Category Archives: Production Homebuilding

5 Reasons You Should Be Warming Up To Home Automation Technology

Sometimes when a new trend comes around, it might be wise to follow along without putting all of your eggs in that new trend’s basket. This is especially true with new ground-breaking technologies, as sometimes it is hard to tell if they will stick around longer than a year. However, it might be wiser to do some research on the new trend and the current technology climate, in order to get to know more about the trends, the game-changers, and how to differentiate the two. After doing some of our own research on Home Automation Technology, here are 5 reasons we believe this trend is in fact a game-changer, and is here to stay:

1) Kids are embracing technology at ever younger ages.

So much so, that teachers are now supplied with “skill builders” to stay ahead of the curve (or maybe they’re just trying to keep up). If you have any kids of your own, you too may understand how true this actually is. Check out this video – it’s a perfect example of what we’re talking about. These are the customers of your future, don’t you think they will want a “Smart Home” by the time they are ready to buy? And what about your customers today?  Does your R and D department explore home technologies beyond “lifestyle” options like casitas and master closet placement? Maybe it’s time to think like your inner young person, and embrace your inner child that ooooh’s and ahhhh’s over 21st technology that you never thought possible as a kid.

2) Companies around the world are equipping their offices with automation technology.

You could say that they are preparing for the inevitable — a world where technology is the norm for almost every function, every day. Our advice? Use these new automation technologies and update them regularly, and for goodness sake — lose your dependence on the fax machine! Aren’t you sick of this happening in the office? Needless to say, the change needs to begin at the top of the organization, with upper management leading by example. Provide adequate tools to help folks adjust to change, and more importantly explain why changes in technology are beneficial, to both the organization and the individual.  This is helpful for co-workers, but most of all it greatly benefits the consumer as well, who is probably not interested in living in a new home with outdated technology! The more home automation technologies and options you have available, the more it will show that your company practices what they preach.

3) There is money left on the table, just waiting for someone to grab it.

With new technology comes new opportunity. Jumping on the bandwagon may make you a few extra dollars, but being a pioneer of new technology will make you a game-changer (and many many dollars)! Mastering home automation technology, or any groundbreaking technology for that matter, will place you as a viable and deserving contender of the money left on the table. Once you’ve done your research on the specific technology, taking the risk may bring your company to a different playing field entirely.

4) Continuous learning keeps you young and relevant.

Although it may require you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable for a short while, wouldn’t you agree that learning keeps to you sharp and relevant? Everyone gets uncomfortable when they have to leave their comfort zone. Don’t the be one to rely on TV ads only (when there are so many more current ways to engage with your customer) just because it is what you know. Online engagement with your potential customers, for example, has been proven to help homebuilders understand what is in demand. If you knew what your homebuyers wanted, wouldn’t you do everything to give it to them?

5) Technology provides an enhanced customer experience.

Not only does it include the “ooooh’s” and “ahhhhh’s” we mentioned earlier, but it engages your customer in a way like never before. The options available, the flexibility of choice, and the novelty of customization come together for an amazing customer experience in creating the home they’ve dreamed of. Allowing homebuyers to customize their homes using today’s design technology will bring homebuilders up to par with the other industries that are booming along with online technology. If home automation technology isn’t enough to get you on board, then you might just miss the boat!

Just like the summers in Arizona, you can warm up to new home automation technology!

Corporate vs. Local

How Finding Balance is Crucial to Home Builder Success


For the local branches of corporate regional and national builders, a large part of their success relies on finding the right balance of control and autonomy. But there is a distinguishable line between having needed autonomy, and going “rogue” and losing ties to the corporate strength. The importance and true value of both the corporate influence and the local influence are undeniable, but the balance between the two is the most crucial component: it’s what most builders struggle with. Actively trying to achieve the perfect balance will make your business more competitive, and it will gear you in the right direction for long-term success both for your corporate entity and your local one.

The corporate/local relationship is not unlike a parent/child relationship – similar to how parents provide rules, structure, and guidance for their children, corporate provides structure and a set of systems that have been tried and true for their success as a whole: standards, training, rules and guidelines, and expertise that only comes with many years of industry experience. Corporate must identify the people, processes, and technology for its little local branch. They’ve already created the mission statement, the branding and logos — they’ve built the foundation on which the local builder must build upon (pun intended). Without the standards and systems, local branches would be orphans, starting from scratch and having to do a trial-and-error for everything until finally getting it right – ultimately wasting precious time and resources.

But what about the other side of the coin? Should corporate be synonymous with “cookie cutter”? Or have a “my way or the highway” attitude? I would suggest not. Too many structures and constricting systems can be so anti-productive that they end up suffocating the voices and ambitions of those at the individual level who actually know what they are doing and want to make a change for the better, fulfilling corporate’s original intent using local knowledge and resources.

Product is simply not the same in each state, let alone city. History, climate, style, market, and economy all have huge implications in the marketplace, and especially in homebuilding. Being able to choose land based on local knowledge and market trends is an invaluable resource that corporate often discredits. But the national corporate builder is not omnipresent enough to actually know everything about each individual local market. That’s the beauty of having a local branch where you can really “have feet on the street” and get the scoop that the locals only know – the local expertise based on a national model – when done right it has the ability to create a lot of local success and corporate a lot more money. Local vendors and local expertise that are aligned with corporate brand standards, values, and policies will always yield the best results.

There is a tension between the overarching corporate objectives and the local autonomy of a branch. But instead of feeding the tension and making a situation (that is here to stay) MORE unproductive, proactively creating systems to maintain a balance instead of a strain will yield the best results for the local and for the corporate. We’ve seen the two extremes: the rogues that can’t color within the lines, and the dependents that can’t seem to the leave the nest. And although each Corporate vs. Local situation is unique, the bottom line is that being aware of this need for balance and of a good relationship between corporate and local is, at the very least, a first step in the right direction.

 

4 Great Reasons to be Thankful this Year

We are on the rebound!

The homebuilding and housing industry has seen pretty dark days. But for the past few years, things have definitely been looking up. Here are a few reasons we at the Contrado Group are feeling pretty thankful this Turkey Day.

1)  Arizona has not one, not two, but THREE spots on the forecasting for 2014′s Top 10 Housing Metros

Thank you Prescott, Phoenix, and Tuscon!

2)  New Homes sales are up 20%

Recovery has definitely been shaky, but 2013 has shown a significant increase in new home sales. According to the Commerce Department, 20% more homes have been sold nationwide this year than in 2012. This is a good sign for us, and we are thankful for it.

3)  55+ single-family markets are on the rise too

Although there is continued improvement in sales in all segments of the market, the 55+ single-family markets have shown a significant increase. With improved market conditions, potential new home buyers have been able to sell their current homes so that they can buy new homes that fit their specific needs.

4)  Technology is making everything better for everyone

Whether we like it or not, the speed of technology today is changing how homes are designed, built, and sold. The technology that new homes offer is also a major selling point to today’s consumer, only making it easier for home builders to sell more of what customers really do want.


(Click to watch video of the Housing Leadership Summit on Technology Changing How Homes Are Built)


Are You Catering to Your Home Buyers?

3 Ways to be more Customer-Centric in 2014

When asked, most homebuilders will most likely answer “yes” as to whether or not they consider themselves Customer-Centric. And why not? Being Customer-Centric is important, not only to the happiness of your customers, but to the long-term financial success of your company.
Not only that, but customer-centrism is huge in any industry that heavily relies on today’s ever-changing technology – we have to keep up with the times and the new trends of the home buying experience, or we will get blown off the road and fall by the wayside. But the truth is that only a handful of homebuilders have actually tailored their home buying experience to their direct customers. Why? Well, in the long, tedious, complex process of building a home, we lose sight of the big picture — of what is best for the customer. Considering the habits of today’s consumer, there are 3 distinct and crucial steps to sufficiently accommodating your home buyer:

1. Provide Useful Information

Buying a home starts with fact-finding, and there is such a thing as “too much.”  There is also such a thing as “too little,” and finding a good balance of the information you provide to your potential customer is the absolutely vital first step. It’s your initial hook. From the information you provide on your website, to the content you include on your marketing collateral, to the signs and displays you have up at your sales centers and model homes — all information provided should be trim, concise, and relevant. It absolutely has the ability to sway your customer’s decision!

2. Give Them Control

Letting your home buyer have control of the process gives them the opportunity to take ownership of their new dream home and form an emotional bond to it. Homebuilders often fall short on this step due to a lack of interactive tools provided to their potential home buyers. Today’s technology allows for most of the home buying process to be done online, just like everything else we do — from shopping for clothing, to managing finances, to dating. Not keeping up with today’s interactive online technologies could be losing your company a lot of money, and even worse: lifetime customers.

3. Provide Many, Many Options

Buyers love personalizing, and they will often gladly pay more for it — in fact 60% of consumers will spend more for a better buying experience. We are living in a time where options are everything (flash to your neighborhood grocery store). Being able to customize your car, your phone, and your home are just a few examples of the desires and standards of your average consumer today. So when it comes to new homes, being able to choose your architectural style, your dining room lighting, and your cabinet materials either online or in the design center is the standard premium of today’s new home buyers. But the good news? All of these options reinforce ownership –  the most influential emotion in making that decision to buy.

All of these steps actively engage your potential home buyer, while genuinely understanding what it is that they want. Following through and giving them what it is they want will turn them into a lifetime customer.

At the end of the day, this is the business of turning houses into homes!

 

 

The Housing Recovery: 5 Lessons We Learned

August means school is back in session, and it’s got us at Contrado thinking about what we’ve learned since the downturn. Although it was a time of struggle for everyone in the home-building industry, there was a silver lining — learning a whole lot about survival. Apart from learning how to embrace efficiency the downturn taught us how to adapt and how to use the proper tools that were key to our survival. We’ve compiled a list of the lessons we learned (with an inspirational flair) to help guide your post-downturn learning strategy, even if you aren’t going back to school this year!

 

1.  To Be an Industry Leader We Must Always Keep Learning and Improving.

Start with honing in on your company’s successes and failures, and educating yourself on current products/services in the industry that could make you the leader of the pack. Investing in the right product or service, like Virtual Option Sales, could be the difference between selling a home or not — putting you either ahead of or behind your competition.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” JFK.

2.  Don’t Ignore the Signs.

Be aware of market conditions and USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. It’s hard to accept losses and to embrace a dark cloud — but always look for the silver lining. With learning comes a bit of vulnerability, but don’t let that stop you! There is room in every mind (and company) to learn something new that you will thank yourself for later.
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

3.  Use Survival of the Fittest to Your Advantage.

Take a tip from Darwin and recognize that if you cannot adapt and evolve to what is currently happening in the home-building industry, your company could eventually become extinct — but in this economy it could happen in the blink of an eye! Learning how to adapt, evolve, and change to be more successful is an ongoing, never-ending process that will lead you beyond survival, and hopefully to the top of the food chain.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates

4.  Learning Something New Will Benefit you Professionally and Personally.

It goes without saying that learning a new skill will widen your horizons, and learning in any situation is almost always personally rewarding. Happier employees, happier company.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Gandhi

5.  Take a Risk.

A calculated risk, that is. It might be the last thing on your mind when you are in panic-mode, but taking risks is a big part of survival. Simply reacting to your surroundings won’t get you very far in most cases. Getting to the top will require a balance of defense and offense.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Picasso

So now is the perfect time to ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT TO LEARN?

Most likely you have always had something that you wanted to learn – after all, curiosity is human nature! If you are drawing a blank, a few common ideas and skills that would also potentially benefit your career are learning how to:

o   Speak a new language (whether it be Spanish, Sign Language, or HTML code!)
o   Network within your industry
o   “Let go” of things and embrace positivity
o   Integrate your business operations to increase efficiency
o   Strengthen your leadership skills
o   Create a research study to discover what your ideal customer really wants
o   Find a creative new hobby
o   Stay current on market trends
o   Tell jokes
o   Explore technology (especially if it will enhance your business!)  

We at Contrado have taken it upon ourselves to learn and embrace efficiency – which for us has included learning the cutting-edge technologies in the home-building industry today, Call us to hear more about what got us through the downturn!

 

Fly Fishing & Selling Homes

Plans

First There’s Strategy -

When you first think about building a new community, what are some of the thoughts that come to mind? Customer? Area? Product? When an angler begins a trip to his or her favorite fishing destination, they need to think along the same lines of strategy. In fact these are some of the key areas of concern before they even drop that first line into the water:

  • Type of fish
  • Geographic Area
  • Time of Year
  • Rig Presentation

Isn’t this similar to what an executive team thinks about too when planning a new community? Who’s going to be my customer? What area? Type of product offering?

Fly Fishing

Choosing The Flies – Product Selection

When choosing trout flies, the relative importance of fly characteristics in your selection, in order, should be: size, shape, color, and action (for stripped flies). In saltwater, action is often more important than exact size and shape. Don’t you need to make sure that your home offering selections are enticing to the target demographic too? If technology is a key feature for a Gen X buyer, then one must make sure that there’s key technological features available in the community.

Fly Fishing Cast

Presentation – Creating The Right Sales Environment

Trust me on this one, you can be casting into a certain section of water and not even get one bite if you don’t have the right presentation. Two thirds of the time, trout are biting on submersible midges and nymphs. The other times, they are striking a dry fly on the surface that represents an insect that’s hatching that time of year.

If you don’t have the right type of web site presentation using up to date technology such as Interactive Floor Plans, then chances are the prospect will pass you on for better presentations. Not only is presentation important, but a builder will need engaging content to attract potential home owners. (see 2012 Home Buyer Conversion Report)

Interactive Floor Plans

These are but a few direct correlations of fly fishing and selling homes. I trust that we can all learn new ways to go to market by observing other endeavors of life…………………

Happy Fishing!!!

Interactive Floor Plans

Imagine Integration

Speed to Market

How to Achieve the Results You Want, The Way You Want.

Picture This. The smell of coffee fills the air, you grab a seat in a room full of energized people talking excitedly among themselves…

  • To the left is your team — your departments of:
  • Architecture
  • Purchasing
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Who are sitting down & communicating with your:
  • Architectural Designers
  • Structural Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Framing
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Energy Experts

Their main objective? Your Success. All these people are assembled here to help you complete your project faster than ever before, while at the same time lowering costs and improving accuracy.

This is Integration, at its finest. But is this even an option? YES. Not only is it possible, the Home Building Industry is finally catching on to this prosperous way of doing business and completing projects. It is called Integrated Project Delivery, or IPD. Coined in 2007 by the AIA California Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_project_delivery

IPD, is a results-driven collaboration between all people, processes, and technology. It increases velocity, reduces waste, and maximizes efficiency — the goal is achieving overall project SUCCESS. The people in this meeting make up your IPD dream-team.

They will take you through all of the phases of design, documentation, and final construction.

The results you can expect:

  1. INCREASED VELOCITY: Working collaboratively over the next several months, they will shave weeks/months off of your time-to-market schedule (refer to image).
  2. LOWER COSTS: Your IPD team will substantially reduce costs and improve efficacy by evaluating and perfecting the product development and delivery.
  3. IMPROVED QUALITY: Working together during all stages will ensure an end-product that is higher in quality & accuracy — a product with hardly any error.

So why is IPD important, and what are we currently doing wrong? For the past 50 years, most builders have adopted an ‘a la carte’ method to their home building process —choosing several different companies to complete the different processes, creating a hodge-podge team of different vendors instead of one team (IPD) that works on everything together. What results is a plethora of errors — multiple points of contact and a continuous back-and-forth of communication. Think of the game “telephone” — somehow the message always seems to get messed up. The costs increase, the deadlines change, and a good flow of overall efficiency is lost. Quality and accuracy is on the way out the door, too. And ultimately, the worst potential outcome is a poorly executed product and an unsatisfied home buyer.

Here is an example of an agenda for an IPD-managed project:

  1. Develop Project Agenda
  2. Set Main Project Goals
  3. Set Desired Project Targets
  4. Outline Project Milestones
  5. Create Project Checklists

Just imagine this integration taking place in your company, with your team, right now. This is the quiet revolution that is taking place in the Home Building Industry today, and yes, we at The Contrado Group are at the forefront. 20 years of industry experience has taught us how to embrace the process of integration to achieve the results that our builders want, when they want them.

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