Savvy housebuilders use numerous ways to enrich the new-build sales experience. PHPD chats with Kate Pickard, Marketing Manager at Classic Folios, to discover how the handover process can be professionally managed – and a developers’ reputation enhanced.
Q What are the main benefits of providing a well-managed process from reservation through to completion, and beyond?
A well-managed handover process helps to set a buyer’s expectations and will establish trust during a lengthy process. It outlines what is required from both parties to ensure a smooth transaction on the purchase of the property and breaks the process down into distinct milestones, giving it a sense of magnitude and organisation that creates a productive experience for both the buyer and developer.
By providing a well-managed sales and sales progression experience, the developer is able to cultivate a positive relationship with the buyer, so if there happens to be a bump further down the road, they are likely to be more patient and confident that the issue will be rectified.
Essentially, an effective reservation process streamlines what is often the most stressful part of the homebuying journey, clearly spelling out what needs to be done each step of the way, allowing for the most productive use of time possible.
After the buyer moves in, it’s essential that communication from the developer doesn’t stop, and informative aftersales procedures are key to this. While a good home demonstration is a great way to get the new homeowner up and running, providing long-term support through a homeowner manual or portal will not only make them feel valued but will also encourage a self-sufficient approach to maintaining their new home, removing the need for unnecessary phone calls. This will save the developer vital time and free up the aftersales and sales teams to foster new buyer relationships.
Q Do you have any ‘top tips’ for housebuilders looking to improve the customer journey from reservation to moving in?
Set buyer expectations right from the off. Providing a reservation guide will answer many commonly asked queries and set out standard timings on the whole process, ensuring the buyer is confident in their knowledge of what to expect at the various stages.
Adhering to a robust process is key. Clearly set out what information you are going to share with the buyers at each stage and communicate key milestones, so they are kept in the loop, minimising the possibility of them cancelling the reservation due to a frustration at a perceived lack of progress.
After legal completion, make sure the new homeowner understands that you are not going to disappear now the transaction is complete. Many common queries that new homeowners have can be easily resolved without needing to pick up a phone, so providing a point of reference for when certain issues arise can minimise customer care calls for developers and waiting time for homeowners. That being said, ensuring the homeowner knows exactly who to contact in certain circumstances, such as to report defects, is essential in reinforcing your ongoing commitment to customer care.
Q What is the difference between a reservation folio and a completion folio?
A reservation manual or folio is an opportunity for the developer to set those expectations we covered earlier, with regards to what happens when and how throughout the buying process, such as appointing legal and financial advisors, when choices and options need to be selected, arranging site visits, how long the reservation period lasts and exchanging contracts, etc.
It is a user-friendly step-by-step guide to the whole sales process. As well as guiding the buyer through the process and establishing brand recognition, it can also help prevent buyer remorse and cancellations on purchases.
Completion manuals or folios are designed to be presented at the home demonstration or on move-in day to help the purchaser familiarise themselves with their new home and its surroundings without needing to contact aftersales or customer services.
As well as providing important information for settling in new homes, completion manuals will provide a vital point of reference for when queries arise down the line, whether it is an issue with the heating system, a fused circuit or advice on how to maintain kitchen worktops. This will help buyers ensure the long-term aesthetic and efficiency of their home, while consolidating their confidence in the developer’s brand.
Q What types of things should a homeowner handover pack contain?
While this is likely to vary between developers and the information that is available at the point of handover, a buyer should be provided with a completion manual, gas safety and electrical test certificates, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), maintenance and user manuals for fittings, appliances and systems within the home, and warranty policy details. Depending on the planning conditions for the development, this list could be expanded to include a sustainability guide, maps and timetables.
Q Is there a growing trend towards online and digital solutions?
Definitely. Many buyers expect to see some form of online interaction from the developer and prefer to act out of standard office hours via email or defect reporting forms, rather than face to face. Online handover solutions also allow people to interact with the information on-the-go, using smartphones or tablets, which is ideal during what is invariably a busy time. It’s all about streamlining communication for both the developer and their properties, and keeping up with consumerist trends. With the increase in PropTech (property technology), such as Hive smart products, more developers are buying a tablet to incorporate the apps in their handover process.
Q What is Hoozzi?
Hoozzi is Classic Folios’ customer portal that comes white labelled. It does all the hard work so the developer doesn’t have to, saving valuable time. Hoozzi is a revolutionary management and communications platform that is changing the way people buy, manage, maintain and enjoy their homes.
For example, the platform holds the buyers’ information bespoke to their property and developer contacts, so instead of sourcing old spreadsheets and pieces of paper for fixture and fitting information, it’s all there at the touch of their fingertips. It also contains all the details of appliances, including product descriptions, energy ratings and downloadable instruction manuals, meaning no more over-packed drawers of manuals. The buyer can also register their appliances through the portal.
Hoozzi’s interactive document library allows developers and homeowners to upload and download documents relating to the property. A defect management system also allows residents to report problems directly to the developer, so a leaky pipe in the bathroom can be quickly dealt with by logging it through the portal. This reduces time spent on the phone for both parties, freeing up site and sales staff to concentrate on further house sales, while keeping a record of issues.
The portal also hosts a wealth of “How to” articles from developers, featuring numerous handy hints and tips that will help the homeowner settle into their new home, as well as fantastic recipes and crafts ideas.
One of the most used parts of the portal is Area Guide, this allows the buyer to research the area, find the closest schools and their Ofsted reports, lookup closest bus stops and transport links, it even covers your broadband speed in the area.
Q What future technology do you think will influence the market in the future?
The market will continue to embrace new technology as we move into the future. We are already seeing paperless mortgages from the likes of NatWest, so I would expect to see more paperless transactions as people keep looking for that shortcut and timesaving opportunity, not to mention environmental awareness.
You may expect to see buyers having the ability to make their choices online rather than having to sit in a sales office on site.
With added voice control technology in the form of Alexa and Google Home, new homes will become increasingly integrated with new technology, to the point that it will start to become the industry standard. Quite a few of our clients are purchasing tablets or iPads to have their portal preloaded, along with various other home apps such as HIVE, national rail, Netflicks, Sonos and more. The tablets double up as exciting welcome gifts, too.
Q What are the most popular welcome gifts and can they feature a developer’s brand?
Our most popular gift for developers to give to their new homeowners are Prosecco and Chocolates, which are presented in a bespoke box designed to the developer’s brand. We will be launching a new exclusive range of home gifts in the near future, including glass chopping boards and heavy bread boards, which can all have the developer’s logo engraved on or carved into.
Other gifts we send out frequently are our Jo Malone Range, as I mentioned before our more exclusive developers order iPads with their portal already re loaded, along with an y home apps they have asked for, again we brand these to the developer.
We pretty much have a gift to suit any budget including keyrings and memory sticks that have been engraved with the developer’s logo.