New home sales and marketing leaders are out in full force right now sharing vital and actionable insights to shape your programs in this challenging time. But it’s hard to take it all in – so we’ve done that for you and each week will share our highlights from around the industry.

What did you miss last week? Here’s your personal summary of some of the most important learnings from some of the brightest minds in the new home industry.

Real Estate Search Online is Down – But Conversion is Up Dramatically

For years, BDX has tracked thousands of real estate-related online search terms – for existing homes as well as new. We correlate that nationally and by market and sub-market with traffic to NewHomeSource.com and compare it to a significant number of websites where we have visibility into traffic trends.

“January and February 2020 traffic on NewHomeSource.com represented 20-year highs,” said Tim Costello, founder and CEO of the website’s parent company BDX. “That changed the third week of February, as we shared with the editorial team at BUILDER.”

“While traffic is down, conversion on NHS is up 70%,” Costello said. “The ‘looky-lou’s’ have left the market – and the number of shoppers still searching is far more than the industry needs to sell our recent pace of about 650,000 new homes per year,” he said.

Serious Shoppers Need Serious – and Immediate – Follow-Up…

“Our concierge team calls a sample of phone leads on NewHomeSource,” Costello said. “80% of the buyers we speak with say they are very serious about their new home search, despite the virus.”

Many speakers on builder webinars this week pointed out that serious leads need serious attention – immediate, ongoing, and personalized to each buyer’s specific needs.

But Homebuyers Don’t Always Receive the Follow-Up They Need

Mike Lyon, founder and president of online marketing firm Do You Convert, unveiled the first results of his 2020 Survey of email leads received by top 100 builders.

Despite the urgent need to respond to shoppers, many buyers said they had not received a response from a builder within 30 days of requesting info:

  • 70% had not received a phone call response
  • 38% had not received an email response – and some who did received a canned auto-response, not a more effective personalized email
  • 94% had not received a video email response – a type of response that many experts consider very effective

Builders Need to Respond Quickly – During Non-Business Hours – a Smart Chatbot Can Help

On a recent BDX podcast, Tim Costello and Melissa Morman shared why BDX has deployed a Chatbot powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence on the company’s flagship new home real estate search website, NewHomeSource.com.

The BDX Chatbot is highly customized to respond to needs home shoppers have, Costello said, and it learns from each chat with a consumer – becoming more helpful over time. The Chatbot is also trained to know when to ask for human assistance to help a homebuyer.

Melissa Morman introduced Bassam Salem, CEO of AtlasRTX, BDX’s partner in launching the Chatbot. “The vision Bassam and his team have is simple – that artificial intelligence and humans are better together,” Morman said. She noted the Chatbot can provide help 24/7 in 100 languages.

Like many innovations BDX brings to the industry, the Chatbot was deployed first on NewHomeSource.com to assist builders who list their new homes for sale on the site. Now BDX is helping builders deploy branded Chatbots on their own website.

Today’s Buyers Start – and End – Their Day Online One Hour Later then Before the Virus

Over the last two weeks, BDX and AtlasRTX noted that traffic to builder websites has diffused more evenly throughout the day – with a less noticeable peak at noon, which had been seen each weekday for years – followed by further spikes on Saturdays and even more traffic on Sundays.

“We’ve also seen a shift by one hour,” Salem said. “Peak online traffic is starting one hour later each morning and ending one hour later each night.

Salem believes many consumers who used to commute but are now home-bound start and end their day an hour later. Shoppers routinely ask the Chatbot important questions well after normal business hours – at times most builders do not offer Live Web Chat.

“Don’t Be a Reg Card!” First Understand Why Consumers are Shopping for a Home

Noted sales trainer Jeff Shore had one of the most memorable lines last week as a guest on Mike Lyon’s Do You Convert webinar.

“Don’t be a reg card,” Shore implored builders. “Don’t ask the buyer what they want (number of bedrooms, square footage and price range) until you first figure out what’s wrong now,” Shore added.

Shore urged builders to record the reasons buyers are searching for a home during the pandemic in their CRM – and share that need with every person on a builder’s team who touches that buyer.

The reasons a customer is shopping are as important as data builders typically record in their CRM, Shore said – such as the buyer’s goals for move-in date, bedrooms, baths, price and square footage.

Important Digital Assets You Create or Acquire Now Will Not Be Wasted When the Virus Abates

BDX has been at the forefront of moving many steps of the homebuyer’s journey online. That vision started 20 years ago with the founding of NewHomeSource.com. It continues today with an array of digital tools that allow home shoppers to continue their new home search during these unprecedented times from the comfort of their couch.

Every digital asset that a builder creates now will be highly useful after the crisis. As several industry leaders noted on multiple webinars last week, having discovered how easy it is to shop for a new home online, consumers will continue to do so after the pandemic is over.

“Now is a good time for builders to build a new website or update their site, ramp up social media, invest in digital content assets or deploy a Chatbot,” said Carol Morgan, founder and president of Denim Marketing.

“Then dive into your Google Analytics and see what’s working best for you and what’s not, and make periodic adjustments,” Morgan added.

If You Still Allow Model Home Visits by Appointment, Make the Rules Clear Before the Visit

Few people doubt the need to maintain six-feet of separation in the grocery store. That’s a given, but experts also stressed the vital importance of managing a buyer’s expectations about distancing.

For builders still offering buyers the opportunity to tour a model home in person by appointment, Kimberley Mackey urged builders to be very clear and direct before the visit to let buyers know what to expect. Mackey spoke with Carol Morgan and others on their webinar last week.

“Tell them you’re sanitizing the model home before and after every visit,” Mackey advised. Let them know the model will be locked and you’ll meet them, not shake hands, and will keep a six-foot distance.”

“If you’ll be wearing a mask and gloves, tell buyers in advance,” she said. “If you’re limiting the visit to two people and no children, make that clear up front. Let buyers know before the visit if they will be asked to keep their hands in their pockets and not touch anything in the model.”

Practice Physical Distancing – Not Social or Online Distancing

If you are no longer offering model home visits, let buyers know what you can still help them.

“Let them know you’re still here for them as a builder,” Kimberly Mackey said.  “Explain what you can still do to help them in their new home search. That may be a video tour of a model home via FaceTime, Skype or a popular online meeting tool like Zoom.”

As good as these new tools are, many leading experts including Mike Lyon and Jeff Shore stressed the need to practice using them first with peers and co-workers. Master them so you focus on the needs of your buyer – not the mechanics of giving an online video tour.

BDX is a strong proponent of physical distancing for health and safety during the virus. However, this is NOT the time for our industry to distance ourselves from buyers online or via social media.

We’ll offer a special webinar on best practices in social media on this topic on Thursday, April 9 at 3 pm central time, hosted by our social media and communications expert, Jay McKenzie. Learn more and register for this important free webinar.

Hug Your Backlog

While every builder is rightfully seeking to continue to fill their marketing funnel with well-qualified prospects, it has never been more important to stay in close, personal and empathetic touch with your buyers under contract who have not yet closed.

“Hug your backlog,” said Mike Lyon of Do You Convert. Taking care of your buyers still in process has never been more important. It also will pay off with referrals as well as sales kept on track to close,

“A save is a sale,” added longtime new home marketing and sales consultant Jeff Shore. “Don’t wait for a buyer to reach out to you with concerns. Reach out to them first. Let them know ‘We’re so excited about the home we’re building for you.’ Send smartphone photos and videos of homes under construction to remind buyers how much they loved their home – to keep buyers on track to close.

Is This a Fact-Based Cancellation – Or a Fear-Based Cancellation?

Some builders in markets most impacted are reporting cancelled orders. In addition to “Hugging Your Backlog” to help prevent this, Jeff Shore advises builders faced with a panicked buyer to assess whether this is a fact-based cancellation (they’ve lost their job) or a fear-based cancellation.

“Help your fear-based buyers remember why they feel in love with the new home they selected,” Shore added. He recommended builders encourage worried buyers to take their time and remind customers “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here for you. Why not see how this looks in a week or two?”

Will the Downturn and Recovery Be a V, U or L?

The economic downturn across the nation is sudden, steep and unprecedented – but there will come a time when the virus recedes and every country sets about the hard work of reigniting their economy. The question is whether that recovery will be as quick as the drop – the so-called V-shaped economic rebound that we all wish for – or a U-shaped recovery that takes more time.

There is no better source of insight and wisdom on this issue than Ali Wolf and Tim Sullivan at Meyers Research. They and their co-workers at sister company Metrostudy and parent company Hanley Wood are in the front lines assessing the damage – and calculating how long it will take to heal.

Chief Economist Ali Wolf says only one L-shaped recovery has been seen in world history (in Japan). Neither she nor other economists foresee the dreaded L-recovery that does not rebound now. Wolf feels the odds favor a V-shaped recovery. However, if new hot spots for the virus emerge – or if our collective efforts to “flatten-the-curve” fall short – we could see a longer U-shaped recovery.

OK, Zoomer!

Never have so many in our industry attended – and participated in – so many webinars using platforms like Zoom. When you see a seasoned pro (Mike Lyon and Jeff Shore have done thousands of online webinars using Zoom and other platforms) it looks easy. It is not.

Mike and Jeff had words of wisdom for new-Zoomers: “Hyper focus on the person you’re speaking with,” advises Lyon.

“Ask yourself, am I really being of help and service to this person?” said Shore. “Pay attention to your ‘facial posture.’ Project the emotion and energy you desire. Practice virtual sales tours and meetings with co-workers first,” he added.

Listen to these experts – and reach out to our team at BDX. You’ll be Zooming and fluent in the skills needed to sell new homes virtually and online in no time!

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