The needs and wants of the tech-savvy Generation Y won’t find the conventional post-contract personal relationship with their builders to be enough. Just as they want automated technology in their homes, this finicky cohort, aka Millennials, who own millions of bytes of music but have never gone to a record store and who have figured out how to get around phone trees, also want high-tech solutions to manage every aspect of their new homes as soon as the ink is dry on the contract. Builders take note: Gen Y—80 million strong with $1.6 trillion in earning power (source: Robert Charles Lesser & Co.)—will be more than a third of U.S. residents by 2015, a point at which the U.S. economy and home sales should be on the upswing again.
“These buyers will want a 24/7 electronic relationship with warranty and customer services that they can access on their own schedule,” says Craig Schweikart, vice president of Builder 360 at Constellation Homebuilder Systems. The company’s HomePlate product is a customized Web portal that offers a way to automate customer touch points during construction, closing, and post closing. It also offers long-term service linked to the builder’s own Web site, eliminating the need for the builder to create its own individual site. “It transparently stabilizes the pulling of active data from the ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] and converts it to a customer face in a standardized way. Builder budgets will get a greater return on their IT investment when they select packaged solutions over custom development,” he says.