This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Karyn Bonder of Livabl joins Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel to discuss the advantages of listing new construction homes on the Livabl platform.
Livabl provides new construction home builders with more qualified leads and makes the home buyer journey easier for the customer. Karyn says, “We like to connect the consumer directly to the builder … having that lead from the builder’s listing on our site is going to go directly back to the builder. It’s just connecting them, making that consumer journey, that path, to ownership a lot simpler. We think that is something that our industry needs more assistance with, just connecting the consumer directly with the builder.”
One of the remarkable aspects of Livabl is that there is no cost for new construction home builders to list on the platform. Karyn explains, “It’s only to our best interest and to the consumers and the builders to be free to list. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me. We get the most accurate data, the most real-time data so that we can provide the most data to the consumer. They can get the most accurate information, make business decisions, and then all of that intelligence that they’re doing on Livabl will go back out to the builder for them to make business decisions.”
Digital marketers are constantly looking for ways to drive brand awareness and promote lead generation. The Livabl listing platform is another channel to support those two goals. Karyn says, “…when you need to pull a tool out of a toolbox and try something new, I know the value of that. Having something that doesn’t cost anything, this is it. If you’re looking for something new to try, make sure that your homes are showcased on Livabl, and just a great ROI, something new to try, and it’s just going to get better from here. That’s all I can say is it’s just going to gain momentum and get better from here on out. So, make sure that we are definitely a tool in your toolbox.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about the benefits of the Livable new construction home listing platform or read the full transcript below.
Greg Bray: Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I’m Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I’m Kevin Weitzel with Zonda Livabl.
Greg Bray: And we are excited today to welcome to the show, Karyn Bonder. Karyn is the Vice President of Business Development with Livabl by Zonda. Welcome, Karyn. Thanks for joining us.
Karyn Bonder: Thanks for having me.
Greg Bray: Well, Karyn, let’s start off and just get that quick introduction and help people get to know you a little bit.
Karyn Bonder: All right. Gosh, I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. Most recently, I was with a large national home builder. Got to know the folks over at Zonda very well. And when this opportunity came up, it was just a nice natural transition over to the listing data side with Zonda. I’ve been here ever since. So, going on just over two years now.
Kevin Weitzel: At Zonda, but how many years were you with your builder?
Karyn Bonder: Oh gosh, a long time, a long time.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, okay.
Karyn Bonder: In the double digits.
Kevin Weitzel: Double digits. All right. There we go.
Karyn Bonder: Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, that’s the business side of you, but let’s talk about the personal side of you for just two seconds. Please let our listeners know something about you that’s not home builder-related that they’ll learn about on our podcast.
Karyn Bonder: Okay. Let’s see. I don’t know how interesting I am, but one thing that people don’t know is that I graduated from Texas Tech University in the 1900s and I went to the School of Broadcast Communications. Texas Tech is in Lubbock, which is pretty spread out. That whole area of the panhandle, everything is very spread out. We had a hospital, state-of-the-art hospital, that would broadcast surgeries to other hospitals in a certain range for educational purposes, that students would be able to watch these surgeries that would take place.
Well, being on the broadcast side, I don’t even know if it’s still true today, but the color red was considered very hot and had to be monitored. So, I would have to monitor these surgeries to make sure that the color red came through okay. So, I don’t have a very strong stomach when it comes to surgery. It wasn’t, that’s why I didn’t go in the medical field, but being on the broadcast side of it, I had to sit there and watch every second of these surgeries, and that’s stuck with me ever since then. Yeah, that’s, that was interesting.
Greg Bray: A little post-traumatic stress. It sounds like, so.
Karyn Bonder: Yeah, but I appreciate everything doctors do. That’s for sure. You know, God bless the people that can actually stomach that and do that, so.
Greg Bray: Yeah. Amen. Well, Karen, give us a little bit more background about Zonda, about Livabl, about the relationship between Livabl and Zonda because I think it may not be totally clear to everybody out there what’s going on.
Karyn Bonder: Sure. So, Zonda is actually over 40 years old and it makes up the brands Meyers Research, Metrostudy, and Hanley Wood. They merged back in, roughly 2018. In 2019, they began pulling together all of their platforms of data onto one major platform. So, it is the most comprehensive platform of residential new construction data you will find anywhere.
They’ve been providing insights and analytics in many different ways. Whether it’s through events where they have speaking engagements and they’re looking at the data and analyzing it, or through the Zonda Enterprise app that builders have access to and can literally drop a pin in a certain area and receive tons of information on everything to know about that particular area.
So, Zonda’s been providing builders with these data and analytics for many years. Livabl is the newest piece of that. And what makes it interesting is that it’s now consumer-facing data that we’re able to feed to the builders. So, you know, near real-time activity with what folks are doing on the Livabl website since it is consumer-facing. Everything a consumer does on the website becomes data points, and those data points are fed into the Zonda Enterprise app. And then they’re made available to the builders that they can make business decisions.
So, you know, what floor plans are folks looking at? What square footage is most popular? As we know, real estate is very local.
It changes from market to market. It can be vastly different. So, price points can really vary. All of that data that consumers are taking action on will be fed to the builders through the Zonda Enterprise app. And that’s really what the attraction was with Livabl, the listings portal, to Zonda.
The other thing too, is that it is originally a Canadian company, and we have a footprint across North America, so across the US as well as well into Canada. Now with Livabl, we’re really focusing on bringing that into the US. So, we’ve got all of this comprehensive data, suburban communities, urban developments in the United States as well as Canada.
Greg Bray: I’m curious a little bit about the name Livabl because I know there was kind of a rebranding that went through. Can you give us any behind-the-curtain insights into how you narrowed in on that particular name for this product and maybe any hidden significance behind that?
Karyn Bonder: Yeah, you bet. Well, and to make it even more unique, Livabl doesn’t have an E on the end. I don’t know if you know that or not. It’s just L I V A B L. The listings portal was originally BuzzBuzzHome, founded by two gentlemen out of Toronto, Canada back in 2009 and their sister company was livabl.com. It was very heavy editorial and what they would do is when a community was grand opening, typically, in Toronto, Canada, you have a lot of urban high-rise developments, so grand opening there is a very big deal, very different from any grand opening in the US.
They would cover these grand openings with a lot of editorial on Livabl, and then that traffic would feed into the listing site BuzzBuzzHome. So, when we acquired BuzzBuzzHhome and we were looking at different options, whether we wanted to keep the name or go a different path, we did decide that, at the end of the day, Livabl was a little more representative of what we wanted to bring with the focus of suburban production new construction homes in the US.
BuzzBuzzHome was actually kind of focused really on urban. I think the founder told me that it kind of played into the buzzer when you buzz into an urban development. That’s where the name came from. So, in the US, we have a lot of production homes, a lot of single-family detached homes, and we just felt that Livabl kind of had more of a broad representation of what we were focusing on. Since we already owned that URL, we took that from the media company, and now we are still very heavy editorial. It’s just become part of the listings portal.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, it’s funny that you say that the American audience is different than the Canadian audience is, how they roll out communities. Knowing now the difference between, you know, how the Canadian market rolls out, I think about the only American builder that I’ve ever seen that rolls anything out like that is DeYoung Properties out in California. They literally do all this pre-blast and video, almost like broadcast type of precursors before the communities open. Then they get pretty hefty presale of phases within their community.
Karyn Bonder: Yeah, that is something that’s actually very attractive to us and something that we are working with. We have an advisory board with about a dozen builders on it, and we’re working with them on different things that we can try doing in the industry that haven’t been done before and really focusing on pre-selling and grand opening. Keeping that pipeline full is something that’s really important to us, and we want to use some of the techniques that they do in Canada in the US production side. It’s vastly different and we’re excited about those differences and bringing that to the US. I think, especially in the market right now, keeping that pipeline full is critical.
Greg Bray: So, Karyn, there’s already some listing sites out there for builders. There’s some big ones. There’s some names that we won’t say that rhyme with “illo” and things like that. And, there’s sites for realtors that have dot coms on the end of them and all kinds of things. Do we need another listing site? What is it that Livabl’s trying to bring to the table that might be different from some of these others?
Karyn Bonder: There are definite audiences and uses for the other listing portals. They’re great. Anything that helps the industry I’m a huge fan of. Our focus really is new construction. We don’t have any resale properties on our site. It’s just new construction. We think that there’s definitely an area of opportunity for that in the market. Something that’s consumer branded so that the consumers know if they want to build or buy new, they go to Livabl.
It’s going to have all of the builders in one spot. We know how much consumers like to do research on their own, and so this is going to give them a platform to do that.
We like to connect the consumer directly to the builder if you know what I mean. So, having that lead from the builder’s listing on our site is gonna go directly back to the builder. It’s just connecting them, making that consumer journey, that path, to ownership a lot simpler. We think that is something that our industry needs more assistance with, just connecting in the consumer directly with the builder.
Kevin Weitzel: Right. Now, the million-dollar question. Karyn, this sounds ridiculously expensive. What does it cost for a builder to be involved? In full disclosure, I also work for the company. So, I want to make sure that the audience knows that that was obviously a preloaded question, but what does it cost for a builder to be involved?
Karyn Bonder: We are free to list always. That is our business model. The reason is because we’re a data-first company. We want to make sure that we have the most accurate data. The best way to do that is to get the data directly from the builder. So, we’re not going to put a blocker in there and potentially not get the data because our long-term goal, really kind of going full circle in the beginning of the interview, is providing those insights back to the builder. So, that would be subscription-based to get that data back. So, that’s kind of how this whole machine works.
It’s only to our best interest and to the consumers and the builders to be free to list. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me. We get the most accurate data, the most real-time data so that we can provide the most data to the consumer. They can get the most accurate information, make business decisions, and then all of that intelligence that they’re doing on Livabl will go back out to the builder for them to make business decisions.
Kevin Weitzel: Okay. So, it’s free to list. Now, what does it cost a builder to get the leads as they start coming in?
Karyn Bonder: The leads are free as well.
Kevin Weitzel: Get right out of town. There’s no way that it’s both free to list and free to freaking get the leads off of it.
Karyn Bonder: That’s right. There are other ways of generating revenue. It seems crazy that the builders don’t get their own lead on other listing portals, but that doesn’t happen unless they pay to play. We don’t do that. We do give the lead directly back to the builder. To us, it just makes sense. We hope the demand is so strong and the site does so well that builders will want to feature their listings.
So, you can pay to put your listing at a premium spot on the website.
We also will have opportunities for retargeting and e-blast, ways of getting in front of our audience if the builder wants to promote a particular grand opening. Again, going back to the pre-sales and keeping that pipeline full. So, if a builder has a particular community they want to focus on, we’ve got all the tools they can do to make that happen. But in general, free to list, free leads.
Greg Bray: That definitely differentiates from some of the others, for sure. As we’ve worked with some of our clients to create some of the connecting data feeds for some of the listing sites, we had to build in the ability to turn communities on and off because of the pricing issues. Right? It’s like, well, we can only afford or only want to spend this much, so therefore, we’re not going to put everything we have out there. We’re going to pick and choose and feature, for some period of time, the most popular, the one we’re trying to sell out, whatever it might be.
We needed the ability to turn those on and off, but in this case, there’s no reason not to put it all out there. You might as well, even if you just got a few homes left or if nothing’s available yet because it’s brand new. Still might as well start the process and get some exposure out there. So, I love that. And that’s one of the things that I think is great about what you guys are doing.
Now granted, there’s some work to get the information to you, you know, on the builder’s part. Whether that is dedicating somebody to help keep things up to date or building some of these data feed tools. So, to say it’s completely free, from the effort standpoint, we’re not talking like big bucks and it’s not an ongoing recurring monthly effort to keep that up and running. So, I think that’s great.
With Livabl, as you guys are rolling this out, are you a household name yet? If not, what’s it going to take to get there? Because at the end of the day, yeah, I can give you all my stuff as a builder, but if nobody’s heard of you and nobody’s finding you, you know, it’s kind of like, what they call it, spitting in the wind, Kevin or something? I don’t know but shouting in the wind.
Kevin Weitzel: Why do you ask me? Why do you ask me? Am I the one that most resembles the hillbilly and you’re like, what is that hillbilly saying, Kevin?
Greg Bray: So, so, Karyn, what does it take for Livabl to kind of become that household name that people will know to go look at?
Karyn Bonder: That’s a fair point, for sure. We are not a household name. We do want to become a household name, and so we’re very strategic in making that happen. We have hyper-focus in key markets, and we’re putting a lot of money and advertising into those key markets to become a household name. So, the advertising it’s a mix of traditional and non-traditional because we are branding. We don’t just want to call to action. We want to be memorable. We want to be sticky in their minds so that they know when they want to buy a newer build, they think of Livabl.
We are starting a very heavy advertising campaign mid-August in the Phoenix market. Hopefully, we’ll start to see some audience take note and getting some great audience numbers in that marketplace. And then we’re going to expand out from there. So, across 2024 strategic markets, we’re going to keep putting that advertising dollars back into the market as we roll out across from coast to coast.
I would say within the next year, maybe this time next year, we should be a household name in some pretty key markets, and we’ll just keep growing from there. But we’re here for the long haul. We’re not going to burn out in any way. It’s very strategic. I can get a little impatient with it cause I like talking about it and I want everybody to know about it, but I have to kind of rein it in a little and be strategic about it. But Jeff Meyers, our CEO, is an extremely smart man. He’s got a very long-term plan, and it’ll be exciting this time next year, for sure.
Kevin Weitzel: I’ve always kind of thought it was insane. Obviously, everybody knows that I come from the auto industry, it’s no secret, motorcycle side of things. When somebody’s looking for a new car, they don’t go to Autotrader, they don’t go to Craigslist, they go to auto dealers’ websites. They go to Consumer Reports to find, you know, information about various cars that are out there.
So, I do applaud Livabl for having it be new home-centric versus interspersed with used homes. But let me ask you this, I’m actually more concerned about the realtor side of things. Are we looking at just another site where these leads are being sold to realtors like they are on the other websites that are out there for the single-family home and townhouse market?
Karyn Bonder: No. In fact, we don’t see an issue with a realtor bringing a lead to a builder. Again, anything that helps the industry, I’m a huge fan of. We are not going to interject the realtor in that transaction between the consumer and the builder. Our goal is to really connect the consumer directly to the builder. And another way of doing that, to your point of just focusing on new homes and not mixing in used, is that there are a lot of benefits to buying new. Builders have been promoting that on their own for a while now.
But now you’ve got a third-party site that represents all builders that’s gonna be heavy editorial. So, we’ll be talking about that constantly through our social media sites, through all of the advertising that we do, the benefits of why buy new. There are a lot, especially coming out of a global pandemic. Floor plans live differently. People live in their homes completely differently. Just even having a clean room instead of a mud room and what that clean room means from what we’ve learned with being in a global pandemic. Different niches that can now be Zoom rooms like space under stairways.
We’ve learned a tremendous amount and builders can pivot. They can react to the changes in the market and give the consumer what they want. To me, that’s where I geek out. I think that’s just fascinating. That’s what makes us different from the resale. That’s the type of information that we want to bring to the consumer to get them excited and go directly to the builder.
Kevin Weitzel: Now Livabl, because it’s new homes, won’t have this need, but do those other sites, do they have like grams of toenail clippings or pounds of dead skin from the previous owners? Do they have that on their site to give people at least that knowledge of their used home?
Karyn Bonder: I’m gonna plead the fifth on that.
Kevin Weitzel: Greg do you have any insight on that as well?
Greg Bray: I’m just gonna say I have not seen those particular fields in the data feeds but thank you Kevin for just making everybody step back and go, ew.
Kevin Weitzel: I haven’t seen those facts yet. I would want to know those as a consumer.
Karyn Bonder: There are benefits to buying new, that’s for sure.
Kevin Weitzel: There are benefits of new, yes.
Greg Bray: Karen, you were talking about the rollout plan. I think it’s really smart that you guys have decided to kind of go metro by metro and not try to go nationwide all at once. Because often with listing types of sites or network-type sites, you run into this chicken-and-egg issue, right? It’s like, well, we need data in order to have users, but we need users in order for anybody to want to give us data.
I mean, if you were like the second person to ever sign up on Facebook and none of your friends were there, it’s like, well, you’d never go back, right? It’s no good. If I search for homes in a particular area, because you ran this ad campaign and then you don’t have any builders yet in that area. It’s like, I’m not going to come back. It looks empty.
I really want to applaud you guys for being strategic and focusing, and yeah, you’re trying to build out the content and the data. So, some builders in certain areas say, hey, you know what? This might take a few months before we really start to generate some traffic just because of where you happen to be on our target list. Would it be fair to say though, that if a whole bunch of builders hit a different area, you might reorder your metro rollout as far as which one you might go after next if you had enough builders there?
Karyn Bonder: Sure. The strategy does come with a lot of the data that we see in Zonda right now with number of lots, number of inventory. So, they’re looking at the growth of a particular market, you know, migration, the healthiness of the economy, and of jobs in that particular market. So, there’s a lot of different factors that we’re looking at, you know, information that we already feed to builders.
Well, we’re using our own data to figure out what markets we would go into next, and we did hyperfocus on Phoenix for a very specific reason. And we’ve been boots on the ground in Phoenix talking to those builders for a couple of years now. Even making sure that we have someone local that all the builders can go to when they want to know more information about Livabl and what Zonda is doing.
Kevin Weitzel: Now in these product development meetings, were any of the bullet points of why to hit Phoenix first because of my juicy sideburns and the fact that I live here in Phoenix?
Karyn Bonder: You know what? We should have included that. I’m sure that now we can just watch what happens next.
Greg Bray: Well, that was part of the upcoming ad campaign, wasn’t it?
Kevin Weitzel: Okay, so let me ask you this, Karen. So, obviously, we’re making a big push in the Phoenix metro area, but what about builders that are in Tupelo, Mississippi, or Norman, Oklahoma, should they have to wait to get on the platform or what’s the limitation? If it’s free, what’s the limitation for other builders and other areas of the country to get their communities on and have them verified and get their images on there and everything else? What would limit somebody from that?
Karyn Bonder: No, don’t wait. We are live across the US and Canada. So, although we are strategically advertising in certain markets to get that brand awareness, we are live across the US and Canada. So, right now, if you have a data feed, you know, we’ll take it. Now’s a great time to work through any kinks. If there’s anything in the data integration or the lead integration, let’s get that all worked out now, which we usually don’t have a huge issue with.
If you don’t have a data feed, I know a great company, Blue Tangerine, that can help you with the data feed. Get that up and running. Then also, we do have a builder dashboard. So, if you don’t have a data feed and not looking to do a data feed just yet, we do have a builder dashboard so that you can add your listings to our sites. It’s very user-friendly, easy to do, and you can start getting leads for free right now.
Because we are heavy editorial, we do get a lot of residual leads in too, and they’re actually very qualified leads too because we are only new construction. People have ruled out resale, they know that they’re there for a particular type of product. And those leads tend to go further down the sales funnel when they come into a builder. So, all good things, all good reasons to join Livabl right now.
Kevin Weitzel: How do builders do so? Not to make it an infomercial, but how do builders get on to the Livabl platform?
Karyn Bonder: Go to livabl.com, L I V A B L dot com. There’s a button if you want to submit a feed, or if you want to get on the site, you just click the button. It’s kind of a B2B RFI form, and that will go directly to the team, and we’ll do an outreach immediately and get you on board.
Greg Bray: Well, Karyn, when you start having builders sign up, what are some of the things that they might need to get in order before they’re quite ready to be there? Or what types of things are they lacking when you first start those conversations from time to time?
Karyn Bonder: You know, you really want to have a good amount of content about each community. You want to make sure that you’ve got the photographs if it’s an actual built home, or if you’ve built that model before. If not, you want to make sure that you’ve got really quality digital renderings. Site maps are always really good. Consumers really like to see what the layout of the community is going to look like.
By the way, Livabl, not currently, it’s something that we’re working towards behind the scenes right now in development, but we’re going to be very map-centric, very community-centric. We want to pull the community forward to give that the spotlight as opposed to resale sites right now that just show baseball cards of home after home after home. We want to make it about the community. So, it’s going to be map-centric and really get people excited about the area that they’ll live in.
So, to really showcase your communities the best on Livabl, you want to make sure that you do have site-mapped assets, you do have, either digital renderings or photographs, quality floor plans, and fill out the content, make sure the descriptions are good. Your main competition is really the resale listings. They typically have 30 photographs per home, a big description, and so be mindful of that with every home that you put on Livabl.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, being that it’s map-centric, I mean, Livabl actually has a pretty cool feature where a builder’s community map can be shown in lieu of just a pinpoint on the map. And that’s to scale and everything, right, where it belongs on the map itself?
Karyn Bonder: That’s right. Once you zoom in at a certain level, it exposes the entire community instead of just a single dot, and you can really see just the options and the size of where someone’s going to live. I actually live in a fairly new construction community, and it is a lifestyle. It’s a big deal to live in new construction. People are very close with their neighbors. We use the amenity center as a family. It’s a lifestyle. And so that community focus starts with showing it on the map in their home search.
Kevin Weitzel: Out of curiosity, just personal curiosity, do you mind mentioning what builder you went with?
Karyn Bonder: I went with Lennar. I did go with Lennar. We do have Meritage in my community as well, so they built a great community.
Greg Bray: So, Karyn, I’m not seeing any real downsides to a builder trying to work with this. What have missed that would stop somebody from wanting to do this?
Karyn Bonder: I think it’s just patience as we get the momentum going with the consumer. I don’t want to set false expectations that right out of the gate, you’re just going to get flooded with leads. We need patience. We need them to be advocates of Livabl. We need the understanding that we’re here for the industry for the long term. We have a strategy. We are very thoughtful with everything that we’re doing and just stick with us and see what happens. We’re not going to change anything overnight, but it’s going to happen pretty quickly starting very soon.
Greg Bray: Karyn, do you have any last words of marketing advice or thoughts that you want to leave with our audience today?
Karyn Bonder: I do. Actually, I would just say, because I came from the sales and marketing seat on the builder side. I was there, I did that job for many years and I know, when you need to pull a tool out of a toolbox and try something new, I know the value of that. Having something that doesn’t cost anything, this is it. If you’re looking for something new to try, make sure that your homes are showcased on Livabl, and just a great ROI, something new to try, and it’s just going to get better from here. That’s all I can say is it’s just going to gain momentum and get better from here on out. So, make sure that we are definitely a tool in your toolbox.
Greg Bray: Well, Karyn, you already shared how people can sign up with Livabl, but if someone wants to connect with you and talk with you more, how would they best get in touch?
Karyn Bonder: Absolutely. I’m on LinkedIn. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. It’s Karyn with a Y Bonder. Or you can email me at email@example.com.