This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Jason Harper of Hunter Quinn Homes joins Greg and Kevin to discuss why home builders should start integrating buy online processes.
Purchasing a home online may not be as straightforward as buying other products online, but home builders should not wait to start implementing buy online options. Jason says, “You know, a home can't really ship it to you, but there's no reason why with today's technology that you can't do a virtual walkthrough, you can't see everything that goes into that home and get a good feel for it. And if the emotional level is high, you don't want someone else to buy it. So, just having that avenue or the process in place where a customer could say, I'm interested. I like it. I want to hit this button right now and reserve it. I felt that need would be extremely important in the next few years, and we needed to get on board with that.”
Not all potential customers will want to carry out the entire home buying journey online, however, there must be choices accessible. Jason explains, “And Buy It Now, it's not gonna be for everybody. It's just as technology comes in, some of us old guys like me might not be embracing some of the new stuff that's coming on board. But for, you know, the millennial group or the group that's coming up behind them, they're gonna be on board with it. You know, and if you don't have it in place when that happens, then you're definitely late to the party…It's definitely gonna have to be a choice type thing where it's a reservation versus a purchase type option available it seems like.”
The expectation and desire for buying a home online are growing and home builders should prepare for it now if they haven’t already. Jason says, “But there's not any reason why to prevent somebody now to go online...just reserve that house for my buyer. It's gonna be a trend. I think it's gonna get bigger as time goes on. It will take a while to implement, but it's gonna be worth starting now so that you don't look back and say, well, I wish I had started that two years ago or last year. Because you can't implement it that quick…”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about developing buy online processes for home buyers.
About the Guest:
Jason has been in the new home industry for a little over 20 years. Starting off in sales for a small local builder, he quickly became their top salesperson. When the company was bought out by a national builder, Jason was asked to become the sales performance coach for their 3 divisions in SC. After teaching for a couple of years, he was promoted to the regional sales manager. When that company pulled out of SC during the downturn of '09, he went back to his roots and got back into sales for another company that represented multiple builder accounts. Once again Jason’s results caught the company's attention, and he was asked to teach his sales techniques to their teams.
Jason taught an intro to new home sales boot camp there and held weekly one on one sessions with their new and seasoned agents where he coached them through the day-to-day sales functions. He was then asked to be a sales manager and take on a few of their builder accounts. At one point Jason managed 4 different builders until one builder, Hunter Quinn Homes, started growing very quickly. They eventually took more and more of his time and eventually invited him to come on board full-time and bring the sales team in-house. Jason has been with Hunter Quinn Homes for about 7 years now and during that time they have expanded into 2 different markets and started up a build-on-your-lot division. Hunter Quinn Homes continues to grow and expects to expand into additional markets over the next few years.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] 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 OutHouse.
Greg Bray: We'd like to welcome to the show today, Jason Harper. Jason is the VP of Sales and Marketing at Hunter Quinn Homes. Welcome, Jason. Thanks for joining us today.
Jason Harper: Thanks, Greg. I'm glad to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, Jason, let's get to know you and start off with that quick introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jason Harper: Well, I've been in the home building business now for a little over 20 years. I've worked for some really small builders, and I've worked for some really large [00:01:00] national builders. So, I've got a good idea of how both sides kind of work, and Hunter Quinn Homes falls in the middle of those two buckets. You know, we like the systems and processes that the national builders bring, but we also value that culture of a small builder feel. And so we feel like we've got the best of both worlds. I've been with Hunter Quinn Homes now about eight years and then we've grown into two different markets and started a build on your lot division and have growth plans in the future.
Kevin Weitzel: So, before we dive deeper into that, why don't you do me a favor and give me a little personal tidbit about yourself that people will learn about you, that's not home building related, on our podcast?
Jason Harper: Well, Kevin, my favorite vacation spot is the mountain areas of North Carolina, that Asheville area. I could just go up there in a tent and camp by a river for weeks if I could. I like walking the rivers, hiking the trails, throwing rocks. It's just such a peaceful place to me. And so I usually get there about twice a year when, you know, the hustle and bustle of [00:02:00] business gets to me. I just escape to the mountains.
Kevin Weitzel: So, now do you go full zen or are you an angler? Are you dropping in the fishing line in the streams and rivers?
Jason Harper: No, it's more full-zen. You know, I'll pack a little hammock, go on a hike, tie it to a couple of trees, and just swing there for a little while and just clear my head.
Kevin Weitzel: I can respect that. I love it.
Greg Bray: Nice. I love that area too. Definitely a beautiful area.
Jason Harper: It is beautiful.
Greg Bray: That whole Smoky Mountains and everything else. Yeah. Wonderful stuff. Well, Jason, you mentioned a variety of builders that you've worked for. Tell us why you decided to embrace home building as your career path. What got you interested in that?
Jason Harper: Actually, got recommended to apply for a new home sales position through a friend of mine. He worked for a builder and he said, Look, all you have to do is learn the plans, learn the process, and talk to your customers. He said you have a good gift of speech. You're pretty convincing. You can get people to do things for you sometimes. I've seen you in action. So, I did. I applied with the home builder and she said, Look, you look [00:03:00] great, you speak great, you have what it takes to be a new home salesperson. You gotta go get your real estate license, and so that was obstacle number one.
But once I got into it, learned the ins and outs of real estate. I knew it was in my blood, that sales was in my blood. I did have a natural way with customers even before I understood what it was. You know, over the course of my time in new home sales, I've learned now it's DISC, it's reading personalities, it's mirror matching, and NLP, and all those things that I'd had no idea I could do naturally from the beginning. And so, you know, once you find out you have it in your blood, you just kind of stick with it.
Greg Bray: So, tell us just a little bit more about Hunter Quinn Homes. You mentioned a couple of different markets that you're in. Which markets are those? What types of homes are you guys building and which buyers do you serve?
Jason Harper: This year, 2023, is our 10-year anniversary. So, we've actually been in business for 10 years. Started off with a really small parcel of land just to work our systems and processes out. And then oddly enough, in 2022, we closed our 1000th home. And so, we've hit a couple of [00:04:00] milestones recently. We were three times voted Builder of the Year and fastest growing company in South Carolina. We're in the top 25 for a number of years.
We mainly build the first-time move-up buyer and the entry-level buyer. So, we have some townhome communities in the Charleston area, and then most of our single-family homes are in the Charleston, Somerville area. 2021, we branched out into Greenville, South Carolina. So, Greenville had a huge opportunity of growth area there. A lot more land available than we do have here in Charleston. That's been an exciting process to grow that division up there.
Then finally, we mentioned, I started our build on your lot division last year as well. You know, with house prices going up so quickly, there was a need to find a different way to get people into homes and so them buying their own little piece of land and building something that we offered was a good solution. That's picked up and gotten busy as well. So, [00:05:00] we're very fortunate to have had success in the areas that we've branched out on.
Greg Bray: So, it sounds like you've been with the company then for a good portion of its life and history then if you're at that 10th year anniversary and seen a lot over those years.
Jason Harper: I really have. Yes. I was technically, there's an asterisk by my name because the company hired a new home representation division to represent them at the beginning, and I happened to work there. I was assigned to the Hunter Quinn Homes account, and so I hired the first salespeople. I was their first sales manager, even though I technically worked for a different brokerage.
We tried it that way for about a year and a half, maybe two years, and then Hunter Quinn saw the need to bring the sales team in-house. We needed to do things the Hunter Quinn way. So, I was tasked, if I would accept, to come on board, be their sales manager, bring their sales team in-house, and build that sales program for Hunter Quinn Homes, and that's what I did. We haven't looked back.
Kevin Weitzel: So, what point did you don the [00:06:00] hat of just sales management and sales, and then throw on there the marketing moniker as well?
Jason Harper: Well, once we had our sales team up to speed, being a single division at the time, we had one single marketing person and she could run things pretty much on her own. When we knew we were gonna go multi-divisional a few years ago, we had to hire a couple of extra marketing people, and so the natural progression was sales and marketing. You know, I was continuing to push marketing in the direction of what can marketing do to get more sales, more people in the door.
Instead of I need to order a sign for this neighborhood, or I need to order a concrete washout sign or something. So, it was just transitioning the marketing department from being a sign-ordering firm to sales support and traffic-generating ideas and those types of things. So, it just fell naturally under the sales umbrella that we all needed to look for things that actually drove sales and traffic.
Greg Bray: Was that a hard transition, Jason? It sounds like maybe there was a mind shift that [00:07:00] went along with that. What were some of the roadblocks as you tried to change 'em from just kind of being implementers to being more strategic in the thinking?
Jason Harper: Maybe I'm making it sound harder than it was, but it is so much easier to, you know, just process papers and do things. You know, you think the things that you're doing by putting a billboard up or a sign on the side of the road, you think that is generating sales, but the sales team needs so much more. Especially in today's market. It's such a digital world, and my marketing team I give them credit for everything.
They've developed our social media presence. They've got the website completely up to date. We've added new components to it, like the community plot maps. We've also are now about to add our Buy It Now program. So, they've also seen the need to grow as well. I think more or less, with me as support, you know, Hey, this is good. Yes, we can do this. I think we need to add this. Just kind of asking those questions kind of prompted that shift.
Greg Bray: So, as you were looking at expanding that team, how did you [00:08:00] decide what skillsets you wanted next versus, you know, looking for partners or agencies to work with?
Jason Harper: Well, I knew what my marketing manager was good at. She has a marketing degree. She's really great at reading the trends and putting things together. She's organized. She might not be as strong in graphic design as she was in copywriting or blogging and things like that. So, we kind of looked at what her skillset was and said, Okay, maybe we need someone with more skills in graphic design that can do more extreme logos and add a different look to the things that we're putting out there. So, we did hire somebody with that background.
And then with me pushing to get more measurements in place for the marketing team. Like, you know, how do we know what's working for us and how do we know what our per traffic spend and all those kinds of things are? She dove into that side of it. And so our next hire was a social media coordinator. Like, we knew we needed somebody that would specialize in that aspect of it. And so, we [00:09:00] did hire a social media coordinator last year and she's gotten us on TikTok finally. We were probably extremely late to the party, but it's growing quickly along with our other social media channels. And so I think it just took me recognizing where everyone's strengths were so that I could hire to their weaknesses if that makes sense.
Greg Bray: No. Absolutely. So, Jason, I can't let it slip by that you said you've got a Buy Now initiative in the works. All right. So, tell us what is driving that desire and how you're kind of moving forward toward that Buy Now implementation.
Jason Harper: It's been a process for sure. But we recognize the need and I think COVID probably brought that to everyone's attention more than anything else, that shopping from home was the way to go. We all do it for everything, you know, Amazon and eBay and all those different avenues that you have to just buy things that you want and have them shipped right to you.
You know, a home can't really ship it to you, but there's no reason why with today's technology that you can't do a virtual walkthrough, you can't [00:10:00] see everything that goes into that home and get a good feel for it. And if the emotional level is high, you don't want someone else to buy it. So, just having that avenue or the process in place where a customer could say, I'm interested. I like it. I want to hit this button right now and reserve it. I felt that need would be extremely important in the next few years, and we needed to get on board with that.
Greg Bray: As you've been working through that process what kinds of surprises have you run into that Oh, this is easier than I thought, or harder than I thought, or I didn't consider that we'd have to also do this to make it work. Anything jump to mind?
Jason Harper: Well, the idea was that we would implement it only on our completed inventory homes. We would put those out there, what you see is what you get, and then you could just click on it and buy it. Figuring out the finance part of it was a little tricky. Would the mortgage company accept a credit card payment? Would they accept something online? Or how could we make it to where it fit within the lending guidelines and maintain the [00:11:00] legality of the entire transaction through an online money exchange? That was probably the biggest hurdle.
But now we're looking at couldn't we implement this with a to-be-built home as well. But that also means that our design center has to be a hundred percent digital. It means all of our selections have to be online and color accurate and everything that would go into it and priced right, so the customer can see full transparency online everything that we would do in the design center and in the sales office.
Greg Bray: I'm hearing in your tone that we aren't quite there with all of those parts and pieces just yet. Which is totally fine. Okay. There's no shame there because that's a big lift, right, to get all of those things in place.
Jason Harper: It really is. And you are hearing me correctly that we are not quite there yet, but we're making progress for sure.
Greg Bray: So, as you have embraced that online purchase. Was there feedback from customers that were helping you feel confident that this is the way to go besides [00:12:00] just COVID and shop at home? Cuz we did some research, Jason, and sorry if you've seen some of this, but we found that there's some different segments within the buyer groups and almost a quarter of 'em are very interested in the buy online, and then there's some that aren't. And so sometimes builders kind of think our buyers are all in this category, are all in that category. Is it just kind of this desire to experiment or was it like, man, our buyers are begging us for this and we gotta get it done?
Jason Harper: I think it's maybe a little bit of both. Like, I haven't had a ton of buyer feedback that, if you had this, I'd buy something. But I will say this about the culture of Hunter Quinn Homes. We always look to be on the forefront of the things that are happening technology-wise, or industry trends, or things that are coming down the pipe.
We knew that Buy It Now was becoming a real thing. We started this process a year ago and just unfortunately it's taken us a long time to do it, and I know that other companies have implemented already and are having success selling homes [00:13:00] online. It's been done. Even though I might not have been the first one to do it, we recognized that we needed to jump on board quickly. So, we might be the second or third, but we're gonna be there.
Kevin Weitzel: I agree with you that there are some people that have varying levels of success with spec homes. But option homes, you know, where you have design center options, I don't think anybody's doing that, you know, with a full automated process successfully yet. At least that I know of.
Jason Harper: There's still time for us to be the first. I know one company that does have it available, so we're considering it.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. Now, what about the consideration that there's people out there like myself that love the concept of Reserve It Now. I wanna hold it so I know for a fact that I get lot 51 and I can buy this house on that lot, no problem. And then from there, I don't want the onus to screw up my own deal. I wanna have somebody handhold me through the process. Kinda like the people who say, we don't need realtors. But guess what? The first time you find out that you got a foundation problem and you could have had an [00:14:00] inspection take care of that, and your realtor would've walked you through that process, they become more valuable again.
So, what do you say about that segmentation, like Greg was alluding to, that there are people that want to do a portion of it, but then have the rest of it, the onus, put back on you, the home builder, to provide that guarantee?
Jason Harper: Yeah, we definitely have to provide that option. And Buy It Now, it's not gonna be for everybody. It's just as technology comes in, some of us old guys like me might not be embracing some of the new stuff that's coming on board. But for, you know, the millennial group or the group that's coming up behind them, they're gonna be on board with it. You know, and if you don't have it in place when that happens, then you're definitely late to the party. But that's a great point you bring up. It's definitely gonna have to be a choice type thing where it's a reservation versus a purchase type option available it seems like.
Greg Bray: Jason, what's really fascinating to me is your comment about old guys versus millennials. Just amongst us old guys, the research we did actually found that there [00:15:00] wasn't a huge age difference between some of these. There were other things that separated people, and you could find old guys who are perfectly willing to do it online, and you could find millennials who wanted nothing to do with the online. They wanted the guidance and the in-person. I think sometimes we just make some assumptions around that.
Again, in our marketing and everything else, we still need to talk to the person based on their desire to engage digitally versus in person. And I found that really interesting. If anybody listening is interested in more of that research, you can find it at the Blue Tangerine website slash builder hyphen research to get some of those details. Cuz it was really fascinating to me. That age question kind of surprised me.
Tell us a little bit more about some of the things before they get to the Buy Now that you're using to engage them or to help 'em feel comfortable on the website, you know, with what they're gonna get before, you know, as they're trying to make that purchase decision. How do you engage them earlier in that process?
Jason Harper: Well, we have lots of tools online. Well, some of the things that people have been using for years. You know, you still get the virtual tours. You still get lots [00:16:00] of photos on there. You have some of the options that are in the home have to be listed on there. We have a digital elevation tool where you can go in and change colors on the elevation, change the board, and batten to siding. So, you can work all those things on there. And customers are spending a lot of time on there clicking through those things and seeing how all that stuff looks together. And I think to your point, Kevin, if they put together something they liked, then that next step would be, oh, reserve this. I like it. Let me save this so that I can show the salesperson this is exactly what I want.
Greg Bray: So, as you have been pushing towards this digital and Buy Now, are you getting any feedback from your sales team or any concerns there that, Well, they're just gonna do it on the website now? Do they really need me anymore? Where's the people factor on your team showing up and all this?
Jason Harper: Yeah, that was a big question the sales team asked. You know, in South Carolina, we're still a contract state. We need attorneys to do closings. We're not a title state. So, the step from Buy [00:17:00] It Now would just be the process of saying, yes, I want this home. Here's my deposit. Now contact me so that we can go through the actual purchase agreement and put everything in legal form, in writing so that we could do it. So, I still need the sales team to follow up quickly, contact this person that has said, I want to buy this home, here's my deposit, and then put all that stuff in a written format, so that we can sign it and agree to exactly what we need to build for that customer.
Greg Bray: That's great to understand because sometimes people think that it's this totally unassisted, the computer does it all. And I think the idea that that's where most buyers want to be is, I don't think that's correct. They want to interact online, but they wanna be able to go back and forth. They want help. They need questions answered. It's a big deal to buy a house. It's a really big deal to buy a house.
Jason Harper: It is. Yep. I think that's exactly right.
Greg Bray: So, Jason, as you are looking at your website and some of these tools and things, what are the key metrics that you look to, to see how the engagement is [00:18:00] working, how people are moving through the process in that funnel? What do you look at every day? When you get up and you can only look at one report in the morning before a crazy day full of meetings, what's the one report you wanna look at?
Jason Harper: Yeah. I wanna look at interaction with the website because I think, you know, we could put a bunch of stuff out there, be it visible to a bunch of people, but if they don't go to the website and interact with something then maybe we need to do something better before that. But when they get to the website and start clicking on things, drilling down to what do you do before you hit that contact me form, I think is pretty important for us to monitor.
Greg Bray: If you are thinking about how long you guys have been working on this Buy Now, you mentioned about a year. Which frankly, I don't think is that long for as big of a project as this is. I, I think you might not be giving yourself quite enough grace there. It's a big deal and there's a lot of people who haven't even started yet. What tips would you share with somebody who is interested in trying to go down that path? Maybe the ownership isn't bought in and they're trying to convince 'em, or maybe they've started and it's harder than they thought, and now they're wondering if they should [00:19:00] keep going. What types of advice would you have?
Jason Harper: That's a great question. I think it's just looking at buying trends and the things that people do. Like, more people shop online now. I almost would guess that they shop more online than they do in retail stores. I mean, Amazon has become the biggest business we've seen in a long time. Housing trends, they used to be that way. Housing used to be in the Sears catalog, right? Where you could just order the house and it'll be delivered to your house. You know, we got away from that because building process became more advanced, and legality of the whole things became more advanced.
But there's not any reason why to prevent somebody now to go online. And like, Kevin was saying just reserve that house for my buyer. It's gonna be a trend. I think it's gonna get bigger as time goes on. It will take a while to implement, but it's gonna be worth starting now so that you don't look back and say, well, I wish I had started that two years ago or last year. Because you can't implement it that quick, as I'm finding out.
Greg Bray: So, the big trick is it's gonna take longer than you think, so get started.
Jason Harper: That's exactly [00:20:00] right. Exactly right.
Greg Bray: Have you ever run into issues though, with kind of the sales team, the marketing team, they're really interested but ownership's more skeptical. Any advice there as far as how to get ownership on board? Cuz I don't think it could be successful without support from the very top, in my opinion.
Jason Harper: Sure. I didn't have that problem, fortunately. The owner of Hunter Quinn Homes is very forward-thinking, and he likes to be on the cutting edge of new trends and new ideas. It's something that we're proud of at Hunter Quinn, and it sets us apart. So, he doesn't need much convincing if I can show him that this is a solid idea. It is something that's coming. He studies the trends and reads the research as well. So, I didn't have to deal with it, but I think, like you said, since Blue Tangerine has some of that research available, I think, you could easily convince your CEO or your owner to just go through that and look and see how that's gonna affect their business down the road.
Greg Bray: Well, Jason, this has been so generous of you to share so much detail with us today. We [00:21:00] really appreciate that. Do you have any kind of last words of advice for those sales and marketing leaders out there and how they can maybe just keep moving things forward?
Jason Harper: Well, I've been preaching this to my sales team. So, the advice would apply to definitely sales and marketing leaders and salespeople, but you need to continue to expand your knowledge in your field. If that's either reading something every day or listening to the podcast that you guys put out there on a daily basis, or just somehow continuing your path of knowledge. Don't get stale. That's when companies fall behind. So, you have to research trends. You have to learn, you have to read, you have to continue to be motivated to get better at your craft on a daily basis. Look for those opportunities of growth and seize them, and I think that will keep you on where you need to be successful in your part of the business.
Greg Bray: Always be learning. Always be learning.
Jason Harper: Exactly right. Exactly right.
Kevin Weitzel: Don't be stale. I love that one.
Jason Harper: That's right. Don't be like an old potato chip.
Kevin Weitzel: Yep.
Greg Bray: Well, [00:22:00] Jason, if somebody wants to connect with you, what's the best way for them to reach out?
Jason Harper: Sure. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Just shoot me a quick email and I'll be happy to respond and answer any questions.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Jason, for spending time with us today. We really appreciate it.
And thank you for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.
Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you. [00:23:00]