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.

House Plans in 3D – A Market Strategy For Home Builders and Residential Developers

With the economy still forecast to be gloomy and an uncertain road ahead, many residential developments and their builders have put the brakes on new construction projects. For builders and developers in the speculative home building market the strategies for earning a living from what they do best and remaining solvent while doing so are limited and challenging.

Many have resorted to building smaller homes using value engineered construction plans, emphasizing quality not quantity. Much more effort has gone into making a home energy-efficient and utilizing the latest green technologies available today. Also, more affordable homes are being built using less expensive, more standardized materials.

Builders have sharpened their pencils to shrink profit margins, incorporated more productive methods to reduce operating costs and upgraded to the latest technologies to streamline project efficiency. Some have even regrouped, combining resources and developing partnerships with others in their field.

But cost saving tactics can only go so far, especially with bank financing for builders and developers remaining problematic. Creative, private financing has been the alternative for some, however, that is not without its own drawbacks. High interest rates and larger upfront contributing costs required of builders and developers can significantly eat into profit margins.

Many home building companies realizing that future success will depend not only on fresh business practices and sleeker operational models that continually produce less expensive, noticeably better homes are now innovating; stressing more creative approaches to buyer’s needs. The option of marketing their speculative homes via 3D virtual house plans is fast becoming the preferred innovative sales tool.

Today’s buyers want things their way. And they expect a say in what they get. For example, many are more interested in practical and reasonably attractive function than simply fancy form. Small efficient floor plans with flexible space are more relevant than grandiose entrances with huge staircases. Instead of guessing what to build and hoping they will come, listen to prospective homeowners, and give them a chance to personalize each project.

That is why many open-minded builders, thinking outside the box, have been pre-selling semi-customized versions of model homes, through computer modeling of 3D house plans. By providing several base floor plans with full computer generated 3D color views of both the interior and exterior of the proposed new home plan, builders and developers are able to market their projects with the least amount of upfront costs and preparations.

This relatively inexpensive, cost-effective market strategy is a win-win situation worth considering. Builders don’t have to spend a dime in advance on home construction materials or labor costs without knowing the end results. Their sales team and physical presence can be significantly reduced – think virtual office. Actual site visits to model homes would not be encumbered by bad weather or scheduling hassles. Virtual tours would be available on the company website featuring all 3D imagery of the home plans and accompanied by detailed lot information, pricing options and customizations or upgrades.

For a buyer, who can now “shop” from the convenience of his or her home, an initial “walk-through” doesn’t waste either party’s time. With virtual 3D modeling of floor plans future homeowners can see what the proposed residence will look like and get a good impression of spatial relationships within the layout. They can view color options and material choices with respect to exterior siding, trim details and interior finishes.

Buyers still crave customized spaces that look and feel more like unique personal expressions. Starting from the pre-designed computer generated floor plans; buyers would be able to interact with pre-packaged upgrades, color and material choices and other customizable options. All material and finish details such as lighting, fixtures, hardware, appliances, flooring, paint color and exterior siding can then easily be selected and pre-priced. Contracts could be finalized with the least amount of effort.

The marketing strategy of pre-selling new home construction with 3D house plans is an effective method not only for large developments but is especially beneficial for small builders with very little capital and no sales team. A number of our small builder clients with one or two building lots in their inventory have chosen to pre-sell with 3D house plans rather than start risky construction projects on speculation. The money invested in architectural design work pales in comparison to the financing of building construction. And the peace of mind gained from knowing that the project is paid for works wonders on reducing job stress.

Marketing speculative home construction through pre-designed customizable house plans and computer generated 3D modeling is fast becoming the new norm. We have seen this trend both locally and nationwide where future homeowners have a say in the design and construction of their new home and builders have found a new niche for maintaining a profitable business.