Home Builder / Remodeler Software and Online Selections

Word in the street is this: online selections aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Now, we're not negating the fact that some large volume home builders and remodelers have taken advantage of online selection systems offered by some home builder software packages. Given the market, the product, the type of builder, and the client, this approach to selections may make perfect sense. Certainly does in theory. Get the client to go online, and do the work of reviewing options, and nailing down their preferences. Click. Send. Done.

If this is what you’re after, and you cannot be convinced otherwise, call us and we’ll give you a recommendation or two. There are some good packages out there.

But, online selections are not for everyone. In fact, quite the contrary.

  :: Some homeowner clients won't go there -- they simply will not play ball that way.

  :: Some builders have tried it, and are dropping the service for simpler, less costly software solutions. 

Before you follow the crowd and pay a premium for a mid-level or enterprise level project management suite with all the bells and whistles including online selections, consider the following:

  1. Custom home builders and remodelers are typically hands on with their clients -- there is a trusted relationship and often the clients will want to get the builder's opinion before proceeding with a selection/upgrade -- like a sanity check. This is best done in person, or over the phone, not online.
  2. Generally home builders and remodelers work with their clients at the design stage, nailing down specifications in a typical specifications document. This is what they have used to price out the project. And this is what the client has agreed to when they signed the contract.
  3. If the client uses a design professional (architect, interior designer), chances are the specifications are nailed down well in advance of the build.
  4. Throughout the build, the client may well wish to make a change... that is what change orders are for. We have them. They are easy to fill out, and ensure the change is agreed to by the client and builder (along with the price difference) before the change is carried out.
  5. If you are building for a demographic that prefers face-to-face interaction (generally baby boomers and older, but there are folks in all age ranges that this applies to), they will exchange the online selection process for a call to your cell phone or a meeting on site... and they likely won't respect "normal business hours"!
  6. The online selection process is not intuitive for many people, especially those not up the technology curve. Imagine some of your clients that are self proclaimed computer illiterates attempting to maneuver around a 3rd party online selection website - they'll probably be on the phone with you. Congratulations, you are now in tech support!
  7. The process of getting to the 3rd party online selection website is wrought with friction. Consider that a client has to first go online, then go to your website, then click on a "client access" link if they can find it, then they have to remember a username and password... as if they don't have several others they are trying to recall. That friction will cause a percentage of customers to avoid that process altogether and call a real live person... so you need to account for that.
  8. Online selections are not applicable to the majority of construction businesses. For instance, they wouldn't be applicable to commercial/industrial project managers, specialty trade contractors, spec builders, or residential builders who have only a few jobs they do each year -- so you would be paying a premium for a system that has online selection features you wouldn't use.

I actually had a high end custom home builder tell me (within the last 12 months of writing this) that he would never force his clients to go to his website, log in to some 3rd party software system, and make changes to selections on their home. In fact, he felt that process would be damaging to his reputation, and a disservice to his clients. They were paying a premium for his knowledge and concierge service. Therefore, it made sense that they should have access to him at any point along the process.

Of course, this is one builder's opinion, and we're not implying that this is true for all home builders and remodelers.

Having said that, you ought to consider how you want to be perceived by your clients, and the way in which you want to interact with them.

For instance, you can use an online service called Houzz and share Ideabooks, and manage selections with your clients there. Some builders use Houzz to organize selections by room, and by indoors/outdoors. For builders like this, adding the online selection process to their website would only serve to complicate matters.

BuildIT customers (those who are home builders and remodelers – we have a wide variety of construction professionals that use the system) can use a specifications document with the client. It would be completed up front and stored in the project files area. Changes during construction would be dealt with via change orders. Simple. Easy to do. Has worked efficiently for years.

If you prefer the tried and tested approach, and need help constructing a custom, well formatted PDF specifications document that can be filled in with the BuildIT system, give us a call and we'll help you out.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1