I’m writing this article during an exciting time in my life – the hunt for a home, which also happens to be my first home.
If I’m honest, I’m not sure quite what I’m looking for. New-build, semi-detached, terrace… the choice is endless.
After looking at a few homes on estate agents’ websites, I decided to take a look at what buying off-plan had to offer, and went through the process of using a new build developers website and visiting a marketing suite.
Now I’ve gone through the initial experience of looking around a new-build, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the experience so new build developers can learn how they could enhance the experience.
Working in the marketing industry myself, I understand how important customer feedback and constructive criticism is, so I’d like to think any developers reading this find my post useful.
One important thing to mention before I get started is I’ll keep the identity of the developer hidden.
I’ve been inside a few new-build marketing suites in my life and they all seem to offer similar experiences from website to marketing suite, so I like to think this article can offer advice for the entire industry, and not single out an individual developer.
The website and online booking process
Where better to start than the initial search process?
I first found the development whilst searching on Rightmove for properties in my area.
Buying new isn’t something I’d necessarily considered before, but not something I’d ruled out either. My initial thoughts were that a new home would be a little over my budget, but potentially worth excess cost for not having to do any work to get the home into shape.
The property I spotted online seemed ideal from the description. Ideal location for work, attractive rural area and great transport links to the rest of the UK.
The floor plan gave me an idea of the size of the property, however, due to the lack of a virtual tour I couldn’t grasp a true feel of the property without visiting for myself.
I also struggled to gain an understanding of what the development would look like once it’s completed. I believe buying a new home is more than just that individual home – it’s the surrounding streets and area which are also yet to be built.
As I’m writing this and visited the development during the Coronavirus situation, I was apprehensive to visit but decided to due to the effort the developer had seemed to go through to ensure the safety of their customers and staff.
I found the appointment booking system also reassuring, ensuring that each visitor had their own time to discover the properties without the worry of encountering any other property hunters.
One thing I did find disappointing was the lack of data the booking form was asking for. I know this sounds bizarre, as usually, we want to give as little data to companies as possible. However, I’m looking at this from a marketing and customer service point of view.
The better the developer understands my needs, for example, which new home(s) I’m interested in, the better the sales representative can tailor and prepare the best experience for me.
One thing that confuses me about the house buying process is the lack of interactivity along the way of the buying process.
Buying a home is the probably the most expensive buying decision I’ll ever make, however, it’s also one of the least interactive.
This is something you can do for a £150 purchasing decision, and there’s more technology used here than in a £150,000+ decision when buying a new home.
This has always seemed strange to me.
The site entrance and marketing suite first impressions
As I turned into the site, I was impressed with the effort that went into the entrance.
I’m a big fan of the large flags and the ’yellow-brick road’ feel of driving up to a marketing suite, and not having to worry about shattering the suspension of my car.
To enter the marketing suite, a phone number had to be called to gain entrance and be greeted by the sales rep. I liked this as it protects both the staff and visitors, and made you feel a lot safer knowing there were practices in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
As soon as I entered the marketing suite I was kindly greeted by the sales representative. I couldn’t fault her throughout the entire marketing suite experience.
She quickly admitted that she knew I was coming but had no idea what I was interested in or what I was looking for (due to the lack of information required in the booking system), so I began to explain my situation.
I think this was something that could have submitted digitally to give her time to prepare for my appointment, and I also would have been happier with the improved and tailored level of service.
One thing the marketing suite certainly lacked was interactivity. Again, I understand the global situation restricts touchpoints, but this seems to be a common theme with all the marketing suites I’ve been inside before the C-19 outbreak.
The showhomes and site walk
When it came to the time to take a look around the showhomes, I was disappointed to discover that the home I was interested in hadn’t got a showhome built.
During the look around the showhomes, I was constantly trying to work out what the particular housetype I was interested in was going to look like – moving rooms around inside my head and trying to work out what space I’d have to play with.
Due to spending my time trying to work this out, I’ve got no memory of what the showhomes even looked like.
After I had the chance to check out the showhomes, I was taken on a site walk after getting suited and booted in a hardhat and hi-vis.
Yet again, I found this quite difficult to visualise what the finished site would look like, and it’s hard to imagine yourself living somewhere that’s just bricks and rubble.
I did get the chance to take a look at the two available properties from the outside, but again had no idea what either of the homes will look like. One had almost completed building but the other was only half a house that appeared to be quite a way from completion.
I did get the chance to peek into the garden of the homes, so that was useful as each garden size seemed to vary.
Exit and the closing discussion
When we arrived back to the marketing suite, the sales advisor was informative, helpful, and understanding as possible.
I explained how it was difficult to gain an understanding of what the home I was interested in feels like with me not having the chance to experience the showhome or a virtual tour, so she tried her best to find a solution.
She searched online to find a virtual tour of the housetype I was interested in, which concerned me a little as I spent a little time trying to find one on their website with no luck.
After quite a while of waiting, she announced that she had managed to find one!
She achieved this by searching on Google and the Virtual Tour was a video posted on a social media website of all places.
It wasn’t quite the virtual tour I was expecting, as I again struggled to gain an understanding of the home, as it was just a collection of 360 images combined together to show-off about half of the house.
The main issue I have with the photographic tours is that you can’t see what your chosen specifications would look like, so I asked if I’d have any choice of wall-colour, kitchen worktop material, or flooring.
The sales advisor told me that there was for one of the homes but not the other, so I asked how the was that was already done was fitted.
I was then showed the swatch choices over a desk like I was in a carpet showroom. I found I had no idea what idea they’d look like in the home as all I could see were part of a kitchen work table and a cupboard material in a marketing suite.
My family and friends also have a large influence on my buying decision, and I find it interesting that there’s no easy way of me showing them what my potential home could look like.
The sales advisor then suggested that if I wanted to get a real feel of the home I was interested in, I’d have to drive for over an hour to visit a development where they had a showhome.
I’d have been more than happy to do this if I’d have gained an initial understanding of what the home looked like. With no form of emotional attachment to the property, I made the decision that this new home wasn’t for me.
I left, disappointed.
One thing that my new build marketing suite experience did achieve, was reinforce my belief and vision that the process of buying a new home must become more interactive and engaging, with the aim of sparking an emotional attachment.
When buying off-plan, I believe the customer should have a firm idea of what their choices will look like, and be able to take a look at the available choices even before visiting the marketing suite.
When buying a pair of trainers, furniture, or a new car is a more interactive process than the most expensive thing you ever buy, something must be done.
Two examples of developers that do this well are Avant Homes and William Davis Homes, with these developers implementing interactive and engaging CGI virtual tours into their buying process to engage customers to a greater level of their competitors.
There is a service where you can allow your audience to tour around your development before a brick is laid, go inside each housetype using a virtual showhome, and showcase each custom choice that you offer.