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Refocusing on clients’ needs — such as helping them sell or rent their existing homes, boosting customer satisfaction and properly accessorizing models — is helping 50+ builders sell homes in a tough market, according to panelists of a recent 50+ Housing Council e-learning webinar.
During the “Ideas to Drive Sales in Today’s Marketplace” webinar on May 4, builder Steve Romeyn of Windsong Properties based in Woodstock, Ga., said that helping his home buyers sell or rent their existing homes — a process he initiated about a year ago — enables them to move into his communities. He said the new service helped double his sales, which jumped from 10 in 2009 to 20 last year.
He said his company also helps prospective buyers sell their home by hiring a merchandiser to professionally stage the home, which encourages a quicker sale. When needed, he also hires a professional photographer to photograph the existing home to boost its appeal on the local multiple listing service website.
When the existing homes don’t sell, Romeyn said he and his prospective owners work with a management company to rent the home. In addition, he helps buyers explore alternative financing, such as reverse mortgages, if financing help is needed.
Buyers Want Quality — and the Ability to Customize Their Home
Customer satisfaction is another driving force that drew buyers to his communities last year, Romeyn said. Buyers frequently told him his company delivers on their demand for quality — and that they appreciate being able to customize their home.
Client satisfaction is one of the best tools a builder can give their sales force, Romeyn said. Friendly streetscapes, homes with traditional front porches and wide sidewalks so residents can walk and meet their neighbors also attract 50+ buyers.
He said builders also should be aware of layouts and house features that appeal to 50+ buyers — such as narrow but deep floor plans with private, fenced space for outdoor living and small rooms where they can enjoy some personal privacy.
Many of Romeyn's 50+ buyers also want homes with gables — for practical and aesthetic reasons. Aesthetically, gables make homes appear larger, adding the appearabce of a second story.
The gables also provide 50+ buyers with additional attic storage space, a feature appreciated by this age group, he said. He cautioned, however, that builders should provide a full staircase leading up to attic storage rather than pull-down stairs, which can be difficult for 50+ buyers to navigate.
Not Their Fathers’ 50+ Homes
Interior designer Kay Green, of Kay Green Design in Orlando, told webinar participants that how they merchandise their models and communities to 50+ buyers should be different than how the age-restricted homes and communities were merchandised to these buyers' parents in the past.
Today’s 50+ buyers appreciate contemporary design and don't shy away from a bit of “edginess,” she said.
The scale of the furniture and the number of people who can comfortably be seated in a room are important factors when merchandising a model, Green said. She also noted that paint and molding can create inexpensive but memorable ceiling details that appeal to this market.
The right accessories — cookies in the kitchen, slippers next to a comfy chair, a table set for a party — can communicate a feeling of “I can live here and relax,” which is particularly attractive to the 50+ buyer, she said.
She also noted that, unlike earlier seniors communities, builders are developing 50+ communities near colleges and universities where residents can take classes, or even teach.
Use Incentives to Close the Deal, Not Drive Traffic
Marketing consultant Jane O’Connor, of 55plus LLC in Charlemont, Mass., told webinar participants to identify what their community has and differentiate it from the competition through a single, compelling message that can be used in all marketing.
She also told participants to develop a strong Internet presence and an effective social media strategy.
O’Connor said builders should not wow website visitors with flash presentations or animation when they first visit the site. 50+ buyers come to websites for information and answers, and websites should be designed so they can find what they are looking for quickly, she said.
O’Connor also recommended that builders use incentives to help buyers purchase rather than to drive traffic to the community. She said builders should remove any barriers to making the purchase, the important final step in the sales process.
A replay of the webinar is available. The fee is $19.95 for 50+ Housing Council members, $24.95 for NAHB members and $44.95 for non-members.
To purchase a replay, click here.
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“Right House, Right Place, Right Time: Community and Lifestyle Preferences of the 45+ Housing Market,” available through NAHB BuilderBooks, will help determine the right design, home features and amenities to attract boomer home buyers in your market.
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