Posted by: JC Gatlin | June 23, 2010

Stranger Things Have Happened: Selling new homes without a decorated model


Lean times call for lean measures — and in some circumstances that means the Sales Professional must find ways to sell-out a community without the benefit of a model home. Not having to spend a dime on a physical model, a home builder can save thousands on construction costs, merchandising, maintenance and carry costs.

“We have generally three different scenarios for selling without a model home,” says a Sales Professional who is currently selling in two communities, neither of which have  model homes. “A new, start-up community where we are looking for pre-sales but the model home is still under construction, an established, smaller community that doesn’t have enough lots where building a model makes financial sense, and a situation like mine where I sell in three nearby neighborhoods, but only one has a model home.”

1. Get YOUR house in order

Step 1 is obviously for the Sales Professional to get situated and set-up base camp, so to speak. Finding a location that allows for brochure displays and a quiet setting to sit down with Realtors and prospects can be challenging, much less just finding a location to set-up a lap top to work.

“I worked out of the club house at the community entrance for four months when we first started pre-selling in my community,” says one a Sales Professional who still had to make pre-sales while waiting for the model home to be built. “It worked out great actually being in the community and it allowed me to drive people back to our neighborhood.”  If the community club house is not an option, check out local Realty Agencies for an extra cubicle or desk; that can strike-up a mutually beneficial partnership. A nearby library may provide a suitable setting as well. “Don’t use restaurants or coffee shops as a temporary office though,” the Sales Professional continued. “It’s noisy and distracting. The background noise will turn-off people you speak to on the phone, and meeting a prospect at Starbucks — while may be convenient – -will look very cheesy and fly-by-night. You’ll lose your credibility.”   

2. Plan a “Signage Strategy”

Visual Management will play an even larger role than normal in creating a sales presence when there’s no model home. That means signage must become an extension of the Sales Professional and for it to make an impact, the Sales Professional must put some time and energy into strategic thinking.

“The usual ‘AVAILABLE’ signs won’t cut it,” explains a Sales Professional in a neighborhood that is just getting started and has less than 3 homes in it. “People must be able to visualize a street scene and not feel like they will be living in an empty field.” She uses signage that includes color photos of the elevation and floor plan, and has a brochure box attached to it for flyers. “Obviously, you have to put your cell phone number on everything — all the signage, MLS, web page, flyers. You have to follow-up continually and be on call 24/7.”

Another Sales Professional focuses on directionals leading prospects to the community. “Have a large sign in the front entrance of the neighborhood giving a LARGE phone number to call,” she says. “I also place directionals at major intersections and have a series of message bandit signs that I place along high traffic roads. These message signs promote the community and builder with a rhyme, kind of like the old Burma Shave billboards you’d see along the Interstate.”

3. Use technology to your advantage

If signage is the extension of the Sales Professional, then the builder’s community webpage is the model by proxy.  It’s critical that the Sales Professional has a complete, accurate web presence that makes a statement. “I demonstrate the plans over the web using virtual tours. They have photographs of the exterior and interior of previous model homes,” explains a Sales Professional. “But I also have a slide show that plays up the community. It shows all the great amenities and local shopping and really tells a story as to why someone would want to live here.”  

“In addition to my community web page, ” says another Sales Professional, “I set-up a community page on Facebook that includes the photographs of the floor plans and shots of the community. Whenever I have a visitor come out to the community, whether that’s a Realtor or a prospect or even my Mom, I ask them to write a message on my Facebook wall about how beautiful the community is and what they liked about it.” In addition to Facebook, LinkedIn also provides apps that allow for slide shows and virtual tours to be uploaded to a Sales Professional’s profile.

Taking it one step further, it seems just about everyone in sales is blogging nowadays. “My background is in interior design and I’ve been writing about tips and trends for over a year now,” says a Sales Professional who currently works out of a model home but has been “in between” models before. “My musings focus on interior decorating, and in my blog I direct that traffic back to my community webpage and Facebook page. It’s just another way of reaching people that I may not have been able to access otherwise and presenting myself as a professional and an expert new home consultant. It’s all networking — just this networking is virtual.”

Again signage is critical and merging signs with technology can give an out-of-area Sales Professional a competitive edge. “We purchase a lot in an established neighborhood and begin building an inventory on it,” says a Sales Professional for an on-your-lot builder who doesn’t have the benefit of a master-planned community, much less a professionally decorated model home. “Our signage has a text number on it. A prospect or a Realtor looking at the inventory can text that number and then within seconds receive info back. I can’t tell you how important that link to those interested parties is. Since there’s no way for us to be available in the area all the time — we don’t even have a model or a construction trailer someone could stop at to ask questions. Who knows how many people we would have missed if we didn’t have that option. They would’ve just driven away.”

4.  Realtors, Realtors, and Realtors

Whether the community has a model home or not, partnering with the Realtors is a key component in any marketing strategy. But when there’s no model available, the Sales Professional must continue all the standard Realtor promotions (Agency presentations, Give-aways, Email-blasts, et al) and then some. “Every afternoon I schedule a Realtor visit to the neighborhood,” says a Sales Professional who has sold and moved out the model home, and is now selling the final lots and the last inventory home. “But I don’t just meet the Realtor at the community… I pick-up them up and drive them  to the community. I make sure I have a captive audience to sell the vision of how great the amenities are and how much their clients will love living here.”

Another Sales Professional hosts a monthly Realtor luncheon. “While other communities host Realtor events at their model home, I do the same thing but at the community club house,” he said. “We  take the guests on a tour of the community and neighborhood during the event.”

© June 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo


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