We have a lively debate going on over the present value and future of model homes, which speaks to the challenges builders face as they try to win customers into their camp.
What if you could market your new communities using 3D marketing collateral, using interior and exterior renderings and animations to show buyers choices? You can.
What if you looked at model homes not just as a showcase of a typical home in the community, but as a concept house, developed, designed, and engineered to spark customers ideas about how they want their own new home to work? You might.
But one thing essential to both ways of looking differently at the role of model homes in the sales and marketing process is that it's not a tactical initiative, somewhere downstream of more vaunted strategic priorities around land acquisition, design, and construction process.
A model, whether it exists as most do in the physical realm or only as a digital technology-enabled virtual experience, is where builders create that "Ta-da!" moment with a customer prospect, and then go on to say, "you can have it this way, or we can do something for you that will make it completely different." Insofar as it's that moment that clinches your customer's investment, that interface--the model--is not strategically less important than buying the right lot, or coming up with a compelling design.
That notion of equal importance among priorities seems to be a challenging one for many builders to get their minds around. "Everything's important" sometimes devolves into "nothing's meaningfully important." But in the case of the typical home builder--proficiency across skill-sets, focus across disciplines, and execution across silos is simply a must.
Allowing technology to enable and begin to drive integration through the entire process of working with internal customers, external customers, vendors, and suppliers is where our "outlier" home building organizations may expect to win a strong competitive advantage in the next stretch of the recovery.
We got to see a terrific example of this approach this past year, as an Oakwood Homes executive team that included chairman/ceo Patrick Hamill, Don Carpenter, vp of product development, Aaron Wilson, vp of purchasing/New Home Center, and Jay Small.
Simply, data flows through every stage, every process, every linkage of the enterprise, and thanks to Oakwood's single-source portal for information, everything from Business Unit Hierarchy, to post once, to one location, role-based security, sharing links with non-users, connecting with vendors, workflow/notifications, and daily usage reports streams through templated systems and platforms.
Among the outcomes Oakwood achieves is the ability to personalize at a granular level, and at the same time, scale efficiencies thanks to some of its vertically integrated "off-site" development and manufacturing.
That capability for a prospective home buyer making choices on floor plans and finishes in a real-time experience heightens a buyer's sense of involvement. Oakwood manufactures assemblies and components in its Precision Building Systems plant which allows for quality, variability, and efficiency.
By looking at the enterprise holistically as an integrated ecosystem Oakwood connects all the moving parts--its internal and external customers, its vendors, suppliers, etc.--in its technology.
By playing that technology through to the development and manufacturing end, Oakwood's velocities and quality level get to be best of breed.
Here's proof, and the reason we think that builders like Oakwood, who embrace technology-enabled transformation, are "outliers," who will thrive in 2016, even as many other home builders struggle for viability. And by the way, they now sell-out communities without using physical model homes, having converted the experience to a virtual tour that gives their customers choice and guidance as they go through the tour.