IT'S ALL FINALLY COMING TOGETHER. ALL the planning, all the promises, and all the headaches, it would seem, are behind you. The delays; the threatened deal breakers; the non-stop stress on both sides; the drywall crew that didn't have a clue how to tape; the rain storm that blew away half the roof and flooded the lot.

All that's needed now is to get the buyer to the closing table, collect the check, and move on to the next phase, right?

Dream on. This is where it starts to get tough. That's because while the builder is looking to wrap up, the buyer is still in the middle of the ride; his or her dream has yet to be completed. The opportunity for the home buying experience to falter crops up again because of how the builder's objectives diverge from the buyer's objectives:

The Traditional Builder's Objectives

  • Complete the home on time
  • Transfer keys to customer
  • Hand off from construction to customer care
  • Complete punch-list identified at final orientation
  • Don't interfere with monthly and quarterly closing goals
  • The Buyer's Objectives

  • Confirm occupancy date as far in advance as possible
  • Feel comfortable; trust the builder to repair all the items identified at the final orientation
  • Feel confident the home will be ready on the promised date
  • Reduce general moving anxieties: Will the garage be ready for pre-move storage? Will the utilities be turned on and working? Will the mail delivery transfer get held up? Will the move-in go as planned?
  • As is often the case in each of the other phases of the home buying experience, the traditional builder is typically overly focused on the execution of the process and is under-attentive to the customer's experience. Yet this is the phase when the buyer typically reaches a zenith of anxiety, worry, and self-doubt. “Buyer's remorse” is a just a small part of the anxiety most buyers experience as they finalize the details of closing out one home and moving into another.

    CLEAN SURROUNDINGS: While builders earn high satisfaction ratings for communicating the move-in date early, the factors that contribute most to satisfaction are: having the community look clean and safe on move-in day; and a home that's clean on the outside. Yet, what do most builders concentrate on during this tumultuous period? “Get it done on time,” “Clear the punch-list,” and “Meet the production targets” seem to top the list. These are all reasonable goals for a builder who must then go a long way to meet a buyer's expectations.

    But for the buyer, the move-in is tied to dozens of decisions and an avalanche of emotions. Buyers feel excited and proud as they step up to their new home and the sense of status and arrival that comes with it. But then they feel the undercurrent of uncertainty as anxieties about the unexpected costs and implications of moving—not to mention those new mortgage payments—start to mount.

    That's one reason it's important for builders to be especially reassuring with buyers during move-in. Intuitively, builders will point with pride to the quality of the physical structure they've built, which is important. But they have also erected a symbol of accomplishment for the buyer. Builders need to play to the emotions of buyers, connecting them to the symbol as much as the structure builders work so hard to complete.

    This is where all those “extraordinary touch points” (ETPs) that delighted the buyer during the personalization phase—and the open communication that impressed the buyer during the construction phase—will come into play. If the builder has earned the buyer's unconditional trust by this phase, the buyer will feel confident that his or her home will be delivered—and a small punch-list of items will be completed —on time.

    When the builder's relationship with a home buyer rests on a foundation of trust, the buyer knows that the builder will not only deliver what was promised, but will continue to provide the new home buyer with a lasting positive experience.

    Stress Relief To create an extraordinary experience during the move-in phase, builders need to recognize that there are actually two critical components of this phase: the move-in stage itself; and the transition that occurs as the new home buyer becomes a new homeowner.