Selling new construction homes in the past several years has treated us to some wonderful, warm tailwinds (gusty at times) with not enough homes to answer the demand of the visitors to our model centers. Our market conditions have caused us to exercise different daily skills to manage our business. There is only so much time in the day, and many of our fundamental sales behaviors have taken a back seat to managing buyers' expectations.
We can all agree that these past two years have taught us a few good lessons about how to sell new construction homes. We have seen unprecedented demand due to home buyers reevaluating their living situation. It's also forced us to take a hard look at how we are engaging the customer in order to meet rising expectations.
It's important for sales professionals to be aware of negative self-talk and not to blame low sales on external factors such as high interest rates. In fact, the sales volume of new homes in the past two years is half of what it was 16 years ago, when interest rates were similar. It's important to value every lead and to provide personalized attention to prospects, as well as being a leader in the sales process by clearly communicating the next steps for homeownership. It's also crucial to approach every encounter with the goal of making a sale and to focus on internal positivity and effective communication.
Cooling Market vs. Normalizing Market
Let's look back at a similar period when new construction sales saw interest rates in the mid-6 % range. The graph below shows we have to go back to September 2006. Interest rates were at 6.41%. This is approximately the same rate we have in December of 2022. In September of 2006, our nation saw new home sales at 1,016,000. In December of 2022, we saw new home sales at approximately 525,000. About half the sales volume at the same interest rate.
Selling New Construction Homes in Any Economic Condition
Certainly, additional factors influence the pace of new home sales at these different time frames in our history. Just because interest rates jumped up almost as fast as they went down doesn't mean the demand has disappeared. 16 years ago, we sold twice as many homes as we have today at the same interest rate. Interest rates are a factor, but not an excuse. We simply need to find the solutions to our buyer's challenges today.
It's likely the number of visitors to your model centers has decreased. In some cases, the numbers have been cut in half. In some ways, this can be a good thing. For two years now I've heard sales reps talking about having more traffic than they can handle. And customer satisfaction scores have shown this negative effect on selling new construction homes. Reduced traffic allows you to provide better customer experiences to those that do come in.
It's time to stop taking our model visitors for granted. We must value every person that shows interest in our new construction homes. This means listening intently to them, asking more questions on how to assist them, and respecting their time by helping them to the next step of the home-buying process. As Steve Jobs once said, "Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves."
We Need to be Leaders of the Process.
Your prospects depend on you for the next steps. In every encounter, your prospects should never leave your meeting without knowing what the next steps are and when they are going to happen. Don't leave it to your prospect to figure it out.
Your traffic numbers might be less, but if a prospect is standing in front of you, it's a golden opportunity, if you give them the time they deserve. You don't need to see 30 prospects to achieve one sale. But you do need to be prepared.
Effectively selling homes for builders means approaching every encounter with a sale in mind. And the most important 10 seconds of the sales process are the 10 seconds before your customer enters your model center. Use this time to clear your mind of negativity and focus on positive outcomes. Begin your engagement with your prospect with the end in mind: them buying a home from you.
"Back to the Basics?"
Lately, I've been hearing the phrase, "We need to get back to the basics." But the truth is many sales professionals, even sales leaders today, haven't developed the basic new construction sales skills due to the market demands of the past 6 or 7 years. So what exactly are these basics we need to get back to?
4 Basics of Selling New Construction Homes
Here are some examples of tried and true methods of selling homes for builders:
- Be Prepared - Spend some time on your own website. Approach this exercise like you are a home buyer gathering information. What you will quickly realize, in most cases, is that you can gather about 90% of the information you need to make a buying decision. It would be embarrassing if your prospect came into your office knowing more about your product than you do. And when you do get in front of a prospect, don't waste time telling them the same information they already learned from your website. Be relational, be curious, and understand why your customer is seeking a new home in the first place. The answers to the old archaic questions of how many bedrooms are you needing or how much square footage they are looking for can be learned through a conversation without asking the question directly.
- Know Your Competition - How can you position your product against your competition if you are not aware of what they're doing? Go out and walk your competition's product, their community, and their homes under construction. I guarantee you will find an advantage or two to position your product in a better light. Knowing what your customers have seen or are going to see after visiting you puts you in a better position to win the sale.
- Develop Your Curiosity Bone - At Bokka we conduct mystery shopping, and we often see the salesperson jumping right into their product demonstration without learning about the customer's story and why they're even looking for a new home. As sales professionals, we must be insatiably curious about our prospect's stories. We must be asking questions throughout our engagement with our prospect. The discovery stage of our sales process isn't a moment in time; rather, discovery continues throughout the visit with our prospect. We never stop learning about their story.
- Focus on the right things - When I coach sales professionals, I often hear about all the obstacles that keep them from achieving their goals. Things like interest rates, long cycle times, waning consumer confidence, selling of their existing home, and the list goes on. It's important to note these are things you can't control. Instead, stay focused on the things that you can control.
Sales Behaviors That Are Within Your Control:
- Attitude - In life, there are ups and downs, we must celebrate the ups and learn from the downs. You can't control what happens to you, you can only control how you respond.
- Work Ethic - be present, and stay focused on preparing yourself to be at your best - your customers deserve nothing less.
- Customer Experience - Place yourself in your customer's shoes and deliver a genuine buying and building experience. Make it fun, be authentic and practice empathy.
- Energy - Like attitude, great sales professionals protect their positive energy. They rid themselves of negative influences at all costs. Don't listen to the nay-sayers or allow the excuses or objections to occupy your thoughts.
- Passion - Let your passion be seen, customers gravitate toward those that are passionate about what they do.
- Effort - Always give your best. Leave it all on the field. You don't want to have regrets of, "I should have done this, or I should have done that."
- Being Coachable - Never stop learning. Sometimes the best lessons come from the setbacks we encounter. Fail forward and build on your successes.
How to Sell New Construction Homes: 3 Things You Can Do Now
Challenging market conditions require a different skill set. Those that haven't developed the skills for today's market conditions need to adjust. Here are 3 things you can do now to be successful:
- Change your mindset - Approach new home sales with the mindset that we are not here to sell homes, we are here to help our customers buy. That means we need to learn everything we can about our customers to help them achieve their goals. It doesn't matter what you have or how wonderful your homes are if you don't know why your customer desires a change. Ask more questions and make your model home demonstration more interactive based on what they've told you. Your customers will appreciate your interest in them.
- Be the resident expert - As a real estate professional, it's important to not only be knowledgeable about the properties and services you offer, but also about the competition and the resale market in your area. This helps you provide the best possible service to your customers and assist them in making informed decisions. Additionally, having a strong understanding of the construction process and the different phases of building a new home can help you smoothly guide your customers through the process of buying and building. Overall, being an expert in your field helps you stand out from the competition and demonstrate your professionalism and expertise to your customers.
- Embrace your CRM - Your customer relationship management (CRM) system is an essential tool for selling new construction homes, especially in a market that is constantly changing and with longer sales cycles. To ensure success for both you and your customers, it's important to continually provide them with reasons why moving forward with a purchase is in their best interest. One way to do this is by regularly following up with your customers, which shows respect and demonstrates your interest in their success.
Imagine if you were a customer who spent two hours with a salesperson, but they never followed up with you afterward. You would probably feel ignored and unimportant. That's why it's important to develop a follow-up workflow within your CRM and manage it effectively. Use automation to your advantage, but don't forget to add some personalization to your workflows so your customers feel valued. If you take away anything from this article, make sure to prioritize following up with your customers and using your CRM to help you be as productive as possible.
To sum it all up, selling new construction homes has seen strong demand in recent years, but market conditions have made it challenging to meet the needs and expectations of buyers. By focusing on internal positivity, effective communication, continuous improvement, knowledge and relationships, you can succeed in this industry and drive sales even in challenging market conditions.
At the Bokka Group, we are partners with many builders to help improve their home buying experience. We'd love to assist you in building your program to find success in these shifting market conditions. Give us a call for a free consultation, we're great listeners.