CBH Homes vice president Ronda Conger discusses the Idaho builder’s focus on the buyer experience during “The Future of the Sales Office and Customer Experience” panel at the Builder 100 Conference.
Kathleen Clark Photography CBH Homes vice president Ronda Conger discusses the Idaho builder’s focus on the buyer experience during “The Future of the Sales Office and Customer Experience” panel at the Builder 100 Conference.

On day two of the Builder 100 Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California, sessions provided attendees with data on the building products sector, advice from top executives in the industry, and a forward-looking view at how to approach the customer experience and the sales office.

Here are 14 takeaways from the full day of education sessions during the second day of the Builder 100 Conference:

  1. The labor market is likely to become tighter from 2025 to 2030. Todd Tomalak, principal, building products, for Zonda, highlighted how pain points from the labor shortage will likely become more pronounced as remodeling activity picks up in the next half decade. Should kitchen and bath remodels and window and door projects follow historical patterns, project activity in these categories will likely increase on an annual basis, putting pressure on an already tight labor market. Skilled labor is also facing an aging problem, with many laborers aging out of the workforce; even if skilled trades are able to attract younger workers, they will lack the technical experience of the retiring workforce.
  2. With more choices than ever, the biggest brands still stand to benefit the most. Tomalak discussed how many pro customers are beginning to shop more for building products and materials online. Going from a smaller, more curated pool of product options to a wide range of product selections online will still likely benefit the biggest brands more, according to Tomalak. According to Zonda, surveyed Realtors said only 31 of 509 product brands for projects included in the latest Cost vs. Value report generated significant values for homes; further, only nine brands “held a huge amount of clout,” according to Tomalak.
  3. Diversification of product is a vehicle to accelerate growth. During the executive panel moderated by Zonda’s Tim Sullivan, Drees Homes CEO David Drees said diversifying product mix is an integral part of the company’s growth plan. In addition to the company’s core second move-up and luxury market, Drees said it will be important “to come down a niche or two” and focus on affordable product types through density. Jack Micenko, president of Untied Homes Group, echoed a similar sentiment toward diversification. United Homes Group is looking to expand from its typical entry-level focus to a move-up product type; the company’s recent acquisition of Rosewood Communities was done in part to help access the move-up home buyer market.
  4. New homes can cater to the changing preferences of different home buying generations. Drees noted the baby boomer generation has been an important customer for Drees Homes, informing its approach to product mix in the company’s 95-year history. “Our business needs to be more diverse to appeal to a much more diverse audience. You just can’t rely on baby boomers any longer. That does mean [building] for different lifestyles, affordability, different densities,” Drees said during the executive panel.
  5. Mistakes are learning opportunities for company leaders. Patrick Zalupski, CEO and founder of Dream Finders Homes, said that while mistakes are bound to happen through the course of running a business, it is imperative to avoid making the same mistake multiple times. However, he added he is far more focused on where his company is going in the future than reflecting on the past. Just as important as avoiding making the same mistake, though, is avoiding learning the wrong lessons from mistakes, according to Drees.
  6. Artificial intelligence will not replace human workers. John Kahan, former chief data analytics officer for Microsoft and current Zonda board member, focused on several myths surrounding AI during his Builder 100 session. While AI will not replace humans, Kahan did caution that humans who embrace AI will replace humans without AI. Kahan highlighted the efficiency gains and time savings that AI tools can provide workers, freeing up the ability to complete additional tasks and boost productivity. Additionally, several concerns surrounding AI—including transparency, privacy, and security—can be addressed through human users and their understanding of AI tools.
  7. Many buyers are willing to give up a buyer’s agent for incentives. During a presentation highlighting the mind of the home buyer, Livabl vice president Karyn Bonder discussed how an increasing share of prospective home buyers prefer new construction. Additionally, 76% of consumers polled by Livabl said with a better understanding of the role of a Realtor, they would give up a buyer’s agent in favor of home builder incentives, according to Bonder.
  8. The M&A market has never been hotter. Whelan Advisory founder and CEO Margaret Whelan said the M&A market has never been more active, from a buyer’s and a seller’s perspective. There are more buyers with more capital in the market than ever before, translating to a strong sellers’ market. The dynamic created by so many buyers is a positive for sellers, Whelan added.
  9. While generations may be delaying home buying, the desired features remain consistent. Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, focused her keynote presentation on the differences between Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers, from attitudes toward work, socialization, and home buying. While younger generations are often delaying key life milestones such as marriage and home buying (in large part due to the increase in four-year college education), the underlying demand for homes are remaining the same. While millennial and Gen Z home buyers may not have as many children as older generations, they still desire a similar home size and bedroom count. While older generations may want bedrooms to function in a traditional sense for their children, younger generations may want extra bedrooms to function as home offices and personal rooms rather. However, with more childless couples purchasing homes, a premium on homes in high-ranking school districts may become somewhat less significant for first-time millennial and Gen Z home buyers.
  10. Affordable housing does not need to be boring. During a panel discussing innovations around attainable housing, Liesel Cooper, regional president at Dream Finders Homes, and Brent Barnard, regional vice president of retail for Clayton Homes, both stressed that affordability does not mean home builders cannot explore with colors, elevations, and street layouts.
  11. Avoid unnecessary elements to help unlock affordability. Cooper said understanding customers is an important element to help builders solve for affordability. Additionally, she said it is important to avoid putting elements that are not needed and add excessive costs in plans. For Barnard, team cohesion is another way to tackle affordability beyond floor plan simplification. He said an engaged team is likely to work more efficiently, with more speed, and with better quality, driving down the cost of building and passing along savings to home buyers.
  12. The sales office is no longer a necessity. During the final session of day two, CBH Homes vice president Ronda Conger shared the builder’s unique approach to sales. The company has done away with traditional sales centers as part of its focus on the buyer experience. Sales representatives now operate from a call center with customers and drive engagement toward open houses on Saturdays. CBH has also installed keypads on select homes, allowing interested buyers to self-tour on their own time, another way the builder is placing an emphasis on the customer experience.
  13. Buying a home can function similarly to other retail experiences. Stephanie McCarty, chief marketing and communications officer for Taylor Morrison, highlighted how the home builder’s efforts to create an immersive experience for prospective buyers has been implemented successfully. Prospective buyers can place reservations on to-be-built and quick move-in homes online, make deposits, and toggle with customization. Not only has the implementation translated into sales success, it also gives Taylor Morrison information on pain points or areas of concern for each user, allowing for a more curated and personal experience with sales professionals.
  14. Don’t overvalue experience when it comes to sales professionals. During the conversation with McCarty and Conger discussing the future of the sales office and customer experience, Shore Consulting founder and CEO Jeff Shore said as the sales landscape continues to shift, companies should not overvalue experience. Achievement drive among sales team members is a more significant indicator for evaluation.