BDX co-founders – Tim Costello, CEO, and Melissa Morman, Client Experience Officer – kicked off the week ending Fri, April 10th with their weekly BDXtra Podcast.
For the second week in a row, Tim reported an increase in the number of consumers searching for real estate online week-over-week, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Across our BDX Google Real Estate Search Index – which measures the volume of search for thousands of real estate terms in hundreds of key markets and sub-markets for new homes – we’re seeing an additional 4% increase week over week,” Costello said.
Online Search for Real Estate at 81% of Last Year’s Levels – and Conversion Up Nearly 40%
“Last year was an all-time high for real estate search online. We still have 81% of the volume of home searchers we had last year,” Costello said. “And the shoppers that remain are serious – with conversion to meaningful lead actions up nearly 40% vs. last year,” he added.
What’s most interesting about current real estate search online, Costello noted, is that some markets where search interest is rising the most are cities hit hard by the virus – including Seattle, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Costello noted that BDX has a concierge team that calls shoppers. “What we’re hearing in these hard-hit, urban Coronavirus markets is that people want to flee the city for suburbia,” Costello said. “Home shoppers want to escape urban high-rise condos and apartments. They’re seeking single-family homes in the suburbs with outdoor space to enjoy while social distancing,” he added.
A Time for Action, Not Delay – Consumers Shopping Now Are Highly Committed
As builders, trade partners and building product manufacturers adapt to The New Normal, Kimberly Mackey kicked off a weekly webinar with Carol Morgan and Leah Kaiz Fellows with this advice for industry stakeholders:
“What you do now matters. It determines how quickly you are able to recover,” Mackey said. “It varies all over the country what you are able to do, but the bottom line is there are still things you can do.”
As a former Online Sales Counselor and now a trainer for this vital front-line role, Leah Kaiz Fellows also sees the pandemic as a time for action.
“Now is the time to set up your online sales foundation, if it does not yet exist – or to refine and review your current process,” Fellows advised.
“Continue to plan and prepare,” added Carol Morgan of Denim Marketing. “We are going to have a spring selling season. It may not be until June. Meanwhile, prepare for your next campaign,” she added.
Industry webinars and podcasts were filled with important and timely advice on vital steps builders should be taking now.
On their podcast, Tim Costello and Melissa Morman of BDX stressed the urgent need for builders to act decisively and immediately to take advantage of several key opportunities.
Promote today’s historic low-interest rates
Consumers still shopping for a new home today are serious buyers, Costello noted. “In most cases, they have been shopping for months and are totally unwilling to give up their dream,” Costello said.
“Home shoppers also recognize today’s low mortgage interest rates are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get more home, a lower mortgage payment, or a combination of both,” Costello added. “Do the math and share with buyers how much interest they’ll save by getting the same home for $500 less per month across a 30-year mortgage.”
Make clear on your website and social media that you’re open for business
Just because your website is still live, don’t assume buyers will know what that means, Costello said.
“Make clear you’re open for business, still selling and building homes, and that you have simple and effective tools and processes in place to help buyers shop safely and effectively – virtually and online,” Melissa Morman said.
“Add a button to your website to Schedule Your Virtual Tour,” Kimberly Mackey said.
Update Your CTA’s – Calls-to-Action – for The New Normal and Focus on Current Shoppers
Both Tim Costello and Melissa Morman stressed the urgent need to “pivot” your website to offer important new CTA”s (Calls-to-Action) on your website – based on what actions home shoppers can take in your specific market. However, some commonalities remain.
“Ninety percent of builders that we and the BDX team are speaking with daily still have inventory to sell and homes currently under construction,” Costello said, “so they need to maintain their pipeline.”
“Fortunately, the number of people still currently shopping online for a new home remains far larger than the pool of actual buyers that builders need collectively to maintain our annual sales rate,” he added.
“What’s different is the need to equip your website with the digital tools to enable people to search for a new home from the comfort of their couch.” That does not have to be hard he explained and many tools are low-cost and some – like FaceTime Tours via smartphone are essentially free.
The important thing according to both Costello and Morman is to focus on current shoppers – after all, they are clearly committed. Both BDX founders also strongly recommended focusing all of your marketing resources on where homebuyers are shopping with model homes closed or by appointment only. That’s online on portals like NewHomeSource and on social media, both of which are very low-cost ways to engage and convert current shoppers – and to drive traffic to a builder’s own website.
Put First Things First When Serious Shoppers Land on Your Website – And Measure Results
“If visitors to your website are not landing first on your videos and online tours,” Carol Morgan said, “you may need to ‘unbury them’ or change your strategy for what you’re promoting now.”
Morgan also stressed the need to continue to track your core key metrics to measure the success of your website. All of the normal measures still matter, Morgan said, but she urged builders to pay especially close attention to the number of visits per week; Time on Site; number of Pages Consumers; the number of conversions to phone calls, email leads and other valuable actions; and the conversion rates of visits to leads, qualified leads, and sales.
Echoing Tim Costello’s point above, Carol recommended closely tracking the number and conversion rate for important new actions on a builder’s website such as Requests a Virtual Tour, Request a Private Model Home Tour, or Request a Virtual Visit with an OSC or sales rep.
“If you’re spending any time or many on it, you should be measuring it,” Morgan said.
Update your nurturing emails
Several experts noted the need to examine all of your marketing touchpoints, with planned or programmed email nurturing campaigns.
“Look at CTA’s in your follow up emails. If your market is shut down for model home visits – and your emails are still urging consumers to visit your models – replace that call to action with Request a Virtual Tour, just as you did on your website,” Melissa Moran advised.
“Your nurturing emails shouldn’t urge buyers to take any actions not possible today,” Carol Morgan added.
Leverage the sharp decline in used home listings to gain market share for new homes:
Listings of existing homes for sale are plummeting on major real estate portals.
Consumers don’t want strangers touring their home, Costello noted. Homeowners across the nation are removing – or not listing – their existing home for sale.
“Now is the time to focus on marketing your spec homes to real estate agents,” Tim Costello of BDX said. “They have serious buyers and agents are panicking as they see a massive dwindling in the supply of used homes for sale,” Costello said.
“Make clear you have clean, never lived-in new homes that are safe and easy to tour virtually or by appointment,” Costello said. “Make sure agents know you have Quick Move-In Homes available today, next week, next month and in three months and six months”
“This is an incredible opportunity for builders to gain market share for new homes vs. used,” Costello added, “but builders need to do so now, while used home inventory is plummeting.”
Echoing that point, Leah Kaiz Fellows who train builder Online Sales Counselors (OSC’s) said, “I always encourage builders to buy into the fact that their OSC can register agents and their buyers.”
“I also encourage agents to contact the OSC since they know what’s happening across all communities,” Fellows added.
Tackle the content deficit – since many model home “visits” are now online:
All the experts we listened to agree – builders must make sure your videos, photos, and virtual tours are front and center on your website – and promoted with organic (and ideally paid) posts on your social media platforms.
While many builders now require an appointment to tour a model home in person, that level of access is all you need to shoot photos, videos or a Matterport Tour.
“Shooting a Matterport Tour is about the most socially distant thing a builder can do,” said Costello. “It’s one photographer and one camera alone in a model home.”
Another area where all the experts agree? All the photos, videos, virtual tours and Matterports you invest in now will still be paying dividends by driving traffic, engagement, and conversions for years to come.
Low cost digital assets are great – but high-quality free content and tools are better.
“A lot of the additional value we’re providing to builders at this critical time is free or at no added cost to builders who list homes for sale on NewHomeSource.com,” Morman said.
“Our media team has created fun PSA’s (public service ads) that stress the value of buying new. We can even personalize them with the builder’s logo at no charge,” Morman said. “The response from builders has been amazing.
Since many home-bound consumers are spending a lot more time on social media, Costello noted, now is a perfect time for builders to sign up for a free model home video tour on the NewHomeSource.com Facebook page.
The tour is launched live by a NewHomeSource expert, he said. That leverages Facebook’s preference for live video. The builder’s on-site rep can then do a live or pre-recorded video tour of the model. Either way, the “lift” Facebook gives live video is earned – and the tour is stored for later viewing.
Other examples of free services that help builders from BDX include TrustBuilder, the first accurate and complete builder ratings that survey all buyers for a builder and lead augmentation. BDX will append many useful insights to each consumer lead generated on NewHomeSource, including customer segmentation in partnership with Neustar.
“Many of these services included at no additional charge in your listing fee have tremendous value,” Morman noted, “especially at a time when home shoppers are more deeply assessing a builder online.”
Consider an Online Design Center
It will also pay dividends with increased engagement, option sales, and CSAT for many years to come.
“Builders using our Envision Online Design Center couldn’t be happier they made that decision,” said Melissa Morman. It allows builders to offer buyers the ability to visualize design choices on a builder’s website and emotionally connect with a new home – and then compare and pre-select options and upgrades before their Design Center appointment.
Melissa and Tim also recorded a BDXtra podcast available here (podcast) with a lot more insights based on their conversation with noted Design Center expert Jane Meagher.
Deploy a Chatbot
As Melissa Morman and Tim Costello discussed in another recent podcast (podcast) BDX has partnered with Bassam Salem, CEO of AtlasRTX and his team to create two complementary Chatbots.
Both can handle many conversations concurrently, long after business hours. The NewHomeSource BOT provides answers to many frequent buyer questions in 100 languages – 24/7.
BuilderBot from BDX and AtlasRTX provides the same service on a builder’s website, customized to that builder’s brand, communities, floor plans and more.
Both Bots are powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence – so both are continually learning and growing smarter. Each Bot is also designed to know when to involve a human teammate, as well.
Look for Our Weekly Roundup – Best of Builder Blogs – Late Friday Afternoon
All of us at BDX hope this Weekly Round-Up of the Best of Builder Webinars, Podcasts and Blog Posts is of value to you in these times. To make this summary even more timely for you, we’ll be moving up our publication date to share each week’s top insights late Friday afternoon.
About the AuthorMore Content by Jay McKenzie