Traditionally a busy time for house hunting, these are challenging times for everyone, not least the house building industry. With social distancing look set to remain over the coming months, it’s uncertain how long sales centres and show homes will have to stay closed to visitors.

The current lockdown has seen UK businesses look for ways to adapt and survive. With the high street closed, leaving shoppers left to search and buy online, so the newbuild homes sector is fast recognising the need to offer buyers a more informative and engaging online experience.

Across the retail industry, consumers have come to expect a swift and seamless experience online from beginning to end and beyond their purchase. The car industry has developed its online experience over recent years, as research confirms how digital content and online personalisation now plays a fundamental role in the car buying journey.

When it comes to buying a new home, for many first-time homebuyers, newbuild is the only affordable way to get onto the property ladder. Many like the fact they will be first to live in the property. They can often choose their own finishes and fixtures, allowing them to personalise the interiors to their own taste. Like the industries evolving their online buyer experience, so the dial will continue to move as new homebuyer expectations grow.

Supporting and providing many house building companies looking for new ways to engage their buyers online, we have seen a strong uptake of our Virtual Show Homes, Home Selector™, Kitchen Selector™ and Finishes Selector™ systems. Using the latest technology developed by our team, homebuyers can search, explore and even personalise their new home without having to visit a show home. Promoting these experiences on their websites and across their social media pages will undoubtedly position them at an advantage, particularly during times of restricted travel.

Accessible from any mobile device or desktop, buyers can remotely explore, compare, download a personalised brochure and even take a virtual tour before purchasing their new home months ahead of getting the keys. Compared to the many photo-based experiences offered by some agents for remotely viewing   pre-built homes or show homes, the interactive graphic-based systems we build are designed exclusively for buying property off-plan. Centred around Home Selector™ the systems are intuitive and easy for anyone to use as they explore and personalise their new home without having to visit a show home or sales suite.

Our MD, Steve Smith explains: “This is a particularly challenging time for the industry. As a digital-first partner, we’re working hard to support a number of companies looking to bolster and accelerate their online sales presence and levels of buyer engagement.

“The lockdown has brought into sharp focus the importance for all businesses and organisations to have a robust digital capability, not least the house building industry. It’s one thing using a specialised camera to enable people to tour remotely round a pre-built property or show home. But when it comes to selling a new home off-plan often with choices, options and upgrades available, there’s a whole different level of visual engagement and information that needs to be communicated. This is an area we’ve been focusing on heavily with the companies we work with as wider consumer behaviour is starting to dictate how newbuild homes need to be communicated in a more engaging way.”

For housebuilders and developers already invested in this technology, and with show homes still shut or not yet built, this places them in a stronger position by helping to stay on the buyer radar.

With upcoming systems poised to go live on new developments including CALA Homes (West) and Stewart Milne Homes, we hope these will prove to be a game-changer for first-time buyers, downsizers and families looking for a new home, without leaving the safety of their own.

Lockdown has shone the spotlight on how the industry is having to adapt and will continue to evolve in the future, as buyers make one of the biggest purchases of their lives. Social distancing has also seen the older generation enter the digital world, meeting on Zoom with friends and family. Those targeting the downsizer market as well as young professionals and families, will need to also engage these older, more tech-savvy home buyers.

With an increase of 120 per cent in homebuyers using our online Selector systems to search for a new home during April 2019 – April 2020, we see this as a long-term change already happening. A shift that will become the ‘new normal’ long after the current lockdown is over.

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