The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift from in-person to online home shopping. Whereas prospective buyers used to spend their weekends hopping from one sales center to the next, they are now able to browse new home communities from the comfort of their couch, schedule Zoom appointments with sales representatives, or explore model homes through 3D virtual tours.
According to Do You Convert, an online sales and marketing consulting and coaching firm geared toward home builders and developers, 51 percent of total home builder sales originated as an online lead in 2020. That’s 20 percent higher than the rate set in 2018 when less than a third of online inquiries were converted into home purchases. Over the last five years, the online sales contribution rate has doubled, signaling that homebuying preferences are rapidly changing.
Do You Convert collected data from more than 50 builder partners to compile the report. These developers logged lead conversion increases of over 70 percent during the frenzied late spring homebuying season compared to the same period a year prior. As a result, more companies brought on online sales specialists to follow up on these leads.
Throughout the pandemic, prospective buyers have been eager to take advantage of virtual sales tools. Zoom and FaceTime have allowed sales representatives and buyers to connect at their convenience without health risks. Videos, 3D tours and photo galleries are now the norm rather than the exception, giving buyers a feel for the layouts, finishes and available upgrades.
While the vast majority of home searches begin online — 95 percent according to a 2018 study by the National Association of REALTORS® — online sales programs are anticipated to expand further in the coming years. Builder budgets that were once dedicated to state-of-the-art sales centers and designer-decorated model homes will likely be redistributed to managing online leads and funding virtual tools that permit shoppers to complete nearly all of the homebuying processes remotely.