Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How has the age of information changed real estate marketing?

John Amardeil is the president of BAM Builder Advertising and Marketing.With an MBA from York University and an extensive background in the new home industry, John has, since 1984, established an outstanding track record with respect to the marketing and sale of new homes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and beyond.

John has marketed and sold well over 20,000 new homes – a track record that would undoubtedly facilitate the expeditious marketing and sale of any new home project.

The age of information has significantly changed marketing in general and real estate marketing in particular.Where we used to rely exclusively on print ads, billboards, we now get more bang for our buck with Google ads. Where we once had static brochures, we now provide homebuyers with videos, images, faster customer service, and a wealth of frequently updated information on clients’ Facebook pages, interactive websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts.

Lastly, where we had presentation centres that showed a limited amount of features and finishes, we are now beginning to use touchscreens with interactive features that provide visitors with a virtual reproduction of their dream home.

To be sure, these new technologies haven’t replaced billboards or presentation centres. Maybe they never will.

One thing is clear, though: these technological changes have allowed homebuyers to do many things that seemed improbable not too long ago.

Today’s homebuyers can, for example, purchase a home from their living room, without ever having to set foot in the presentation centre. They can pose an uncomfortable question to a builder on a Facebook page wall for everyone to see (and expect a response pretty damn near immediately), or they can ask current homeowners for their feedback on the builder.

On the surface, these changes seem bad for us. For one thing, they’ve forced us to build killer websites in addition to building killer presentation centres. They have also forced us to create online ads and to establish a social media presence (which entails learning new skills and hiring the appropriate talent).

These consequences, however, pale in comparison with the loss of control we marketers have undergone in the last few years. We’re no longer engaged in a monologue — it’s a dialogue now, one in which our interlocutors are increasingly wary of our message.

Yet I (and I think I speak for most builders and marketers) not only embrace these changes — I welcome them. Why? Because informed buyers are more likely to make a decision they won’t regret.

Moreover, these technological changes have made it possible for us to advertise for less money. Google ads in particular allow us to get registrants at a fraction of the cost we have to pay to get registrants via print ads.

This is only possible because of the highly targeted nature of Google ads. They are aimed at people who searched for relevant keywords online, whereas print ads (although somewhat targeted), may still address many people who aren’t interest in your client’s community (or aren’t even looking to buy a home in the first place).

In the end, the age of information is changing marketing at a very fast pace, introducing some great things and others that may not seem so great. This will continue to happen, whether we like or not, at a pace that will only pick up. Those who fail to adapt will be left behind. Those who do — well, they’ll have to remain inventive and willing to learn.

Subscribe to John’s blog by RSS for exclusive insights into the world of new homes marketing, or talk to him on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Does your homeowner manual meet legal requirements?

Does the new home manual you typically provide meet legal requirements in British Columbia? To do so, it must:

  • Provide an Operation Manual for all components that require homeowner operation
  • Provide specific maintenance instructions for all products that require routine maintenance by homeowners

In British Columbia, builders & developers must comply with the Homeowner Protection Act when building new residential construction. Under Part 2 – Home Warranty Insurance & Statutory Protection, Section 14: Consequences of Not Providing Information, the act states:

“(1) If coverage under home warranty insurance is conditional on an owner undertaking proper maintenance, or if coverage is excluded to the extent that damage is caused by negligence on the part of the owner with respect to maintenance or repair by the owner, such conditions or exclusions apply only to maintenance requirements or procedures which have been provided to the original owner by the residential builder or warranty provider.

(2) To the extent that an original owner has not been provided with manufacturer's documentation or warranty information, or both, or with recommended maintenance and repair procedures for any component of a new home, the relevant exclusion is deemed to not apply.

[am. B.C. Reg. 126/99, s. 5.]

In short, if a homeowner is to be responsible for proper operation & maintenance of components after they take possession, they must be provided with the proper instructions to do so. If not, any damage caused by the homeowner is not covered under warranty, and theoretically would be the responsibility of the builder to fix.

Communication Is Key to Positive Homeowner Experience

Communication is a key component in the new home buying process, and has the ability to make a significant impact on the buying experience. Communication will determine if a purchase is made, how comfortable the buyer is during the building process and finally, the perceived level of customer service after they have taken possession of their home. Automating your communication efforts can give you the same value, but reduce your costs significantly.

Traditionally, communication has been a time consuming and costly endeavour; but with web-based new home manuals now being utilized, post-occupancy automated communication is adding significant value to homeowner experience, and reducing the time and resources builders are spending on warranty claims.

Through email reminders, based on your warranty provider’s maintenance schedule, proactively sent to your purchasers will guarantee they are continually reminded of their responsibilities as a homeowner. This communication will ensure the homeowner is confident they are meeting the requirements to keep their warranty intact, and the builder benefits from having less warranty claims.

By automating the process, builders reap the benefits with no time or resources spent on the initiative.

Digital New Home Manuals - The New Way of Branding Your Homes

Manufactured products stand as a testimony to the quality of their design, but very few of those products have significant longevity. A new home, however, will likely outlive the original purchaser. This gives new home builders an extravagance that should be taken advantage of; branding a home so that it stands as a testimony for years to come, even as the home changes hands. But how can a homeowner manual help you accomplish this?

Traditional new home manuals in the form of a binder are easily lost or misplaced; a consequence of their design. It is unlikely to hope that it will be transferred to secondary owners, and even more unlikely it will serve as representation of your brand. The recent trend toward web-based owner’s manuals eliminates this concern by housing home-specific information via an online portal, which also allows for a larger amount of information to be stored efficiently, and visually customized to your brand.

In previous generations, the average person bought fewer homes. The same can’t be said about the average home buyer of today; home prices are simply too high for most people to buy their dream home and will require one or more “starter” homes as they progress through life. For a new home builder, this is a significant opportunity to expose your product to secondary homeowners and their inner circles.

Outsourcing Homeowner Manuals: It Makes Sense

When construction is finished and you turn possession over to the homeowner, does the manual you produce reflect the quality of the home you just built? Does it give the homeowner everything they need to know? In the past, a simple offering such as a binder would have sufficed. In today’s competitive marketplace, a world-class new home manual is a clear differentiator.

A home consists of hundreds of products & components supplied by numerous manufacturers and constructed by dozens of trades; a new home manual that means something should provide all of this information and product documentation to the homeowner. Does your organization have the time to compile all of this information and technical resources to produce a new home manual that satisfies today’s consumer’s expectations? If yes, does it make sense to do so, or could those resources be better utilized for things that you can’t readily outsource?

Outsourcing new home manuals may be new to this industry, but it's an old business strategy that is widely used in practically all industries. Successful organizations focus on what their core competencies are, and outsource other required activities to companies that can provide a level of quality that meets your expectations at a competitive price point.

So why not outsource homeowner manuals?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Universal Access to Information About a Home Will Change the Way Consumers Buy & Sell Homes

This article first appeared in the Toronto Sun - Homes-Extra on March 9, 2012.

We have all heard the expression, “in the cloud.” From email to banking, a fundamental shift away from software to remote, cloud-based connectivity is making access to our vital information easier than ever before. So what does cloud computing have to do with the home building industry? A lot, actually.

Lowe’s Home Improvement recently launched “MyLowe’s,” a cloud-based portal for homeowners which will allow their customers to store information on purchases they make for their homes such as model numbers, owner's manuals, warranties, and paint formulas. No longer will important documentation be relegated to a box, lost or misplaced in that urgent time of need. Purchase products, install and enjoy; when you need to do maintenance, troubleshoot or reference the warranty terms, simply login and access the information.

As valuable as a cloud-based portal is to a homeowner, the most exciting aspect of this technology goes well beyond the basic convenience of the tool. Universal access to the home’s information and transferability will change the way consumers buy and sell homes.

Imagine having access to a service history when buying a home, similar to CarFax in the automotive industry. Home inspectors would be able to provide a detailed report as to how the upkeep of the home’s components has been done based on the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations, as well as inform the purchaser as to what extended warranties are still intact. Insurance companies will be able to calculate replacement & repair costs far more accurately based on the records kept in the portal.

In the modern age of real estate, property changes hands more than it use to. Most homeowner’s now have to use their first and often second homes as stepping stones. Each home purchase represents a significant investment and as such, anything a seller can do to reduce the risk and add more value will become increasingly important. After all, when buying a used car, don’t we all want low kilometres and an impeccable service history? Until recently, the only peace of mind we had when buying a resale home was the word of a qualified home inspector.

Convenience, transferability and universal access to important information; when you combine these attributes, it is easy to see how “in the cloud” technology can change an entire industry. For residential construction, the question is no longer how, but when.

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