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Opinion: why innovation in a builder matters to homebuyers

The real estate industry is in the stages of a seismic shift to fully digital experiences. A new generation of digitally native homebuyers and sellers are expecting online experiences, in every type of transaction, and more convenient and seamless ways to find, tour, purchase, and sell homes on their own terms. As a result, there are a growing number of tech-driven companies racing to meet the growing demand. 

But buyers and sellers aren’t just looking to startups and tech companies to create these experiences; they’re also expecting more innovative services and products from industry incumbents as well, including homebuilders.

In fact, our recent study of prospective homebuyers found that innovation in a builder is a top deciding factor among 83% of people who are looking for a new build.

Here are three ways we’ve seen builders successfully showcase their innovation to homebuyers to set themselves apart from the rest of the field.

1. A digital-first presence puts you first with consumers.
While some buyers still enjoy finding their new construction home the old-fashioned way —spending a Saturday driving through neighborhoods — the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that 97% of homebuyers, regardless of age, use the internet in their home search.

Furthermore, when it comes to new construction homes, more than one-third of buyers have their interest piqued in a builder while browsing online. That’s why it’s crucial for builders to have a strong digital presence that makes it easy for buyers to browse their communities, homes, and services.

Discovery platforms like NewHomeSource.com provide a seamless way for homebuyers to shop, tour and buy a new construction home online. In fact, our research shows there’s continued enthusiasm for tech-driven real estate platforms and services: nearly three-quarters of people we surveyed would consider buying a home through a real estate technology company.

Homebuyers are also craving more digital-friendly ways to tour homes, like 3D and virtual tours that can be done from the comfort of their homes.

In fact, in our real estate trends report, 9 in 10 of those surveyed who would use a virtual or remote tour still want those touring options even now, after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. Additionally, builders can easily adopt digital tools like remote online notarization and a digital escrow process.

2. Innovative building materials and home features matter.
Consumers are also looking for innovation when it comes to a home’s features — particularly as it relates to sustainability. According to our Homebuilder report, energy-efficient features are one of the top three reasons buyers are drawn to new construction builds.

From more efficient heating and cooling systems, to Energy Star appliances and indoor air ventilation systems, buyers want a home that functions in a more eco-friendly way.

Smart home features also pique the interest of two-thirds of new build buyers. Experts project the global home automation market will be worth over $81 million by 2023, with devices for security, energy management, and convenience at the top of buyers’ wish lists. There’s a growing alliance within the industry to develop smart home products that work together more cohesively, and we should continue to see more exciting innovation.

Many homebuilders are already investing significantly in adding smart devices into their new construction homes and using energy-efficient materials. With growing demand from consumers, it’s a no-brainer to put a spotlight on these features when marketing homes.

3. Contingencies are a roadblock to a sale and buyers want help unblocking them.
Innovation is not just on the construction side — it also can be adopted on the sales side. We know that more than two-thirds (69%) of new-build buyers are also looking to sell their current home. As a result, many are contingent buyers who need to sell their home before they can purchase a new home.

Additionally, more than two-thirds (67%) of new-build buyers who need to sell are concerned about lining up the sale of their existing home with the move-in timing of a new construction home. Uncertain timelines with both transactions, coupled with any unanticipated construction delays, runs the risk of causing double moves or mortgages for the buyer or even causing the homebuilder to miss out on the sale altogether.

In the midst of one of the most competitive housing markets in decades, builders can help their customers get a competitive edge by providing innovative solutions, including those that eliminate uncertainty in the transaction.

Consumers today are looking for the whole package: innovation in home features, as well as in ways to shop for, tour and buy homes. Though the real estate industry has seen significant adoption of tech-enabled solutions, there’s still room for more innovation that will capture the loyalty of this new generation of homebuyers.


Derek Schairer is General Manager of Opendoor’s Homebuilder Partnerships division.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Derek Schairer at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Sarah Wheeler at [email protected]

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