan Sullivan, of Meyers Research, said it best in a recent industry webinar that now is the time to “preserve, generate and reinvent.” We’ll let you read the full explanation at Builder, but one of his key points is that home builders will need to pivot their business practices around the current environment. That includes the need for online shopping tools — “The virtual element is inescapable now,” he says. If you’re not there yet, now is a good time to get action plans into place so you can meet homebuyer’s changing needs.
Do you have any social distancing solutions that have worked well for your company?