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Adapting to the new normal: Top marketing tools to engage home buyers during the COVID-19 pandemic

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting all industries, including the real estate market, home builders and their sales executives are feeling the chaotic ripple effect of social distancing and contactless relationships. Fortunately, at the same time, maturing technologies are becoming ripe for addressing the challenges caused by the crisis—and may well become the new norm.

According to an April 2020 webinar hosted by Builder-MetroStudy and presented by Meyers Research, entitled COVID-19 Weekly Update, in order for home builders to remain navigate new market waters, digital experiences will replace in-person experiences:

“For home builders, the virtual element is unescapable now. It used to be pretty cool, and everybody was moving towards it. Now, it is irrefutable and absolutely required,” explained Tim Sullivan, Senior Managing Principal at Meyers Research. As Sullivan points out, in the current and post-pandemic world, home buyers are bound to say: “Show me the product! Virtual model homes—let me walk through it—and see it in a 3D environment! And then interactive floor plans and site plans from my Mobile, from my phone…I can do all of this!” 1

“Show me” is the new word on the street. Virtual showings, virtual open houses, and virtual selecting and customizing different homes are becoming musts. It is time to leverage technology and focus on the online stages of the home buying experience more than ever.

A three-step approach to virtually engaging with home buyers

There are three steps home builders should adopt to seize the sales opportunities online and virtual technologies can offer when attracting, retaining and winning over home buyers. Let’s take a look at each one more closely.

Online listings

The first step is to better compete with resales for home buyers’ attention. How? By upping their game with respect to their Zillow listings. Did you ever notice how your listings look like following a Zillow map search? Are your displayed listings outdated—or even worse, showing up on unappealing, empty fields?

Zillow’s Inline Community Preview (ICP) is a feature available in Zillow’s Promoted Communities, making home discovery and exploration simple. Home buyers browsing on Zillow see a visually rich preview of all new construction lots and future home sites in builders’ communities. Developed in collaboration with Alpha Vision, a Zillow Group Advantage Program partner, ICP-enabled communities stand out with a graphic overlay of the fully developed community that grabs home buyers’ attention on the map view. Alpha Vision builds the community preview with site maps provided directly from the home builder. Once the map completed by Alpha Vision, an actual layer on top of existing maps to offer home buyers a better visual experience.

Maps are outdated and often show undeveloped sites. A community with ICP-enabled prominently stands out!

Maps are outdated and often show undeveloped sites. A community with ICP-enabled prominently stands out!

The results are in the numbers. According to the Zillow Group, in early trials, Promoted Communities with the ICP had:

2.4x more pageviews from the search map on Zillow.com
20% more pageviews on Zillow.com
13% more pageviews overall across Zillow-owned sites and apps

Homebuilder’s website

Social distancing has created a shift in home buyer’s journey towards falling in love with a home—and committing to a purchase. This process of falling in love is vacillating towards online discoverability, which can no longer be a mere teaser. Builders need to beef up their website content and features—or be left behind in the competition’s dust.

  • An interactive site map offers the same enticing lot and community map view as on Zillow. It is also packed with additional features, such as filters based on homesite preferences, Lot Fit option, and much more. AlphaMaps various features, such as promoting quick move-in homes, are now more invaluable than ever before.
    Sales associates love the ability to showcase the amenities with visual content directly from the site map. An interactive tool is also available to display the exact views from each home site. The addition of high-quality images and videos is made easy thanks to our online content management software (CMS).
  • Interactive floor plans are a must nowadays. AlphaPlans allows website visitors to design and customize their next dream homes. Offer your prospective customers a wide array of color packages, architectural options, furniture, gym equipment, decorative items, landscaping and vehicles to choose from. With high engagement rates of over 10 minutes per floor plan, home buyers personalize each aspect of their dream homes. This solution immediately answers their need when they say: “Show me the product!”
    Once they have configured their floor plans, home buyers will want to save them. This is the perfect time to capture their contact information—and convert passing visitors into qualified leads you can nurture with subsequent marketing and sale initiatives.
  • Elevation renderings is often where home shoppers zero in when they visit your website. Go beyond flat and static renderings.
    Engage with them exactly where they click. Alpha Vision’s immersive renderings add a 3D fly-around of a house from the click of a button. These online interactive renderings create engaging—even emotional—experiences with potential customers. And they pave the way for faster sales.
Interactive renderings are a step above by offering a fully interactive look around the house.

Interactive renderings are a step above by offering a fully interactive look around the house.

Virtual sales presentations

With many sales associates forced to work remotely, new engagement techniques and bonding skills are required. Model viewings are more complex than ever before; often by appointment only, they are no longer the ultimate ”romantic moments.” Instead, on-site visits are becoming more of a confirmation of buyers’ decisions, rather than the point of commitment for their purchases.
As the home buying process continues to change, with fewer open houses and on-site visits, more and more sales will be conducted remotely. That is why it is vital to equip your sales associates with a digital sales center to nevertheless offer a personalized customer experience—and maximize the likelihood of sealing the deal. Often called the Digital Sales Assistant by our hundreds of sales associate users, AlphaCenter is a proven sales center technology platform that is focused on the engagement and relationship between sales associates and home buyers.

  • Remote selling is the new normal. Rather than a simple “virtual kiosk,” AlphaCenter is accessible online for all steps in the home buying process, including video-enabled meetings and screen sharing. Imagine sales associates conducting an online presentation from their home offices and virtually engaging with potential buyers. As the AlphaCenter saves visual content and home/homesite scenarios, your sales associates finish the presentations off with high-quality PDF brochures, leaving customers with a memorable and impressive collateral piece.
  • Virtual model homes
    We saw an uptick of interest and actual orders of virtual model homes since the start of the pandemic. Guided by sales associates using online meetings, this technology ports customers virtually into your homes using 360-degree tours and immersive experiences. Moreover, these 3D homes, created from your architect’s CAD files, go beyond spec models as they engage buyers in the selection of the exact elevation, colors, options and upgrades they are looking for!
Virtual models are fully merchandized to builder specifications and available online at the fingertips of sales associates.

Virtual models are fully merchandized to builder specifications and available online at the fingertips of sales associates.

Novel times generate new opportunities. The market is ripe for a transformation in home buying and selling logistics. As consumer behavior changes, home builders can tap into the tremendous potential virtual technologies can offer to personalize the sales process, accelerate sales as well as access a wealth of analytics to fine-tune your development and sales strategies even more!

Looking to take advantage of the home buying changing market? Contact Alpha Vision today!


Alpha Vision


1 Transcript from MetroStudy Covid-19 weekly update, April 1, 2020