A Realtor’s Guide to Custom Homes

A couple in the background with Architect.
Custom homes are a world of their own. So before you hit the ground running, check out this Realtor’s guide to selling custom homes.

Selling newly built homes gives your clients a plethora of options to personalize their home to fit their lifestyle.

If your client is looking for the ultimate personalization, a custom home may be just what they are looking for. If you’re new to selling these highly personalized homes, don’t fret. We sat down with two custom home professionals to discuss the basic facts of custom homes and how to sell them.

An Introduction to Custom Homes

First of all, it might be a good start to begin with a refresher on what a custom home really is. A custom home is a newly built home that is designed with more input from the buyer than in a production home. This basically means the buyer gets to choose everything.

However, the amount of customization opportunity can differ from builder to builder and situation to situation. “If you source your own land and an architect, you’re limited only by your budget and imagination,” says Alex Bracke, founder of Alex Bracke Real Estate Group in northern Virginia.

“And if it is early on in the homebuying process, (clients) might be able to request changes to the floor plan itself, although this could add extra time to the project to reword plans and get permitting preapproved if necessary,” says Brian Brunhofer, president of Meritus Homes based in Deerfield, Ill.

So, when your client asks you just how custom they can get with their new home, it’s important you’ve had that discussion with their builder beforehand, but more on that later.

Answering the Common Questions

Next, in order to make the custom home sale, you’re going to need to know the custom home buyer, the questions they’re likely going to come to you with and how they differ from other buyers.

“People who gravitate to a custom home tend to be those who are looking for very specific features in their home and who want the opportunity to create their own aesthetic through finishes and other design elements,” says Brunhofer. “For most people, it really comes down to finding the right home with the right features in the right location.”

And to make sure they get it all exactly right, more often than not, they’re going to be coming to you with a house load of questions.

“Typical questions that buyers ask revolve around who the builder is, such as what other homes they’ve built in the area and what their familiarity is with the municipality,” adds Brunhofer. “They also frequently want to see references from other homeowners the builder has worked with. Regarding the home itself, buyers want to know about the quality of the home in regard to specific features, finishes and workmanship.”

Meanwhile, Bracke says the questions he receives most often involve how customization options can affect resale value and why the earnest down deposit for a custom home is a little higher than resale homes.

The answers? Well, those lie with the builder. It’s time to make a few calls, or even a lunch date.

“Most builders welcome the opportunity to establish a relationship with real estate agents because it’s a valuable way for us to connect with potential customers,” says Brunhofer. “It is well worth the builder’s time to sit down with an agent to talk about what sets their homes apart, the best ways to work together and what kind of experience buyers will have working with them.”

In fact, Brunhofer advises agents to keep in contact with their builders on a regular basis as they work with their clients, as builders can provide agents with perks like early leads, accurate and in-depth details about their homes and a genuine grasp of who they really are as a builder.

Selling Custom Homes

Once you’ve established a good relationship with your builders and answered your clients’ questions, the next step is to nail down the sale. So, how do you do that?

According to Bracke, the selling portion of custom homes can actually be much easier than a resale home, depending on the type of custom home your client is looking for.

“Instead of showing 5, 10, 20 or more homes, setting all those individual appointments with all the different sellers and listing agents, consider that with a custom home, you’re commonly making only one or two stops: builder or build site/architect,” says Bracke. “From there, your clients take the reins and begin designing their own home, guided by either the builder’s sales rep or the architect.”

Bracke also stresses the importance of understanding the builder’s contract, one of the final documents a home shopper will sign before they become homeowners.

“Don’t be afraid to ask the builder for a copy of the contract up front to review with your clients prior to meeting at their office to sign on the dotted line,” says Bracke. “The three best pieces of advice I can give a real estate professional is: know your contracts, know your contracts, know your contracts.”

As a few last-minute tips, Bracke also offered these parting words of wisdom:

  • You have to know the product. Get acquainted with what’s available in your area.
  • Know that your value proposition as a custom home sales agent is that you have the relationship and can hold the builder responsible throughout the build process. 
  • A builder’s sales representatives are your friends. They may represent the builder and not the client, but their end goals are the same as yours: a happy and positive experience for the client.

About the author 

Drew Knight

Drew Knight is a freelance writer for Builders Digital Experience (BDX). He graduated from Texas A&M University in December 2014 with a degree in agricultural communications and journalism. He previously edited and designed pages for the Bryan-College Station (Texas) city paper The Eagle, wrote for the Brazos Valley’s premier arts and entertainment publication Maroon Weekly and worked in publicity at Warner Bros. Records in New York City.

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