What a difference a year makes! When we were getting for Louisville and an exciting 2020, I don’t think any of us predicted that the world would change as much as it has. With 2020 now in our rearview mirror, what do we need to consider with our factory-built homes and communities to stay relevant with the new buyers we are beginning to see?
Factory-built housing has often been considered the housing of the future, and it is looking like the future may be here today. More than ever, the stigmas that have followed communities and factory-built housing are melting away, and consumers are giving us a fresh look with open minds. It’s now up to us to show them why we should be their first choice for a new home and why community living is now more relevant than ever.
‘we need to think like our buyers and remember what is important to them…’
Marketing and retaining new buyers takes a fresh approach. Hanging out a sign doesn’t attract buyers — they are driving as little as possible. And we don’t want people just popping into our sales offices — we need appointments to create a safe selling and leasing experience for all of us.
Reconsider Your Community Services, Activities
How many of you have thought about the type of wifi and internet access that you offer? Every day buyers are “cutting the cord” with their traditional phone and cable companies. Instead, they have a mobile phone as their primary phone and switch to streaming internet-based entertainment like Netflix and YouTubeTV. Perhaps 2021 will be a year where buyers and renters are more concerned about what your internet and mobile access is and are more than willing to pay for it. With many schools offering virtual learning, it can be a strain on an older internet service when three kids are learning on different computers in the same home at the same time.
Rethinking the services that your community offers should start with upgrading the internet that your community offers so you can compete with apartment communities that often offer basic service as part of their rent. One of the bonuses is that if you can get your homeowners to switch from dish-type services to streaming, you can also get rid of all of those unsightly receivers that so many people have on the outside of their homes.
ZOOM and other services like that are here to stay at least for a while. Having ZOOM available for your residents makes it possible to offer activities that they can engage in from the safety of their own homes while socializing with their neighbors. The beauty of these is that you can make events invitation only and know who is participating. Book clubs, cooking enthusiasts, wine tastings, a gardening club… all of these are ways to engage your residents in a new and cost-effective manner. Reach out to local businesses to host a chat to educate your residents or let them know about the services they offer. We are all in this together, and we need to support our local businesses.
New Relationship with ‘Home’
Buyers now look at the homes they want to buy or purchase differently. Since many of us are spending more time at home, the kitchen has a renewed sense of priority. Ample dining space gives us a place to enjoy a meal together or gather to do homework. Consumers are curious about new cooking innovations like air frying, sous vide, and pressure cooking in an InstantPot device. These need countertop spaces to use them and cabinets to store them in. Smart technology is here to stay and has become much more affordable.
Again many of these products use wifi to connect and talk. Have you re-evaluated where you have plugs located in your homes? Do some have USB connections, so it’s easy for you to recharge your devices?
ZOOM rooms are also a feature that will be trending. Since we are the housing of the future, it was interesting that some homes at The Louisville Show in 2018 featured smaller rooms that could be closed off from the rest of the house. Barn doors or other features made these areas that could be closed off. These, to me, are the ideal rooms for someone to work out of their homes, home school, or to participate in ZOOM conferences. Something to keep in mind that will also be trending is soundproofing. There is nothing worse than being on a call and hearing a conversation going on in another room. Carpeting is an excellent sound absorber, and we may want to think about having that in these rooms or using more area rugs and curtains.
Healthy, Safe Communities and Homes
Touchless items are also going to continue to rise in importance. With this virus not going away any time soon, keeping surfaces clean and sanitized will be critical in keeping your community safe. Changing out locks, faucets, light switches, and other areas touched by many people to smart, touch-free solutions will help keep everyone safe and let your community know that you care.
Having a video-enabled doorbell is now a priority, not a luxury. Knowing what is going on around your home and knowing that a delivery driver is at the front door is now affordable. RING also includes an almost neighborhood watch service where you are alerted if anything happens in your area. It is an excellent service, and I am much more comfortable knowing what is going on around me.
We are all craving community and interacting with people more than ever. Our land-lease communities offer that without our residents having to share hallways, elevators and stairs, and other areas that are hard to keep clean and safe. There is nothing like living in a home without connecting walls with someone else and having a yard and garden of your own. Our communities offer what many people want: Community.
There are exciting times ahead of us, but it will take much education, marketing, and good old common sense to keep us ahead of the competition. With things changing so quickly and consumers having almost any information that they want readily available to them, we need to think like our buyers and remember what is important to them.