A homebuyer’s decision to build or buy a new home rather than a resale can be based on a number of factors. It could be that they want a shiny, brand-new place; they have the time and flexibility to build, new homes are more attractive price-wise than available resale homes, and so on.
But for real estate agents unfamiliar with the homebuilder market or who want to add new construction to their repertoire, assisting clients with buying a new home brings its own set of processes, challenges — and rewards — to the table.
So, what key steps should agents take to best guide their clients through the process to achieve a successful outcome for all parties involved?
Do Your Homework First
Even if your client is already interested in buying or building a new home, you should still thoroughly assess their needs, budget and lifestyle to determine if they would be good candidates for new construction. For instance, the longer time frame from contract to completion could present a problem, particularly if life events like a new baby or financial issues are in the picture.
But knowing your client is only half of the equation. You also need to educate yourself about the new construction market in your area.
“The best agents do their research ahead of time,” said Randy Char, senior vice president of Operations at One Queensridge Place in Las Vegas, Nev., and President of the Las Vegas chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. “Agents need to implement a thorough discovery process … not just on the availability of homes, but the strengths and weaknesses of the homebuilder brand they are shopping. For example, understanding the trade-offs of square footage versus amenities and flexibility of customization.”
Agents who are new to representing clients in new construction purchases also should educate themselves on the building process to better answer any questions, expectations or concerns a client may have, especially if the client is unfamiliar with the construction and permitting processes. Client education can also extend to the loan process, the contract and the closing, particularly with first-time buyers.
“If an agent has experience with new construction, he or she can explain the construction process and time frame,” said Carole Schoo, a broker associate with Weesner Properties in Lexington, Ky., with more than 25 years of real estate experience. “For example, if the builder is putting drywall up, then you know you’re about 60 days out.”
Schoo recommends that agents take continuing education classes in representing buyers in new construction to get up to speed. “It helps to know what I’m doing so I can talk about it to my clients,” Schoo said.
Char agreed on the importance of understanding the construction process. “It’s reassurance to the buyer,” he said.
Build Rapport with Onsite Sales Team
Agents should endeavor to learn about and understand the more formalized, structured selling process of a builder’s onsite agent. That knowledge can go a long way to building good rapport with your colleague.
“Investing time [in building relationships with onsite agents] will ultimately pay off for your client,” Char said. But it’s also about keeping your buyer’s interests at the forefront, something that Schoo said must be an agent’s primary focus at all times.
Ultimately, with proper due diligence, a willingness to learn and open communication, you can ensure a smooth and pleasant buying experience for your client — one that sees them happily ensconced in their brand new home. As part of that, you should evaluate the onsite agent of any community a client is interested in. Char, who earlier in his career trained sales teams for builders, advises learning more about the in-house counselors of the targeted builders and stopping by to shop the communities before bringing the client there. “Did they ask me questions when I came in, how did they greet me, etc.? Can they answer what makes their homes different from other builders?”
Char cautioned buyers’ agents about being overly protective of divulging their clients’ wants and needs to onsite agents. “Arming [onsite agents] with information will allow them to best assist in aligning needs and helping to consummate the sale,” he said.
Communication Is Key
While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating that good, open communication between an agent and his or her client is key to a successful relationship and transaction, particularly during the lengthier process of building a new home.
“A good line of communication is so important,” Schoo said. “Buyers should feel free to call their agent if they have any questions.”
Buyers usually expect their agent to be by their side during the contract phase of buying a new home and then again, months later, at closing, but what about during the construction process itself? Schoo appreciates agents who go the extra mile for clients and does the same for hers. “I’m there every step of the way. A buyer is approaching the process out of emotion. An agent should help keep emotion out of it.”
Good communication between an agent and onsite sales staff is also important. “There are so many moving parts and pieces in building a home, so things can go wrong or happen,” Char said. “When there’s a lack of communication and something goes wrong, both sides may start pointing fingers. If communication is open between the buyer’s agent and onsite agent, the overall experience is improved.”
Ultimately, with proper due diligence, a willingness to learn and open communication, you can ensure a smooth and pleasant buying experience for your client — one that sees them happily ensconced in their brand new home.