A little over two months ago, my husband and I wrote a contract with a big builder to build our new home. Even though I understand how long this process can take, I’m feeling a little like cookie monster asking Siri how long before the cookies are done. The difference between my situation and most buyers’ is knowing what goes on behind the scenes. After all, most buyers don’t know the time it takes to do all that paperwork. So if I’m feeling this way, I can’t imagine how typical buyers are feeling.
In my area, it takes 2-3 months to work through the new start process for single-family homes. The sales agents would always share with me that customers never understood how long it takes to work through the process for which there is no visual proof on site, and they would turn into unhappy customers from the beginning. They would begin to get concerned that no one is working on their home because they don’t see the work & don’t fully understand the home can only reflect on-site work once the permitting process is complete.
My response was, we can fix this!
Now that I am on the buyer’s side of the equation, I wish my builder had implemented a communication process for new purchasers. It is easier to avoid having upset customers if you give your sales force simple tools to manage buyers’ expectations and keep them feeling engaged throughout the process. Remember, they’re excited and eager to get started. Nothing squashes that faster than seeing no progress for 2-3 months. Even though things are happening in the office, customers want to see work happening on site. Here is a simple way to share information regularly.
1. Marketing is in charge of the complete buyer experience. We can help sales avoid angry customers while capitalizing on their excitement! I was lucky to work with a couple of amazing agents and an online sales specialist who were willing to try my ideas if it meant they would have happy customers. We made a series of templated emails and videos to manage expectations and keep the buyer engaged in the process:
2. One week after contract. A video email congratulating them on committing to build a new home is sent. It includes a brief overview of the drafting, permitting, and new start process. Overestimate the time frame if your area is inconsistent. We used a video of the online sales specialist asking questions about the pre-start process for the sales agent to answer.
3. After one month, send another email. It can be a quick pre-recorded video email from the agent that says, “Your home is still working its way through city planning.” Let them know you haven’t forgotten about them and remind them that it takes time to work through the paperwork stage and that municipalities don’t rush.
4. If at the second month the new start package is still not complete, send another video email. It’s much better to hear “We are still finishing up the paperwork with the municipalities and expect to receive them shortly,” than to hear nothing at all. You can also include an introduction to the site construction manager. This can be a templated email or a quick personal email.
5. If you have an especially excited buyer who requires more frequent contact, send a quick pre-recorded video message that pokes fun at the slowness of the process. Or use the same tactic if your process makes it to week 10 and 12. We had the sales agent stand in front of a dirt lot, look at her watch, and say, “Still nothing, but we expect something soon.” We infused some humor into the message while letting them know this was a normal time frame. They don’t know what is normal, so you have to help them understand your normal.
6. Once the office releases the new-start package, send a video email explaining the pre-construction meeting. When the call comes to schedule the meeting, they will be prepared. Give them an idea of how long the meeting should take, and what the buyer should be looking for on the plans.
I know better than to expect tangible building progress on my home so soon, but the emotional buyer in me wants to have the pre-construction meeting tomorrow (Friday), and footers go in on Monday. I can’t help but think that if I were receiving regular emails reassuring me that we are still on track, the experience would be more enjoyable for me.
We as marketers manage the whole buyer experience. By implementing processes that give buyers the best experiences possible, we make it easier to sell more homes! This was an easy fix to a big experience roadblock. It took ½ a day of filming, a day or so of editing, and another day or two to create the pre-planned emails. We heard from our agent that these emails helped keep customers from turning sour before the building began.