Homebuilding is complex. Builders are not only managing the construction to ensure each home is built to standard but guiding the satisfaction of each homebuyer, which often proves more difficult water to tread. Homebuying is a highly emotional process, so builders must take careful consideration of buyer emotions.
With a large emotional investment and months of building at play, it’s expected that homebuyers will experience ups and downs along the journey. It’s important to understand those pain points so your team can prepare for them. In this article, we discuss five of the most common homebuyer pain points with tips to address them for increased customer satisfaction.
Items listed for correction
There are hundreds of processes and thousands of components to manage when building a new home. Not to mention varying weather conditions to navigate over the months of construction. It’s not surprising then, that issues arise during the construction process leaving items in need of tending to at move-in.
These items affect the homebuyer’s level of satisfaction and are common pain points near the end of the homebuyer journey. In fact, three of the top five pain points for homebuyers according to AvidCX data are 1. Perception of items listed at the pre-delivery walk-through, 2. Perception of the time taken to correct those items, and 3. The number of items corrected before move-in.
When people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home they expect the final product to be a finished one. Even just a few last-minute items can affect homebuyer satisfaction and chances of customer referrals because people aren’t looking at what’s been completed to satisfaction, they’re only noticing the items that haven’t. It’s like buying a $200,000 car and being handed over the keys but the headlights aren’t in yet.
How to address challenges with incomplete items
To improve homebuyer satisfaction with items listed for correction it’s important to avoid surprises at all costs. This requires strategic communication and expectation setting throughout the entire homebuilding process. Buyers whose expectations are managed are more satisfied because their perceptions usually become reality. Buyers who are not communicated with very well and don’t know what to expect often have unrealistic expectations, leaving them upset and disappointed when things don’t pan out the way they hoped.
Here are a few tips for managing expectations regarding items listed for correction:
- Clearly explain the complexities of the construction process at the very beginning of the buyer journey, including possible setbacks and how your team is equipped to handle them. Honesty helps build credibility and full transparency makes it easier to create a great customer experience from the start.
- Prepare homebuyers for each upcoming phase and any notable event during construction to keep buyers in the loop of what’s happening next. Proactive and consistent communication will help buyers feel more assured and secure in their decision to build a new home and invest their money in your company.
- Be completely honest about outstanding items before closing with clear information about how and when those items will be fixed. Recognition of problems or potential problems allows your team to explain what course of action will be taken, which instills confidence and trust in your company. It also offers an opportunity to educate the buyer on homebuilding nuisances they may not understand and more knowledgeable homebuyers are happier ones.
Another question comes into play: Is it better to leave “obvious” items incomplete at the pre-delivery walk-through, then surprise the homeowners with completed items at move-in or complete all items by the pre-delivery inspection?
Ultimately, a home should be turned over with very few, if any, deficiencies at the pre-delivery to circle back to. Leaving items intentionally incomplete for wow-factor or to steer customers’ eyes away from finding more items to correct is precarious at best and borderline unethical at worst. But most homebuyers understand the complexities of new home construction and tolerate some incomplete items without affecting their loyalty to the homebuilder – although a complete home with no items listed for correction should always be the goal.
Perceived value for price paid
Two additional homebuyer pain points in the top 10 are 1. Value of options for price paid and 2. Home value for price paid. New homes cost a lot of money. The U.S government census for monthly new residential sales in January of 2021, states the average new home construction costs $408,800 and the median sales price is $346,400. So it makes sense that perception of value is a common challenge for buyers.
But value isn’t just about price. Perceived homebuyer value is really about a buyer’s belief that their new home meets their expectations and needs – that the benefits they receive outweigh the price. If the home meets or even exceeds their expectations their perceived value will be high, and they’ll believe the price they paid was worth it or even a “steal” if the perception of value is high enough. But homebuyer perception of value for the price they’re paying for their new home and the price they pay for their selections and upgrades are on a downward trend.
One of the reasons for this is that prices for homes and home products have been increasing in most markets, putting more stress on builders to find ways to formulate messaging that creates enough perception of value that it overrides those prices.
Additionally, in a technologically-driven world, buyers have more access to choices online than they did 10 years ago. They can research endless home products and materials, but will often find the options they’re looking for aren’t offered by their homebuilder.
But above all else, poor customer experience is the heavy hitter. Homebuyers are making a huge investment so any negative experience like an unexpected setback or unpleasant interaction will eat away at their level of perceived value in your company’s homes. And negative homebuyer experiences have a profound effect on revenue; Unsatisfied American consumers tell an average of 15 people about poor service and companies are losing more than 62 billion in revenue annually from poor customer experience (source: Help Scout).
How to address challenges with perception of value
Perception of value is based on benefits and these benefits are emotional, mental, and physical. Increasing value isn’t simply a matter of reducing price (though discounts can help), and surely, your company isn’t interested in a marketplace where it’s a competition to see who can offer the lowest price for new construction. So how do you improve these conditions?
Here are a few tips to manage your homebuyers’ perception of value for price paid:
- Make the “why” the focal point. Every conversation your team has with a buyer about selections should be centered around why the standard options and upgrades you provide are more beneficial than what the consumer saw online. Reinforce the benefit of your team installing and warranting the products you offer and the importance of using professional-grade products over comparable-looking models sold cheaper in stores.
- Rolling out the red carpet and providing an above and beyond customer experience for every homebuyer. Let’s use Starbucks as an example. In the fourth quarter alone of their 2020 fiscal year, they made 6.2 billion dollars. A 16-ounce cup of regular freshly brewed coffee costs $2.10. Folgers costs just $0.07 for a 16-ounce cup made at home. Why would people pay 30 times more for a regular cup of coffee at Starbucks? The overall experience.
Sure the taste may be better than Folgers, but it’s about the ambiance when customers walk in, the convenience of ordering and someone else making it, the personal touch of their name written on the cup and called, the perception that drinking Starbucks makes them look more upscale or established because that’s the image the brand built.
Homebuyers want to have a special experience like that but on a much grander scale. Every touchpoint in their customer journey should be personal and strategized.
Ultimately, the best way to create an experience that homebuyers will rave about it is to understand their high and low points during the homebuilding process and how to avoid and overcome challenges they will face. To do this effectively, your company should start creating homebuyer journey maps for your different buyer personas. You can get our detailed guide to customer journey mapping here: Homebuilders Guide to Creating an Effective Customer Journey Map (with Templates) and more in-depth guides to each phase of the homebuyer journey here.