Custom Home Builders Accommodate Buyers In A Changing Market

After the recent year or so in a sluggish market, custom home builders are making strides in meeting the expectations and desires of their buyers. While recuperating from a slow housing economy, custom home builders are finding solace and increasing sales by giving buyers what they want in the form of upgrades and eco-friendly features.

Large national companies also consistently provide consumers with attractive amenities, but they are finding it more difficult to meet the demands of buyers who yearn for “greener” options and inexpensive homes. As the laws of demand in a market dictate, both custom home builders and large national companies are attempting to “give people what they want.”

Custom home builders are accommodating the desires of their buyers by offering personalized options in new homes. Outdoor living options are a high priority in the minds of many buyers and designers. While a barbecue grill and kidney-shaped pool have traditionally been the standard, buyers are now opting for outdoor kitchens, kid-friendly pools, putting greens, ramadas, and even a few backyard skate parks. Designers say kitchens are a key focal point indoors, showcasing convenience and beauty.

Custom home builders are trying to promote a particular lifestyle through gourmet kitchens, islands, and upgraded appliances. They maintain buyers do not want standard kitchen appliances, choosing instead to have upgraded appliances in their new homes. In custom homes, buyers are also requesting bigger and more elegant guest rooms and bathrooms. In response to buyers wishes, custom home builders are “going the extra mile” to please their buyers.

Arizona new home buyers also follow national trends in their desire to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, and Arizona custom home builders are meeting their demands. Installing energy-efficient appliances is commonplace, but custom home builders are doing more to accommodate buyers who wish to live a “greener” lifestyle. Many Arizona custom builders have adopted construction techniques that emphasize conservation of energy, water, and resources. Yet this type of construction for the large national builders (who build a majority of the new homes in metro Phoenix,) this means completely revising their business structure, which is driven by production. The large builders view this as risky at a time when revenue is down and sales are stalled.

National home builders recognize the environment-friendly market, and many already include more common features such as dual-pane glass and low-water bathroom fixtures. More extensive green construction, though, involves numerous other items: ductwork placed underground or in “conditioned” enclosures and “gray water” systems that reclaim used water from kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms and use it to irrigate the landscaping. These features can be expensive, and national builders are skeptical as to whether enough buyers are willing to spend the additional money on a new home. It is estimated that “going green” increases a home’s price by approximately 5%. National companies are finding it difficult to justify any features that raise a home’s price, at a time when they are trying to clear out their excess inventory.

Markets are influenced by consumer demand. If Arizona’s home buyers continue to follow national and global trends in eco-friendly housing, national builders will benefit from “going green” and begin to see their sales increase. Custom home builders in Arizona are already reaping the benefit by giving buyers exactly what they want.

Sources: “Greater Expectations: Model Homes Build up Buyers’ Appetite for Upgraded Amenities,” Susie Steckner, The Arizona Republic: July 7, 2007.

“Going Green is a Hard Sell for Struggling Home Builders,” Glen Creno, The Arizona Republic: July 20, 2007.

Ten Tips for Evaluating a Home Builder Website

When researching potential new home builders to hire, you need to rely on quality, professionalism, customer service and relevance to your wants and budget. Because most new home searches begin online, evaluating a home builder’s website is crucial to deciding whether or not the home builder deserves to be contacted. If you want to purchase a house, this helpful article offers home buying information and ten tips for evaluating a home builder website.

Because the website of New Home Builder Orleans Homes exemplifies many features indicative of a quality homebuilder website, it was used as a model for what a potential new home buyer should look for in a new house builder website.

House & Floor Plans

When you are considering the purchase of a new home – maybe the biggest purchase you will ever make – you need to know the house is what you want, inside and out. To save potential home buyers time, some homebuilder websites let visitors preview new home plans online. A typical home builder will offer several floor and house plans and a home builder whose website boasts interactive floor plans suggests both technical savvy and awareness of what site visitors want of a residential home builder.

Printable Brochures

Just as the availability of house and floor plans show an awareness of what those in the market for a new home want, the ability to print plans and brochures reinforces that awareness. If you print a plan, you have something tangible to use for reference and to use if you choose to tour new model homes.

Words, Pictures & Interactivity

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes, but different people gather information in different ways. Some people are visual, others interactive while still more prefer to read to gather information. A home builder website should be equally open to these various ways of gathering information. And for those visual site visitors, if the pictures are of decent quality, it likely means the home builder invests in quality in other aspects of their business. One additional note on the pictures that appear on homebuilder websites: if the picture doesn’t show the actual home interior or exterior – shows instead a flower vase, say – it may mean the homebuilder is hiding something.

Usability & Navigation

For government and government contractor websites, the site must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Websites not obligated to this level of accessibility – but that are accessible nevertheless – are indicative of a company sympathetic to the needs of all potential site visitors. This is good, naturally, but accessible and usable websites also lead to a more rewarding site visit. In short, an open, easy-to-navigate website likely means open, easy-to-navigate homes.
Solid site navigation suggests, in addition, an awareness of how visitors will move throughout the website and a desire to make this process as intuitive as possible. A thoughtfully designed website means a thoughtfully designed home so look for sites that are both usable and accessible.

Interactive maps

To find a home, you need to know where it is. Maps, obviously, make the search for a new home easier. Furthermore, an interactive map – one where you can simply click on a location to view homes available in that area – makes the home search that much easier. When a website gives you multiple tools to find a new home for sale, it reinforces the notion that the homebuilder wants to make the search for a new home or new home development easier.

Easy-to-Find Content

Visitors to a homebuilder website may be looking for several unique types of information: new homes, home plans, home locations, financing information, company history, employment information, and home care tips. The content sought by a visitor should be easy to locate in a few simple clicks. Site maps, search fields, information architecture – these all help the visitor through the site. Again, an easily-navigable site suggests the homebuilder knows how to build well.

Search by Various Factors

A visitor in search of a single family home for sale, for example, may be seeking unique features. It so follows that a website should allow visitors to search by various factors such as location, neighborhood, price range, number of rooms, amenities, etc. There are many types of people in the market to buy a new home and a homebuilder should offer information to a variety of individuals. Even a luxury home builder builds a variety of models and a site that lets you search for factors pertinent to your home search suggests the company may be one worth further investigation.

Site Speaks to your Wants and Needs

Just as a site should allow for you to search according to your unique new home needs, a site should also speak to your new home wish list. If you are a first time homebuyer looking to buy a new house, evaluate the site content to see if they speak to needs similar to yours. If the site does not – there is no need to contact the home builder.

Links

A link is a vote for a website because, if there is a link to the site, the linking website owner decided the site content was worth referencing. So check to see if the site is linked to because links are essentially votes of confidence.

Financial Information

It is often said that the decision to purchase a house is one of the biggest most people will ever make. Most people have to think very carefully about investing in a new home, and how to finance it. Even if you have your own plans for financing a new home purchase, look for homebuilder websites that offer financing and mortgage information. It demonstrates a familiarity with the financing process and the ability of the company to give you good, reliable information. Some sites even offer a mortgage calculator [http://www.orleanshomes.com/buy/calc.cfm target=] – a very helpful tool to use during a new home search.

If you evaluate home builder websites based on these factors, you are better prepared to decide which new home builders to contact. One final note. If you like a home builder website, look for interest list forms or forms to request additional information. Filling out these forms not only ensures you are only provided relevant information, they will likely automatically qualify you for special offers, discounts and VIP openings. If you like what you see, fill out the interest list.

* You may republish this article provided you retain the active hyperlinks. Copyright 2006, Robert O’Shaughnessy.

Why Do Home Builders Live in the Nicest Homes?

Have you ever visited a really nice neighborhood and admired the community landscaping, the upscale architecture and the beautifully tree lined streets. Then suddenly, a home appears on the horizon that seems to tower over all others, has special appointments and details and looks like it was built to a higher standard? That well built home with all the upgrades is typically owned and inhabited by a home builder. Why is that?

Besides the local funeral home or the “old-home-renovated-for-a-law-firm”, the nicest house in the neighborhood is usually the residence of a local home builder. The fact that the home is grander than any of those around him or any of the homes he ever built is not lost on the builder or the community. In fact, builders typically use their homes as a sample to show-off their skill and craftsmanship. Too bad the actual product is far from what is advertised. Even real estate agents admit that home builders’ homes are better than those subpar versions reserved for you and me. How many times do you see a property listing that boasts “builder residence”. Why should that matter? Should I only fly in airplanes that are built by pilots or sail in boats designed by fishermen? Maybe!

The reason that home builder houses are better than yours or mine is not that they put extra care into their own homes. On the contrary, it is because they don’t put proper care into the homes they build for you and me. Yes, home builders are probably the best skimpers, scrapers and penny pinchers on the face of the earth. If they can a build a home with nails that cost a 1/100th of cent less, they will. No matter that the nails are flimsy, will probably rust and rot the wood studs from a galvanic reaction. Who will know? You probably won’t. At least not until another year or two after the warranty and the home builders responsibility has expired.

If we are honest, can any of us be sure that every wall cavity in our home is filled with insulation? Do we know if every stud is 16″ on center? Are we sure that the floor sheathing is attached to every joist? And what about all that extra material required during construction? Shouldn’t a builder know how much material is needed to build a home? The amount of waste generated at a home building site is staggering. And when one home site wastes too much, builders typically get “extra” materials from another project down the street. That “other” project could be your new home.   

Ask a builder about the cheapening of their product and they will tell you it is to save the homeowner money. That is a hard pill to swallow as historic material cost fluctuations never really seem to make it down to the homeowner. The material that makes up most American homes is wood. Wood prices have gone from a historic highs to historic lows over the past decade yet home construction costs (based on cost per square foot, not overall home prices) continues a steady, rapid rise. Where is that extra money going?

Yes, there are some very good home builders on the market. Just like there are some good used car salesmen and Ginsu knives. But to quote a famous philosopher from the 1960’s, “times they are a changing, my friend.” Builders aren’t building “spec” homes any more, many builder residences are up for sale and people who can build a new home are in total control. Quite a change from just a few years ago. 

Someday the economy will improve and this new age home buyer will rise from the ashes of this current downturn. A new home buyer that has more control over the building process and will dictate how they want their home built, how much it will cost and when it will done. This buyer will demand the latest in energy saving construction, the best construction practices and possess a set of construction documents that details every facet of the building process while monitoring material usage, managing labor efforts and scheduling just-in-time deliveries. This reenergized home buyer will demand that the builder follow their home plans in every detail and produce the home they have dreamed of and saved up for years. Because let’s face it, we all want to live in the nicest house on the block, too.

Buying Eggs – An Introduction To 21st Century Advertising For New Home Builders

Everyone has heard the old saying “love makes the world go round.” Most have heard the typical rebuttal “money makes the world go round.” But in reality, neither of these actually explains the movement of the universe.

The phenomenon that actually fuels the world in its revolutionary progress is purchasing. Money doesn’t have much of an effect on anything until it is used; until a purchase is made.

Some might say that the way in which money is used is determined by the individual in whose hand the bills reside; that the use of money depends upon personal and/or family needs and individual circumstances. To these people I would like to offer my congratulations on their idealistic vision of the world around them.

The world might be a better place if I could agree, but I would argue that the majority of today’s financial decisions are influenced so heavily by outside forces that they can’t really be said to be the direct result of personal needs or circumstances.

For instance, once upon a time if a man needed an egg, he wandered in the forest until he found an unguarded nest and he took the egg he needed (or all the eggs if he was greedy.)

A little time passed and a similar need would arise with a similar man and the man would fulfill the need by wandering out to his henhouse, lifting up a hen and taking the egg he needed.
More time passed and a similar man with a similar need might walk to the town market to purchase or barter for the egg he required.

Still more time passes; another similar man with the same need visits his local grocer on his way home from work to procure the needed egg.

Even more time flies away and we find ourselves in the world of today. But this man faces many questions before he will be able to obtain the object of his desire.

The first question is where will he purchase the egg? Is he going to go to a convenient store? It’s quicker; it’s more expensive; it may be very close.

Is he going to visit a grocery store? And if so, which one? Will he go to the closest store to his home? Will he visit the one nearest to his work on the way home for the day? Will he visit the grocery store that has the best sales? Will he visit the grocery store that is known to have the highest quality products? Will he visit the grocery store that is known for its specialty items? Will he go to a health food store? Will he go to the store he is most familiar with for that reason alone?

Once he arrives at the chosen location he will be faced with still more questions. How many eggs will he be purchasing? Will he go with a flat dozen? Does he need a dozen and a half? Will he look to see if they can be had by the half dozen? Or maybe he should buy in bulk.

Next he will need to know if small, medium, or large eggs suit his needs the best. Brand names and prices will vary and offer more options.

Some men would even go so far as to include the chickens from which the egg originated into their purchasing equation. Did the eggs come from cage-free chickens?

So what caused the drastic changes? What made it necessary to question such a simple, straightforward need and the mode of fulfilling it? The most obvious answer (and the correct one in my opinion or I wouldn’t be offering it to you) is the availability of choices.

When there is only one option that is the option that is used. And likewise, if an individual is aware of only one option, that is the option that is used. And similarly, if an individual is convinced that one option is better than another that is the option that is used.

You may wonder why we are discussing eggs. Eggs are a solid example of a need that has been in existence for so long that no one questions the fact that they will be bought and sold.

As long as people are around they will need (and want) to eat. Other such needs are obvious. After eating the most obvious need is shelter.

While natural shelters were all the rage “once upon a time” they are really only fully appreciated in our modern times during times of desperation, extreme survival, and dire emergencies. Other than that, most people look for a bit more in their mode of “shelter” nowadays than the nearest cave with convenient cover from the rain.

The same evolution of available options we discussed with the egg is evident when it comes to “shelter.” Today’s purchasers find themselves with a plethora of options when it comes to which home to purchase; especially once they’ve made the decision to build a new home.

It used to be that if someone decided to build a home they contacted their local contractor and that was it. He took it from there.

He had built other homes in the area and they were in use and apparently he was able to fulfill their need. Build it and they will come and all that. But we are all very aware of the myriad changes that have been wrought in this particular industry, and so are most of the buyers out there.

You might still run across the rare individual who is going to go to the nearest builder because they are in the area they are familiar with regardless of their standing with other local builders and national competitors. This is the same individual who will go to the grocery store they always visit because they feel comfortable walking in the doors, they know where to find the eggs and they know which cashier is the quickest.

But this individual is not as common as many think. Most purchasers know the value of their money and want to stretch it as far as it will go.

They research and they take unofficial surveys of friends and family to try to ascertain which product will best fulfill their needs. And all the time, smart builders are doing their best to put themselves in front of prospective buyers as the solution to their every individual requirement.

We call it sales and marketing. Advertising is all well and good. Sales are an accepted necessity, but the combination of both of these, along with appropriate research and statistical analysis to increase company profits, is the key to success in today’s new home building market.

Separating the marketing from the “sales and marketing” is a mistake that too many make. If you take the sales out of sales and marketing you’ll soon discover that all you have left is a lot of glitz and glam without any results. And results are the reason for “marketing” in the first place.

There are those in marketing who attempt to avoid the responsibility that is placed on them by the expectation of results by claiming that results can’t be measured in marketing. This is an embarrassing side step and an obvious attempt to refuse to accept that there is a purpose to marketing that makes it vital to any company; and that is sales.

Without the sales to go along with the marketing it becomes an extra expenditure that doesn’t pull its own weight. Companies that find themselves in this situation typically cut their budget and remove marketing from the situation altogether.

I can’t blame them, other than to berate them for failing to recognize that what they needed was to redefine their company’s interpretation of marketing and redirect their team towards a marketing program resulting in direct sales increases or hiring someone who can.

Marketing is measurable. And it should be measured. The easiest way, and most productive way to do so, is sales.

Good marketing should increase sales. And the only way an individual or company can be successful in a sales and marketing program is to always remember that their overall goal is to get more people to buy more stuff more often so that more money will be generated for the company and profits will increase.

Marketing is about selling stuff. It is not about creating an image. That’s another guy’s job that will help you in successfully selling and marketing your product, but won’t do your job for you.

A couple of decades ago the success of a new marketing campaign was measured by the elevated image of the company. Image was everything. But in the end you can produce a new ad that is award winning, popular, and wonderful, but if it doesn’t increase sales it is next to worthless.

Sales & Marketing is about selling the product; it doesn’t matter if those already buying your homes appreciate the clever ad or if the big wigs in the company think the ad positions the company well.

The end result, sales, is always the only result that matters. It doesn’t matter if everyone loves your marketing campaign and loves your product because of it…if they just don’t feel compelled to buy it. Successful marketing campaigns compel consumers to purchase; not appreciate and adore, but to purchase.

If there is a choice between a marketing campaign that results in nationwide popularity without increased sales, or a marketing campaign that results in nationwide censure with sales increases…which do you think would be viewed as a successful campaign by savvy owners?

Marketing in the new home industry began due to the introduction of choices (or competition). Competition does two things: increases product quality through necessity and introduces the need to make the public aware of the increased product quality.

Builders who had never before had to compete for their work were eventually introduced to the world of sales and marketing through necessity. As discussed earlier, when there is only one option or one builder, new home purchasers are going to use the one builder available.

When a second option is introduced through a second builder, willing and able to build new homes in the area, there ensues a new aspect of business never before necessary.

Competition results in both the refinement of the product and services offered to consumers (you now have someone who you want to appear better than in the eyes of the public) and sales and marketing; you want the public to be very aware of exactly why you are better than the competition and why the sale should be one they make with you and your company.

The history of traditional “old school” advertising and marketing for new homes included newspapers, signs, billboards, location, and we can’t forget the be all and end all “build it and they will come” theory. New home builders still depend upon models and spec homes, but not to entice new home buyers to look at their homes.

Successful new home builders of today don’t depend upon consumers seeing their models and coming to see what the fuss is about. They reach out to potential new home buyers with focused advertising coupled with clearly defined sales and marketing plans using all available mediums.

The traditional advertising mediums are included in the process, but new, even more advantageous and far reaching mediums have been added with the easy access to consumers offered by the television and the Internet.

Builders in the past could rely on a quality product and a good reputation to survive and even thrive in the new home industry, but in today’s market the builder who gets ahead is the one who is dedicated to fully understanding and incorporating modern sales and marketing techniques into their day-to-day advertising and business maneuverings. The successful builder will address the 5 M’s of Advertising and Marketing: Market, Money, Media, Message, and Messenger.