3 Top Lessons from Builder PropTech 2020 for Today’s Home Builder
October 27, 2020
Builder recently hosted their annual PropTech event, which highlights the latest in property tech trends as they relate to home builders. No surprise it was virtual this go-around, which was fitting for an event that underscored just how important tech is to the home building industry, thanks in large part to the pandemic.
We won’t give away all the insights revealed (and encourage you to watch the various presentations on your own time), but a few common themes emerged throughout PropTech 2020, which we’ll highlight here.
What’s clear is that the year has pushed the digital envelope for the industry and it’s in every home builders' best interest to get on board.
 The luxury of time in incorporating tech is over
That’s not to sound dire, it’s just a reality of the pandemic, as PropTech speakers reiterated. In fact, Brad Geiwe, cofounder and managing partner of Fifth Wall, emphasized that a crisis is not the time to ignore digital innovation. As he puts it, the use of proptech is an important way to improve long-term business strategies, and it’s better to be part of evolving business models than to be left in the dust.
As we previously discussed on our blog, home builders started to incorporate virtual sales tools in earnest to keep sales up when social distancing became the norm. Three major builders who spoke at PropTech outlined the ways their own companies worked to accomplish this, including incorporating self-guided touring options, Facebook events and digital form signings.
Lennar’s own Executive Chairman Stuart Miller also expanded on the need to generate digital leads and the best ways to go about scoring and differentiating them with platforms like Salesforce — all so sales reps can successfully develop them.
It’s worth noting that the major players in the industry are taking tech very seriously, and it’s shaping up to be a game changer.
 It’s time to meet customers where they are
While builders are accelerating their use of virtual sales tools, home shoppers are taking notice and starting to expect these tools as standard.
As Diahann Young, director of innovation, content and digital marketing at Pulte Group, noted, consumers want to use virtual reality and live video tours to view homes — and will continue to want this when social distancing isn’t the norm anymore.
Ronda Conger, vice president of CBH Homes, also noted that their “buy online” website feature, which existed pre-pandemic, became a huge hit with buyers. Usage of the feature went up significantly between March and April 2020 and it now makes up 10 percent of their sales per month.
Zillow even found that 36 percent of home shoppers would be likely to buy a home entirely online due to the pandemic, while 30 percent would still buy a home entirely online even after the outbreak ends.
Turns out buyers love the idea of buying from their couch – particularly when they’ve got the option to view a home in its entirety online, or conveniently visit the home in a self-guided tour.
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 The home has significantly changed in function
Beyond digital tools, one of the biggest takeaways from PropTech 2020 is how significantly the home has changed for homeowners, and in effect, homebuyers.
You’ve probably already seen article upon article on how the pandemic is impacting home design, and it makes sense.
With people working from home and spending larger amounts of time there, where we live is under a microscope. As reiterated during PropTech, the role of the home has expanded significantly — now homeowners want home offices, home gyms, more privacy, outdoor space, seamless connectivity and more. And expectations are changing for renters as well.
Homeowners are also more focused on healthy living, which has implications for indoor air quality, smart home tech and the types of building materials used.
While it’s hard to say which trends will be around a decade from now, it’s pretty safe to say that the pandemic is still top of mind and new homes — and how buyers shop for them — is in a much different place than it was a year ago.