Realtors who’ve sold hundreds of new construction homes surely know the do’s and don’ts of how to make a good impression at the builder’s sales office.
But suppose you’re a new construction newbie without much experience in the newly built home sector of the housing market. What’s the proper etiquette or protocol for you to work well with the builder’s rep and help your buyers find a new home they’ll love?
For starters, it’s important to know that most builders genuinely want Realtors to come to their houses and help sell them.
Rob Hutton, central regional president at Lennar Corp. in Austin, Texas, describes three reasons why Realtors might want to stop by: to preview model homes and learn about the builder’s inventory, to get an update or more information about homes that might fit a specific buyer’s needs and to bring pre-qualified buyers to tour the models and, perhaps, purchase a home.
“The Realtor will walk into new-home communities to check out the inventory that’s available — lots and specs,” Hutton says. “They come into the real estate model office with a (business) card. They may, on that visit, be simply learning the inventory without a buyer in mind.”
Here are some questions to ask during an initial visit to a builder’s sale office:
- How many lots do you have available?
- What’s the price range for your homes?
- What’s the range of square footage?
- What amenities do your communities offer?
- What features do your homes include?
- Which homes are ready, under construction and to be built?
Call Ahead — Or Not
A pre-visit phone call can be helpful to find out what hours the builder’s models are open and ensure a sales rep will be present at a specific time on a particular day.
But Hutton says a call isn’t a requirement. “Realtors can come any time,” he says. “Some will make a phone call beforehand and say, ‘I want to make sure you’re working today because I need somebody to guide me through the spec inventory.’ ”
A phone call could help you find out which homes are closest to completion and save you the hassle of trying to locate a home that hasn’t been built yet, says Amanda Galindo, new construction sales representative at Progressive Builders in Big Lake, Minn.
“It’s nice to have a courtesy call,” Galindo says. “We post to-be-built or homes under construction (on the MLS), so we have them listed. If someone is going to buy within the next 60 days, the Realtor can show the house or give me a call and I can tell them to look at a different model.”
Prequalified is Best
It’s bad form to bring lookie-loos or buyers who can’t qualify for financing to tour a builder’s models or homes.
Instead, you should try to have what Hutton describes as “a candid conversation about prequalification” with buyers beforehand so you’re confident their price and payment range isn’t a “mismatch” with the homes the builder has to offer.
To earn extra points, refer buyers to the builder’s mortgage company to get prequalified. “That’s ideal,” Hutton says.
Buyers are welcome to bring their children, says Sherry Scott, Realtor relations at Drees Custom Homes, a builder in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“It’s not always an option for parents to find a babysitter,” Scott says. “The Realtor and on-site salesperson work together to make sure the children are safe while the parents are busy making a very important decision for their family.”
At The Site
Some new-home communities have designated visitor parking areas next to the model homes, while others have street parking.
But if you don’t see a parking lot or space, don’t drive away. “You know what?” Hutton says. “We don’t care (where Realtors park). They can park in front of the model at the curb. Wherever. We just want them to come.”
You should, though, be mindful of parking in front of residents’ homes that are located next to model homes. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask the on-site sales staff.
It’s best not to wear sandals or your snazziest new shoes to model homes because you might have to “tromp through the mud” to access a house, Galindo warns. Not all builders have completed model homes and the exterior, including the driveway, is typically the last part of a home construction.
‘Like and Trust’
The moment when you introduce buyers to the sales rep is “the most important,” Hutton says.
“They have to feel that they like and trust the on-site agent. If they do and the home works with their budget and it has the square footage and amenity package they’re looking for and options they may want, then they’re comfortable moving toward writing a contract for that home,” he explains.
After the introductions, the Realtor should let the sales rep take the lead.
“The best approach,” Hutton continues, “is for the Realtor to step back and let the on-site agent go through the tour and questioning, so the on-site agent can help zero in on what the customer’s specific motivations and criteria are. That’s the smart and preferred way for our agents to interface with the Realtor.”
If the buyer loves the model or one of the ready-built houses, the Realtor should let the sales rep go ahead and close the sale.
“If the customer says, ‘I love it, this is great! We are able to handle the payments. This has all the features we want. We are ready to go,’ the Realtor should not say, ‘Let’s keep looking.’ or ‘I have four other homes I want to show you.’ ”
That moment might be crucial, not just for that new home sale, but also many more to follow with that new home builder as a partner in the deal.
Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in English with high honors from UCLA and a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Pepperdine University and has completed advanced novel-writing courses at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She is a second-generation native and lifelong resident of Los Angeles.