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Originally published Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8:07 PM

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Market Matters: More and more, homebuilders connecting with tech-savvy buyers

A well-designed and shrewdly implemented online presence allows for transparency, which promotes an enhanced level of customer service.

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The residential-construction industry, like most business sectors, has been impacted by the digital era.

Homebuilders and developers have been integrating web technology into their business models in an attempt to reach new markets, and to satisfy the needs of the ever-more-informed buyer.

And with good reason.

A well-designed and shrewdly implemented online presence allows for transparency, which promotes an enhanced level of customer service.

A heightened appreciation for customer service has never been more important, because homebuyers have never been more informed. Information today is as immediate as it is infinite, and it is available on tap. Software designer Mitchell Kapor once compared getting information online to taking a drink from a fire hydrant.

This instant access to information means that, as consumers, our buying behavior is more educated than ever before. The once-prevalent “buyer beware” mentality has been replaced by an updated “seller beware” version. When purchasing a new home, the same holds true: Buyers are using myriad online resources to inform and temper their decisions. By spending an hour or so online, shoppers can evaluate various builders, share experiences with other homebuyers, get firsthand accounts of their experiences and learn what to look for in a new home.

This shift in mentality has been embraced by the homebuilding industry. Builders have taken note and adjusted, and are aiming for complete transparency. Referral programs have become an industry standard; is there a sales tools more powerful than having a proud new homeowner recommend your product to their friends and family?

A centralized website with all of a builder’s company information, developments and achievements makes the customer’s search for information less cumbersome. Social media is no longer the preserve of the forward-thinking or trailblazing — everyday builders are keen to engage on the plethora of online public forums. Even cloud-based homeowner portals are becoming more prevalent as builders come to appreciate the importance of customer care after the sale.

The impact of the digital era on the residential-construction industry has been profound. New-home buyers and new-home builders have never been more engaged, connected or informed. Indeed, the move toward transparency and open conversation will likely come to define the industry’s future direction. Which is good for everybody.

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