In the world of residential real estate, matching your client with the home of their dreams is the goal. You search high and low and scour the MLS to find a house that checks off everything on their must-have list.
If a buyer isn’t impressed with one property, you move on and take them to the next.
But when you’re working with homebuilders, the game is a little different. When you know how to work with builders and sell their homes, you can develop a working relationship that benefits everyone.
To help put you on the path toward a successful, long-lasting partnership, experts from both sides of the field weigh in on some best practices to help you foster long-term relationships with builders:
Communicate and Keep in Touch
When it comes to relationships — both personal and working — communication is key and maintaining long-term relationships with builders is no exception. Staying in touch and keeping the lines of communication open will help ensure a working relationship that lasts.
Even if you’re not able to meet a builder face-to-face, touching base regularly makes a great impression, says architect William Edward Summers. “I met a Realtor in Oakland, Calif., about 10 years ago for about 15 minutes,” he says. “Although I can’t even remember what she looks like now, every three months or so I get an email from her and I always think of her first when any sort of Oakland real estate is being considered. Her keeping in touch has been very effective for her.”
Fostering long-term relationships with builders is up to the Realtors, says Tomi Rose, senior vice president at Opulence International Realty in Miami, Fla. “Realtors should stay in touch and always check in with [builders] to learn about their latest projects. It’s up to the agent to nurture the relationship.”
Know the Builder’s Side of the Business
Another important factor in establishing a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with a builder is to understand their side of the business and the different facets of selling new construction.
“It’s imperative that each side [builders and Realtors] understand that there is a difference in both the concept and philosophy of builder sales and general realty,” says Bob Schultz of New Home Sales Specialists. “The No. 1 difference is that when you sell for a builder, you’re in the sales business, not the realty business.”
Get to Know the Builder’s Products
More than just an understanding of what it means to sell new construction, when representing a builder, it’s crucial to know the builder’s products inside and out.
“We have the most successful relationships with agents when they take some time to get to know our product, the features we offer and what sets us apart from other builders in the area,” says Brian Brunhofer, president of Meritus Homes in Deerfield, Ill.
“We appreciate it when an agent spends an hour with us at our community, without their client, talking with our sales team and learning what we have to offer,” Brunhofer says. “Not only does this create a level of trust and understanding, it also better prepares the agent to educate their client about the experience they would have working with us.”
Scott Frankel, of the Frankel Building Group in Houston, Texas, also suggests an introductory meeting with a builder to show that you’re serious about getting to know them and what they’re all about. “Come in and meet the builder before coming in with a client for the first time,” he says. “Spend a little time learning more about their product, process and vision.”
Paula Cirulli with RealtyTrust Residential in Brentwood, Tenn., agrees. “Visiting the builder and their projects allows me to be knowledgeable about the product they are building and establishes rapport over time,” she says. “Builders are proud of what they’re building and they want to know that others feel the same, that they are interested enough to ask questions and that the Realtor will share their marketing materials with other Realtors and qualified buyers.”
Share Information with Builders
Because a long-lasting relationship needs to work for both parties involved, an exchange of information is necessary. Builders can provide you with information on the benefits of new construction and the details of their communities and products, while you can provide builders with insight into what buyers want.
“My advice for other agents would be to share as much information as possible with builders and constantly advise them on the buyers market,” says Diana George, founder of Vault Realty Group in Oakland, Calif. “Realtors with buyer experience can offer this knowledge to a builder and in return, the Realtor earns the builder’s trust, which will create a lasting relationship.”
Learn the Benefits of New Construction and How to Sell It
With a builder, it’s about building the relationship, not just selling a listing. You need to make yourself indispensable to the builder by offering something they need and something that will help sell home homes. — Bob Schultz of New Home Sales Specialists Builders are more likely to work with Realtors and real estate companies that are up to speed on new construction and can easily speak to the benefits.
If you’re not well versed in the new-construction process, Brunhofer suggests asking a builder for help. “[Realtors] should ask a builder in their area for a tutorial on the new-construction timeline, typical contract terms, their design process, product specifications and other information,” he says. “This is a great way to get to know a builder, establish a relationship and gain insights that will help the agent present new construction as an option to their clients.”
For those Realtors wanting to work with builders, knowing how to sell new construction is critical because it often goes against the grain of general realty. Schultz easily explains the difference — general realty is customer focused, while selling new construction is builder and product focused.
“In new home sales, you represent the builder,” he says. “You need to know everything about the builder and their products. You also need to know how to overcome and minimize customer objections, because you can’t just run out and show them the rest of the MLS.”
Provide More Than An MLS Listing
A mistake many Realtors make when working with a builder is treating them and their homes like any other listing, says Schultz.
“With a builder, it’s about building the relationship, not just selling a listing. You need to make yourself indispensable to the builder,” he says. “You make yourself indispensable by offering something they need and something that will help sell home homes.”
Schultz advises that Realtors need to be able to answer the question, “What are you going to do for me that I can’t do myself and that’s worth the money you’re making?” As a Realtor, your answer to the question needs to be your value-added services, which should include, but are certainly not limited to, planning, management, pinpointed market research, specific marketing advice and initiatives and community involvement.
Sell, Sell, Sell
The most basic and obvious way to keep your relationship with a builder healthy is to sell the houses they build. “To further cultivate relationships with homebuilders, show them that you believe in their work by selling the properties they build,” says Rose. “This not only helps the relationship flourish, but it will also show your loyalty, which will be returned two-fold.”
Schultz agrees that selling a builder’s homes is necessary for the Realtor/builder relationship to work long term. “Anyone can list a new home, but not just anyone can sell it,” he says. “Working with a builder is far more about understanding that builders have to make their margins, and the more houses a builder has to sell, the longer term the relationship can be.”
Schultz suggests working out a long-term strategy that isn’t based on commission numbers, but instead focuses on selling homes. “If you can cause the builder to succeed and sell even more than they had projected, that’s the foundation for a lasting relationship,” he says. “And it will most likely result in a financial outcome that exceeds your standard commission. That’s a win-win.”
Jennifer Segelke Jeffers is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist with more than a decade of editorial experience. She is the former editor of Austin Monthly Home and Centro Y Sur.
Jennifer has written for publications such as Latina, Modern Luxury, Qantas, LOCALE, GivingCity Austin and Andrew Harper Traveler.