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Hardly a day goes by that I don’t encounter an article that quotes “experts,” informing me that COVID-19 is “changing everything.” It is not. What the pandemic is doing is accelerating a trend that has been evident for decades: the digital transformation of the home building industry.

Many of the new business imperatives driven by COVID-19 reflect our need as an industry to meet home buyers where they are and have been for years: online, and on their schedule. Consumers have been ready to shop, buy, design, contract, and even close on a new home online for some time now. We just need to catch up.

One of the first sales generated on, the industry-owned flagship website for new-home search, was a soldier transferring from Germany to Texas. Sure, that sale involved offline technology—a pager or a fax machine—but a real buyer bought a real home, sight unseen, 20 years ago.

In addition to providing proven tools for virtual and online shopping, builders need to take advantage of the fact that now, during the pandemic, people are searching for new homes online more than ever before.

Despite COVID-19 and the economic fallout, builders currently have powerful tailwinds supporting new-home sales:

  • 28% more new-home shoppers than last year.
  • 22% more new-home interest than January and February this year.
  • Millennials are in prime home buying years, and many don’t need to sell a current home to buy new.
  • Historically low mortgage interest rates.
  • Increased savings rates from being locked down and receiving government assistance is providing the cash needed for down payments.
  • 25% to 50% lower competition from used homes.
  • Opportunity to dominate the MLS with quick move-in new homes and gain market share.
  • A housing solution consumers and real estate agents view as safe and comfortable to buy.

Here are eight ways for builders to harness this wave of new-home demand:

1. Let buyers reach out to you in the manner they prefer. For decades, our industry was built around the email lead. While email leads remain significant, most builders still haven’t responded to the adoption of smartphones. Texting is the new phone call, and most U.S. industries are staffed to respond quickly to text messages from buyers—but not builders.

Voice searches on mobile devices such as “model homes near me” bring intentful buyers to your door in normal times. In the pandemic, requests for a virtual tour or a private model home appointment are gold. Builders that reduce the friction of connection and respond quickly—and well—to all lead types will win.

2. Meet home buyers online. At BDX, we’ve partnered with a chat provider to launch a chatbot for home builders that pairs with a human online sales counselor and can answer builder-specific questions in multiple languages. We tested it on, and now have partnered with builders to launch a private label version of BuilderBot on their websites.

The value is clear: Over 50% of chats occur outside of normal business hours, and builders using BuilderBot are generating up to three times more leads. Powered by machine learning and AI, each chatbot is customized for each builder. Many consumers, especially millennials, prefer to engage first with a chatbot before speaking with your sales team.

3. Bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. Whether a home is built or to-be-built, buyers expect immersive 360-degree tours. For homes and community centers that are complete, that’s a Matterport tour. For unbuilt plans, that’s a virtual tour, based on a 3D model powered by game engine technology.

Each tour can incorporate tags and callouts to highlight the features of the home, and interactive floor plans and site plans can be used for even more value. Each of these tools provides a sense of place and emotional connection to a home and a community.

4. Provide unassisted, remote access to spec and model homes. For years, our industry has opened model homes at our convenience, with little regard for customer needs. When model homes recently shut down or converted to appointment-only, the problem only escalated.

Demand has existed for self-guided tours of spec and model homes. With available technology, builders can use keyless locks, and consumers can go online to request a time to view the home. The consumer’s identity is validated, and they receive a temporary access code.

The consumer’s code unlocks the home at the set time, disarms the alarm, and adjusts lighting and HVAC. Consumers can ask questions using a voice assistant or view videos about the home and community. When the shopper leaves, the program provides a report on the time spent in the home, questions asked, and videos viewed.

5. Let home buyers design on their own time. Our buyer journey research at BDX reveals that 87% of home shoppers encounter one or more friction points. Confusion and lack of clarity around the options process and the price of upgrades was the No. 1 problem noted.

The study showed the ability to personalize a new home with options and upgrades, while confusing, was also a top reason why buyers prefer new homes. Offering an online design center allows a buyer to explore options from their current home, see the price of an upgrade translated into an incremental monthly mortgage amount, and make choices at their convenience—without the perceived sales pressure of an in-person visit—which tends to lead to an increase in option sales and fewer canceled contracts.

6. Let home buyers take action online, 24/7. A large percentage of buyers are willing to purchase a home sight unseen, and the appeal of chatbots, online virtual tours, and self-guided tours at the buyer’s convenience will not wane. As car dealers have proved, more of the buyer’s journey will be conducted online. The benefit to builders is a better qualified buyer entering your model home on a first visit that will have more value than a be-back visit in the past.

Smart builders will examine every touch point they offer and provide a more compelling, higher-converting digital experience for that touch point. The result is better lead quality, lower cost per lead, higher conversion, lower cost per sale, and shorter time from contact to contract.

7. Reach out to agents. With demand for new homes soaring, and the supply of used homes reduced by up to 50%, builders must recognize they have a valuable commodity for the times: an inventory of never-lived-in homes that are comfortable and easy for agents to show.

Remind agents that new homes and every product they contain are under warranty, unlikely to need expensive repairs for years—a great value at a time when buyers are reluctant to have workers enter their home. And be clear that your supply of spec homes is finite, demand is high, and home prices are firm.

8. Respond to inquiries quickly with personalized replies. As a builder, if you execute the seven steps above but fail to respond in a timely manner to qualified leads and buyers, you’ll accomplish little. Today’s consumer is conditioned by best practices from companies that are global leaders in providing a great customer experience. As a builder, your response time and follow-up is measured against the best in any industry, not just the builder next door.

The great news is that we have record consumer demand for new homes. The technology is readily available and affordable—all that is needed is some activation energy to get you on your journey. Don’t wait for perfection—just get started.