Editor’s note: This column has been updated to correct an error introduced in editing. Truth 2 should have read, "We don’t need to know how to sell new homes," not, "We know how to sell new homes," as originally published.
Today we take a hard look at how homebuilders market to general real estate agents, and why for years their aggressive co-broker marketing has been sending the wrong messages. Apologies to the new homes marketing consultants out there, including me.
According to many reports (verify with your local homebuilders), about seven out of 10 new homes sold today are brokered — the term used to identify a broker prospect — as opposed to a "walk in."
Unfortunately, according to new-home blogs, less than 5 percent of Realtors show new homes. My experience tells me this is probably close.
Homebuilders continue to stabilize their commission and prospect registration policies, build products that compete with short sales, and have closable inventory for sale. But some general agents still remember some misunderstanding with a homebuilder that happened years ago, and they continue to share it with anyone who will listen.
The truth is, the solution is right in front of our noses, and we have not seen it.
Disagree with me if you wish, as I present the following eight truths as seen through the eyes of general real estate agents.
Truth 1: Homebuilders treat agents like spoiled children.
Homebuilders write the contract, provide transaction management and, in 2011, started setting appointments for our prospects. But it has not helped grow their co-broker networks.
Homebuilders should talk to agents in terms of the agents’ interests, not their own. Meet us at our point of need. Our need is not to sell your home. We need to sell a home. As you share your location story, remember that agents need to hear it too. It will help us answer location questions our prospects may ask, and make us better at selling the property.
Truth 2: We don’t need to know how to sell new homes.
We do not sell new homes. Your on-site agents do. We do not even show new homes. We introduce our prospects to you, and you do the rest. At least that is what you tell us.
You might want to rethink your message on this one. Help us understand that we will sell more resales and get more listings if we show new homes. That is what we do. It goes without writing that we will show more new homes if we do not have to learn a new skill.
Truth 3: Selling a new home is not the easiest sale in real estate.
Agents are insulted when homebuilders tell them selling a new home is the easiest sale in real estate. Having to follow up with the prospect plus your on-site agent gets complicated and confusing. We get into way too many "he said, she said" disagreements with third-party involvement. So be a little more sensitive here. As you can imagine, working outside of our system while not understanding yours is stressful.
Also, you know we are going to show resales. Quit fighting us on this issue, and you will see us show up more often at your office.
Truth 4: Knowing "construction" will not make us better new-home co-brokers.
Homebuilders need to know construction. Agents don’t. Agents need a clean car, a qualified prospect, your address and a GPS, just in case. What else do I need to bring a prospect to your sales center? You want to keep us away in droves? Keep beating the "construction" drum.
I come out of a sales and marketing background. I don’t know construction and don’t enjoy being around it. I cannot imagine a general agent with even good knowledge of construction who would not prefer that the builder answer their prospect’s construction-related questions.
Truth 5: You care only about selling your own homes.
Agents get the part about homebuilders wanting to sell their own homes, but that’s a short-sighted view. If you want to build a productive, loyal co-broker network, understand that agents must make resales and get listings. Start caring.
Offer to train general agents how to show a model. Explain the psychology of what you do and say, and where you stand and why. It will make agents better listing agents for the seller to know they have been trained by new-home agents. But more than that, it will make you a co-broker friend like no other.
Truth 6: It’s OK if agents rush through your sales center.
Many times agents rush through models with prospects because they have a relocation prospect in tow who has not accepted the position offered. Part of the agent’s job is to help the company help the prospect accept the position. Their first priority is to show the "big picture" of homes available on the side of town where the prospect may work or want to live. A little understanding would go a long way with this one.
Truth 7: Your message does not appeal to top producers.
Top producers make every minute count. They already know about you, your community and your commission policy. They get your invitations. Show them how they can make more money faster by coming to your event, and they will be the first to respond.
Hint: It is not about your new models. It is about helping them list and sell a home, any home.
The message needs changing. It is not about you. The next time you have a broker luncheon, try adding a "We are going to show you our models, and give you three ways we help you make more sales and get more listings."
Truth 8: You need us.
At no time in history have homebuilders and general agents needed each other more than they do today. This is the most important truth of all.