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.

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.

What Do National Home Builders Do That the Re-Sale Market Doesn’t to Sell Homes?

National home builders throughout the United States all market their new homes in a similar manner. They place ads in the local newspapers announcing their homes for sale and how to get to their sales office. Once a prospective home buyer meets with the sales office they go through a presentation. These presentations vary from builder to builder but all prospective home buyers are ultimately provided with a brochure before they leave. These brochures typically include an artist’ rendition of the different home styles and their floor plans. The home builders provide these brochures to the buying public because it is a recognized and proven method of selling their homes.

In the early stages of construction (even prior to the models being erected) many homebuyers are able to make decisions as to which home they prefer to buy. In some cases, some buy homes based solely on this artist rendition and a detailed floor plan. Many home buyers get together at the end of the day sit and compare floor plans, sometimes imagining their furniture in each room. The most recent development is these same builders are now including floor plans on their websites as well. It is a basic yet effective marketing method to sell homes.

Incredibly in the re-sale market this marketing tool is completely abandoned? Check every home listing, Realtor website, home flyers, etc… and you will learn every detail about the home with the exception of a floor plan. At present absolutely none of these marketing pieces include a floor plan? Why you ask? We posed this question to a number of real estate professionals only to learn the following. Of those real estate professionals we asked, we learned of all the reasons under the sun as to why they chose not to utilize this proven marketing tool? All were glad to share their personal opinions or theories as to why it would not work for them, yet none of them had actually tried using it to sell a home! Go figure?

A paradigm shift in marketing homes will need to take place in today’s re-sale market. As homes take longer to sell in our current market environment it behooves home sellers to utilize every effective marketing tool necessary to differentiate their home from competing homes. The simple act of including a floor plan could accomplish just that. Unfortunately to date most home sellers will not be exposed to this marketing tool on the re-sale market. The handful of real estate sales professionals who are currently utilizing floor plans in their marketing, are benefiting as a result. It is another example of the 80/20 rule which is alive and well, where 20% of the agents are selling 80% of the homes.

A few small internet companies have emerged to meet this untapped need. Some provide an interactive floor plan utilizing photos within the floor plan itself, others provide photos that have a high quality 30 to 60 second commercial production within the reach of most real estate professionals and FSBO’s (For Sale by Owner) in terms of cost and ease of use.

I recently spoke with a homeowner who was so thrilled with her virtual tour with floor plan, she told me that “she had everyone in her office come to her computer terminal to see her home throughout the day”. A color flyer cannot create the same “Buzz” or emotional impact as these tours.

We are increasingly becoming a more litigious society. The number of forms and disclosures involved in the sale of a home continues to increase every year. Floor plans drawn by licensed professionals are known to reduce the liability real estate agents are exposed to. Simply scanning a floor plan from the builder brochure without their permission is unprofessional, and could possibly land those responsible in court for copyright infringement.

Unfortunately for home sellers many real estate professionals believe that by simply not stating or using sometimes unreliable public records for their listings they are off the hook from a potential lawsuit. Wrong!! Many real estate professionals mistakenly assume that tract homes are all the same, if this were true why are real estate appraisers required to measure your home when you are obtaining a loan to refinance or purchase?

In summary, If given the choice most home buyer’s would like to see a floor plan prior to visiting the home much like those clients that buy new model homes from national builders. In today’s market environment it is critical for home sellers to differentiate their homes from others they are competing against. At the present time, it is unlikely that the general public will be exposed to this form of marketing in the re-sale market unless they utilize the services of the 20% of the real estate professionals who currently do.