FLUSHED FROM THE EXCITEMENT OF committing to a new home—and the whirlwind of option decisions that follow—buyers all too often find their emotions tanking as they plunge into the unforgiving reality of financial and closing details. Buyers often feel whip-sawed as they trade pleasant notions of design flourishes for the arcane world of variable versus fixed rates, sliding points schedules, amortization options, balloons, escrow arrangements, and settlement costs.

It is little wonder buyers feel like they've hurtled into a dark tunnel, facing a process fraught with frustration and seemingly incomprehensible requests. Even the best lending representatives have their work cut out for them trying to make an inherently joyless experience somehow enjoyable.

Once again, the challenge for most builders is recognizing how best to satisfy buyers' objectives in addition to their own.

TRUSTING RELATIONSHIP: Builders who focus on ways to take the anxiety out of the lending and escrow process score the highest satisfaction ratings with buyers. That's why putting together packages that reflect buyers' needs—and their schedules—contributes most to buyer satisfaction. The Traditional Builder's Objectives

  • Capture each loan in-house or with a primary lender
  • Qualify each buyer quickly
  • Close escrow on time
  • The Buyer's Objectives

  • Affordable monthly payment
  • Reduce anxiety about credit status, qualification, and affordability
  • Establish trust with the loan officer
  • Make the process painless
  • Understand what escrow does; why redundant documents are requested or timelines are so tight; and what the total cost of homeownership will be
  • Finance and closing is the phase of the home buying experience in which many buyers say their trust is most severely tested; where the buyer's faith in the skills and sincerity of the team's personnel—while absolutely required—too often seems unjustified.

    It's often evident to the buyer, rightly or wrongly, that the builder is aiming for profitability and process efficiency, while the buyer's primary considerations are affordability, anxiety reduction, and a sincere desire to trust the finance personnel.

    Due to the general uncertainties inherent in this phase of the home buying experience, buyers' anxieties are as high during financing/closing as they will later be during move-in. According to ongoing surveys of new home buyers conducted by Eliant, high anxieties about the financing and closing process generally emanate from several contributing, yet controllable, factors.

  • Anxiety about the final cost and affordability of the monthly payment
  • Anxiety about credit ratings and loan qualification
  • Anxiety about the trustworthiness and sincerity of the loan officer
  • Poorly set expectations about the process requirements and timing
  • Too many “unreasonable” paperwork requests without explanation
  • Contradictory communication from various members of the team
  • Poor communication between builder, lender, and escrow/settlement, resulting in errors or omissions in final fees
  • To turn this situation around, sales and lending teams need to consider the process from the buyers' eyes and ask: What would the builder, lender, and escrow agent have to do to absolutely delight you?

    Beyond A Good Rate Many builders believe that the lending representative can earn a fairly good satisfaction rating by simply providing the buyer with a loan at a good loan rate. However, this basic assumption—comparable to the belief held by most builders that simply providing a quality product should be enough to earn the buyer's loyalty—is an efficient route to mediocrity.

    CONCERN FOR CONVENIENCE: Builders may not earn that many satisfaction points for their handling of escrow and closing documents, but they can lose points if they don't respect buyers' time and the importance that convenience plays in this phase of the buying experience. To rise above the fray, builders must do more than simply satisfy. They must design the finance and closing experience to impress, surprise, and delight each buyer. The bottom line is that good loans satisfy, but extraordinary financing and escrow experiences delight.

    Builders that approach this standard usually begin by defining the kind of experience they want their buyers to have. For instance, how would they like their buyers to feel during this part of the home buying ride? Ecstatic? Delighted? Comfortable? Anxious? If delighted, how does their process need to be designed to ensure this reaction from the buyer? The goal is to reduce the buyer's anxiety about financing and closing. Some suggested actions: