According to Market Watch today shares of home builders took a broad beating Tuesday, after luxury builder Toll Brothers Inc. confirmed investors' fears by saying "it witnessed the housing market soften further in November, especially in California because of reduced affordability and fewer foreign buyers".
There have been a “string of disappointing housing market data points, including a surprise decline in construction spending, a drop in pending home sales to a 4-year low, and a near 3-year low in new home sales and the pace of home price growth slowing to a 2-year low”.
According to the CEO of Toll Brothers Douglas Yearley, despite a healthy economy he saw “a moderation in demand during the quarter as net signed contracts declined 15% in dollars and 13% in units”.
So, Who do we blame?
Do we blame the market?
Do we blame the demographic?
Do we assume all millennials just want to rent?
Do we assume all baby boomers are waiting to move into their downsized active adult community?
We need to truly rethink how we can reset the customer journey from builder portal to the sales center. (across all buying channels)
Are you asking lifestyle questions? Do you really know who your customers are? Or are you simply asking a few qualifying questions, which are tailor made for the real estate agent versus clear and specific questions for the would-be homebuyer? People do not know the industry lexicon of elevation, floor-plan, square footage, lot size, lot premium, dollars per square foot, and the features and functions of granite finishes or appliances etc.
Just because a customer researches this information does not mean they are experts in the process of buying a new home, and fully understand what questions should be asked. It is the Real Estate Agent’s job to guide and mentor during the buying process.
Stop selling the house, and Start selling the home.
Why is this process not treated with intent and kid-gloves?
- At Trek Bikes you can customize a $10K road bike either online, or in-person and get best in-class service delivered to your front door personalized exactly as built and with a local vendor there to support your every need.
- At Nike you can purchase a $200 pair of sneakers either online, in-person or through an app, designed by you, and have the same consistent experience across all buying channels.
- At Louis Vuitton you can purchase a $2500 handbag either online, through an app, or in-person and have the same consistent experience across all buying channels.
Why is the single, most important purchase of someone’s lifetime not taken as seriously as the purchase of a bicycle, a pair of sneakers, or a handbag? Why is it so inconsistent?
Well, the argument that “most people buy their house once” is not good enough to me.
All of the examples above are brands who connect with their customer, and do it correctly. They sell cool stuff that has marginal utility and will in fact depreciate in price over time. They sell cool stuff that could be replaced again and again year after year. But a home…
A home is a bit different, and it is has so much more value than a road bike, a pair of sneakers, or a handbag. By value, I do not mean monetary value. I mean importance, significance and focus.
Maybe you think this is overly altruistic, but the homebuilder has a very unique and specific responsibility. The construction of building someone’s HOME.
A place where memories are made. A place where people seek shelter, safety and comfort. A place that could be multi-generational, a place centered around love and family centricity. Was this forgotten along the way? Why is there not a focus of putting the customer first? It is the most expensive thing we buy, so why is it not the most important? It needs to feel important, it needs to feel personal and bespoke to the homebuyer.
Yet, it feels so transactional. It seems it is more about closing the deal, and trying to sell upgrades, instead of trying to demonstrate value. How does the message become clearer for homebuyers so they can truly understand what homeownership looks like holistically? Why is there a lack of connection with customers in a way that makes the buyer want to purchase and have a sense of aspiration. If someone has a great experience with your brand, that customer, that person, becomes your best marketer and a customer for life.
It is my hope that we perfect the buying journey for homebuyers.
I want to build a process that creates desire for a new home, and that makes the person’s buying journey feel personal and clear. I want to create a process that makes the real estate agents smarter, and the marketers more aware. By putting the customer first we can begin to build a journey that is specific to the buyer, which in-turn creates a memorable experience while making buying a house more about building a home.