In this customer journey map series, we’re diving deeper into each phase of the homebuyer journey to help homebuilders create a better experience.
If you missed our last article about the inspiration and discovery phase you can check it out here. Not sure what customer journey mapping is? You’re in luck. We created an entire guide for homebuilders to understand its importance and how to map effectively.
The second phase of the homebuyer journey is decision making. At this point, homebuyer excitement is increasing. They’re getting ready to see their homebuilding dream come to life after all.
But this stage is critical for you. The homebuyer has finished up their research and is serious about narrowing down the builders they’re considering, so you want to make sure your brand experience is compelling enough for them to choose you.
Tips for nailing the decision-making phase of homebuying
Let’s break down the steps of the decision-making process and how to make your customer experience stand out above the rest of the competition.
Shop around and follow-up communications
As homebuyers pin-down their final homebuilder choices they’ll continue to shop around and follow-up with the builders they were interested in after the first sales/model office visits. The second time a buyer comes to your office to further discuss, know that they have likely already visited other builders again or plan to after meeting with you.
Encourage them to shop around and find the best fit for them, you don’t want to come across as pushy or abrasive in your sales strategy. But always give them a great reason to come back.
Take some time to shop your company’s competition so you have a feel for what homebuyers are seeing and feeling with their experiences. Sign up for their newsletters or other communications to see what kind of materials and media they send to prospective buyers. Are they offering valuable blog articles with great tips for taking care of a home, or advice for buying that you aren’t?
At this stage buyers want to feel confident the builder they choose is an expert in homebuilding and they can trust that builder will provide a great experience and high-quality home.
The pre-approval process is usually a positive experience but can be nerve-wracking for homebuyers. You want to alleviate any fears a prospective buyer comes to you with about the process to show your company is caring and understands the ups and downs of their journey. Do some market research on the pre-approval process so you can provide clear and detailed information to your buyers and be prepared for questions they may ask.
Additionally, if you try to encourage homebuyers towards a preferred lender it’s important to be transparent as to why. Without transparency, buyers may think this lender will simply benefit you with a referral or kickback. But most homebuilders use preferred lenders because it helps them control the loan process and make sure the loan will close – a benefit for both parties.
Follow-up visits and contract signing
During the follow-up visits and contract discussions, spirits are high and homebuyers are excited to get the building process going. But this is where communication is key. You want homebuyers to have a firm understanding of their contract to avoid confusion and disagreements during construction. Here’s a list of common disputes in residential build contracts according to Nolo, and our tips to avoid them:
1. Scope of work
This is the work that you agree to as the homebuilder, which may include obtaining permits, providing all labor, materials, and equipment, and creation of the home’s plans including specifications. Sometimes contract documents, even if drafted carefully, conflict with the drawn plans. For example, the drawings show a regular double-basin kitchen sink, but the contract and specifications call for a farmhouse sink. This can be confusing to the homebuyer and may make them nervous if documents and plans don’t match.
2. Project timing
Homebuilding doesn’t usually go as planned. There are a lot of variables at play that can derail the timeline. Surely dates should be clear in the contract of when construction will begin, the schedule of work your team will follow, and when the home will be ready to move-in. The important thing here is to be completely transparent with the homebuyer about the possibility of setbacks and explain exactly how your team handles unexpected delays or changes to the scope of work during construction. They should feel confident that if a setback happens, they know you will communicate with them immediately with a plan of action and a new timeline.
3. Warranty process and coverage
The builder warranty is a very common confusion for new homebuyers. The main issue is a general lack of information and clarity from the builder about details such as: what the warranty covers in the home, how long the warranty lasts, what the homeowner is responsible for, and what happens after the builder warranty is over.
This lack of knowledge often results in homebuilders fielding a large number of service calls after the warranty has ended and unhappy homeowners who feel abandoned. When that one-year warranty ends homeowners often don’t realize their home is no longer in the builder’s hands, perhaps with the exception of a structural warranty.
To avoid this problem, provide ample information and resources regarding your warranty coverage in the contract and additional materials. The more the better. Explain thoroughly how the warranty process works, what you take care of, what you don’t, and what happens after the warranty ends. In fact, talk about warranty more than once during the homebuilding process. It might seem like overkill, but over-communication is a key approach for homebuilders with higher customer experience scores after move-in.