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Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast Digital Marketing Podcast Hosted by Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel

164 The Capabilities of Augmented Reality Tools - Richard Penny

This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Richard Penny of homeAR joins Greg and Kevin to discuss the capabilities that augmented reality technology has to significantly enhance the home buyer customer experience.

The home building industry as a whole is lagging behind other industries when it comes to technology. Richard says, “When you think about the customer experience of buying a new home relative to pretty much anything else you purchase ... those experiences have been transformed out of sight by technology. So, relative to anything else you purchase, the buyer experience for a new home is, I think, objectively garbage. And that's not to, you know, knock anybody out there. I just think we need to do better, and if we do better, we will get the rewards.”

Augmented reality allows builders to show potential buyers a virtual home in the context of the world that it's going to be built. Richard explains, “But this is quite a different experience, being able to walk around it in life-size. It gives, you know, a real perspective of the home, a feel for the dimensions in the space…the ability to be able to view corridors and be able to appreciate, 'What is the view going to be like out of my bedroom window?', 'What's it going to be like when I'm sitting having a glass of wine on the back porch?',  'What's it going to be like when I'm making dinner? Can I see the kids playing in the yard when I'm preparing food?' Those are the things that people are trying to get a feel when they're looking to buy a new home and they're using whatever tools they can to try and imagine themselves in that home.”

The utilization of augmented reality tools can improve customer experience, help strengthen builder brands, and advance the entire home building industry. Richard says, “Over the last few years, it's been possible to use fear and FoMo to sell homes, right? People have been whipped into a frenzy. I've got to get in now cause I'm going to miss out. Well, that might work in boom times, but it doesn't build a brand experience that endures and it doesn't move our industry forward. This industry can be much bigger. We can build more homes, we can put more people into homes they want if we do a better job of delivering a great buyer experience, and that's ultimately what we are here to try and achieve.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how augmented reality tools can help home builders show and sell more homes.

About the Guest:

Richard Penny is Founder & CEO of homeAR, the experiential sales and marketing platform for new home builders. homeAR uses the unique capabilities of augmented reality (AR) to bridge the "understanding gap" between builder and buyer -  to help sellers sell and buyers buy. Founded in New Zealand in 2018, homeAR was born from a combination of Richard's personal frustration with his own new build experience and the emergence of important technologies that have the power to solve the previously-unsolvable challenges faced by the construction industry.

The initial insight that AR can eliminate uncertainty and friction that holds back new home sales has since evolved into homeAR's mission - to unlock the powers of digital commerce for new homes.

homeAR's customers now include some of the world's most forward-thinking builders and property developers, creating homes from Auckland to Austin and from affordable housing to high-end luxury real estate.

Richard is a long-time marketer with self-confessed "geeky tendencies." Prior to founding homeAR, Richard co-founded a digital marketing agency where, in addition to doing work for great clients such as Microsoft, they had an active R&D program that focused on technologies such as progressive web apps, beacons, and augmented reality.

Richard is fortunate to live on New Zealand's Hibiscus Coast with his family and their numerous pets.


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: And we are excited today to welcome to the show, Richard Penny. Richard is the founder and CEO of homeAR. Welcome, Richard. Thanks for joining us.

Richard Penny: Thanks for having me.

Greg Bray: So Richard, let's start off in just help folks get to know you a little bit and give us that quick introduction and overview of who you are and what you've been doing.

Richard Penny: All right. Well, yeah. Thanks for inviting me on. It's exciting to be here. I'm Richard Penny. I'm founder and [00:01:00] CEO of a company called homeAR. homeAR is an experiential sales and marketing platform for builders, and we use augmented reality to help them sell homes. So, that's what we do. I'm a longtime marketer with heavy geeky tendencies. So, I've been in tech marketing roles and run my own marketing agency and now I find myself in a technology business. So, that's a bit about me.

Kevin Weitzel: Now, I don't wanna go past the obvious here, but your accent makes it sound like you might be from like Alabama or Mississippi or someplace. Where's that accent from?

Richard Penny: Yeah. A little sort of south and west of those parts. I'm from New Zealand and I play pretty much to the stereotype of what I imagine, you know, the picture of a New Zealander that pops into your head. I'm lucky enough to live on a little lifestyle block about 50 kilometers north of Auckland in a place called Whangaparaoa which loosely translates to Bay of Whales in Maori. So, yeah, we are lucky enough to live in a really beautiful, beachy part of the world.

I got five sheep called Rupert, Robbie, Rosie, Lillian, Anne. They wander around outside me. I'm known to have a chicken walk into the home office from time to time, and they need to [00:02:00] be ushered out quickly and New Zealand is a beautiful part of the world and I'm lucky enough to call it home.

Kevin Weitzel: Now, obviously I'm just joking around about the accent, but man, we just got a personal tidbit without even asking for it. Greg

Greg Bray: Yeah, I know. Sheep and chickens.

Kevin Weitzel: That's awesome. You literally have five sheep?

Richard Penny: We've got five sheep and they are very much pets. They will live a long and happy life and pass on of natural causes. So, we're all vegetarians here at our place. So, that's the dream gig for a sheep.

Kevin Weitzel: There you go.

Greg Bray: The dream gig for a sheep. Now, Richard, what was it you said it translated into again the place you live?

Richard Penny: Bay of Whales.

Greg Bray: Bay of Whales. Okay. So, do you see whales from time to time?

Richard Penny: Yeah, we've been known to see Orca. We do have a small number of whales that are a little further out, but I wouldn't like to represent that we've got whales frolicking out the window or anything like that. It's not quite as dreamy as that, but yeah, it's a pretty good part of the world. I must be honest.

Greg Bray: All right. Certainly exciting for us to once again expand our opportunities internationally. And I think it's also a real insight to how tools that you're working on in New Zealand [00:03:00] are relevant and helpful for builders everywhere. So, you already mentioned the word augmented reality and that's the AR and homeAR is augmented reality.

Richard Penny: That's correct.

Greg Bray: So, give us Richard, just kind of that quick overview of the company. What you guys are doing and the kinds of things you're offering.

Richard Penny: Sure. Well, so I mentioned upfront that we call homeAR an experiential sales and marketing platform for new homes, and we call it experiential because we use the really unique capabilities of augmented reality, or AR for short, to help new home buyers really experience the home right from the outset. And that's to help them make informed choices and ideally move quickly and decisively through to purchase.

So, AR is a really unique tool and our focus is how do use the best of that to really help people experience something that is yet to be built, and that's a hard thing to do. But technology's a great thing and can help us do things that weren't possible in the past. That's a little bit about homeAR.

It's a subscription service for builders, property developers. We've got real estate agents and also architects. But primarily [00:04:00] it's a tool for builders. They can sign up, create a portfolio of their plans that they can then use across their sales, marketing, and customer experience programs. So, we've been around about three years officially, but in beta for about a year longer than that down here in New Zealand.

Greg Bray: So, Richard, you mentioned that you had come from a marketing background, but now you're kind of more in software and tools. How did that journey evolve for you, and what made you decide to kind of focus on home building as part of all that?

Richard Penny: You know, you always look at the story of how did I get here? And it's easy to sort of retrofit a nice founder story that fits nicely with the apocryphal, I saw a vision in the clouds and that became my mission in life. It was really a lot more organic than that. As we've talked about, I, you know, had a fairly sort of tech bend for some time. Mostly in marketing roles for larger tech companies.

I had an agency, a marketing agency, which we were really pushing hard to be tech-forward. We did a lot of work with the likes of beacons, we started to push into augmented and virtual reality. And that's really [00:05:00] one of the sort of paths that led me into starting homeAR, but that did coincide with the time when my wife and I had actually bought a piece of land down here in New Zealand, or we were trying to buy a piece of land and trying to get comfortable with what we could build on that land.

The buyer experience that we received, in spite of everyone's best efforts, lots of builders who tried really hard to help us to paint a picture and create a vision, the experience we received was really limited and limiting. And the combination of those two things came together with a whole bunch of other serendipity and twists and turns and those sort of converged to become homeAR. So, it's really how I ended up here.

The move from sort of corporate tech roles to a tech startup has been hugely educational, both from a rewarding and challenging standpoint. I certainly think I underestimated how difficult it was gonna be to introduce something that's essentially brand new to a quite traditional industry. So, that's been something that we've had to adapt to along the way but, you know, I guess if you weren't an optimist and maybe even a little naive, you'd probably never try anything hard, right?

Kevin Weitzel: Well, you know, it's funny that you said that it wasn't from a vision from the [00:06:00] clouds because, you know, honestly, I met Richard, probably a couple of years ago now. When he first told me about the product, he sent me a little demo. I'm like, yeah, okay, that's great. I've seen this kind of stuff and then when I saw it in person, it isn't the same kind of stuff that you thought you saw already. Speaking of vision from the clouds, you could actually be inside the building on your hunk of land virtually, and see the clouds through the virtual windows in the actual home on its location. Until you see that in person, it is mind-blowing.

You know, we actually, uh, recently at the International Builder Show, we went over to the realtor.com party, and the Group Two people were there, and Mollie and her team were just blown away at how cool it was. I mean, it was awesome. Matter of fact, I waved to them through one of the windows that they could see while they were virtually walking through the thing. It was incredible. So, I can tell you that it is one of those technology pieces that until you see it, you don't really get how awesome it actually is.

Greg Bray: So, Richard, help us understand the definition of augmented reality. We got virtual reality, we got [00:07:00] virtual tours, we got augmented reality, and think sometimes these words kind of get jumbled together for folks who aren't knee-deep in it every day. So, if you could put some boxes around some of those phrases for us?

Richard Penny: Yeah, no problem mate. It's something that we need to work harder to make clear the difference. I mean, augmented reality as distinct from virtual reality, is the putting the digital content into the real world. Now that can be done via a mobile device, like a phone or a tablet, and using the camera feed to put the digital content in the real world. Or to a certain degree now, and certainly in the future that will be delivered via a headset or glasses. But AR being augmenting the real world rather than VR, where you are creating an entirely virtual world. It takes a little time to help people understand what the difference is and more importantly, why that's relevant to them.

You know, we get asked a lot about which is better, AR or VR, AR or Matterport walkthrough, AR or browser-based walkthrough, AR or insert next virtual tour technology here. [00:08:00] And my answer to that is, they're all quite different tools with different strengths and they're suited to different jobs. We aren't trying to say, you should always go AR over another technology. We're talking about use the right technology for the right job, and what AR is great at is putting that virtual home into the context of the world that it's going to be built in. And we think that's really important. It's not the only thing, but putting it into the real-world context is really powerful. Does that answer that?

Greg Bray: Yeah, I think that helps a lot. So, when we talk about augmented reality, just to kind of restate, part of the view and kinda what Kevin alluded to, is what is right there in front of you in the real world, but then you are also seeing overlaid on that using the device the home that could be built there, or the opportunity, and so you can start to see how it fits. And I think sometimes what people then go to is, oh, I'm standing outside and looking at this house, and then around it, I see the landscape that's there existing. But what your tool does is you can actually then walk into that [00:09:00] house, but still look out the window and see the real world that's right there around it.

You know, and you can see Kevin in your yard waving at you, which is what everybody wants to see you know? And I think that is something that can really start to help people make that connection, right? Because we talk on the website so often about this emotional connection concept and all these visualization tools are there to help people decide, is this what I think it's gonna be?

You know, because we can't just build the house everywhere in advance and be able to see choices. Especially if you wanna see, well, do I want version A or B at this spot, right? So, help us, Richard, understand more about what it is that makes builders like this tool, and more importantly, what do buyers like about it?

Richard Penny: Well, first I'd say if you do happen to see Kevin outside in your yard waving let him in. Let him in. He's a good guy. Let him in and offer him something, a tasty beverage. So, in plain language, what this is about is putting a life-size digital model of the home in the real [00:10:00] world, and that's as close as we can get to the real thing and making it behave like the real thing before we actually build it.

And we all understand that our houses are extremely tactile. They're obviously very physical things, but this is about how do we simulate that in the real-world context, as I said before. And so that allows you to not only see how it's gonna look alongside its surroundings, you know, how it's gonna look alongside the neighbors homes or how it's gonna look in the environment that you're building this home, the space around the home, but the ability to then walk into the home and get some of those great things that you can get from other technologies, you know, being able to move through spaces in the home.

But this is quite a different experience, being able to walk around it in life-size. It gives, you know, a real perspective of the home, a feel for the dimensions in the space. But like you talked about, the ability to be able to view corridors and be able to appreciate what is the view gonna be like out of my bedroom window? What's it gonna be like when I'm sitting having a glass of wine on the back porch? What's it gonna be like when I'm making dinner? Can I see the kids playing in the yard when I'm preparing food? Those are the things that people are trying to [00:11:00] get a feel when they're looking to buy a new home and they're using whatever tools they can to try and imagine themselves in that home.

And this is what we think is that next step, being able to get people into what is effectively a digital replica of the home in all ways possible, you know, and have them imagine themselves in that home. Cuz let's face it, when they're imagining themselves having that glass of wine and enjoying themselves in that new home, those are the moments that sell homes. And so this is really about creating those for the buyer and that obviously achieves good things for the seller. So, that's what AR is uniquely great at. As I say, we're not trying to replace other tech. We just think that AR has got a really important role to play in the new home sales process.

Greg Bray: Do you have builders that have implemented this who have been able to connect directly that, Hey, we have seen engagement increase here or there, or on the models we have it we do better than the ones we don't? Any type of data to kind of back it up, or is it just kind of that cool factor that marketers just kinda have to trust is helping make a difference?

Richard Penny: You know, it's still early [00:12:00] days in terms of hard data that ties that relationship between the behavior in augmented reality and sales. We're working really hard to make that connection, and we collect a huge amount of information about how people are interacting with plans, where they're interacting with them, how frequently, for how long, which plans are being favored over others. So, there's a huge amount of data in there that can inform a sales and marketing process.

In terms of creating a direct correlation between the behavior in AR and the propensity to buy, we're still working to create that. Those links are there. But certainly in the meantime, while we create that, the anecdotal feedback we get from our builders and their customers, suggest pretty strongly that these tools are making it a lot easier for buyers to make decisions and ultimately make those decisions faster, so you know, keeping the wheels of that process moving. So, certainly anecdotally, but the data is there and we're working hard to draw more solid conclusions there.

Kevin Weitzel: So, let's fast forward to somebody's 3:00 AM walk. I don't know why people are walking at 3:00 AM but they're walking at 3:00 AM. Uh, let's make it 5:00 [00:13:00] AM, but 5:00 AM is before any sales office that I know of is open. Richard has where they can put a QR code on a little monument sign out in front of the potential home site where it's just a slab of concrete for that matter. You know, maybe it's just foundation, possibly even just dirt. And on that monument sign, they have the QR code. They could scan that before the office is even open.

Sales team is completely unknowing of this even happening. That potential home buyer is walking the site in their potential home, all from just that QR code on a printed sign. It is so awesome that a home buyer has that freedom without having to deal with a hassle of dealing with some sales guy like me to try to sell them in on things that they don't necessarily even know that they would want yet.

Richard Penny: Yeah. Well, what you're talking about there is our new Always On feature and it's something that we've been working on pretty much since day dot, the ability to provide buyers the ability to immediately discover and then experience a new home, you know, on its lot in their [00:14:00] time and the way they want to experience it. So, what this is about is giving buyers a great experience at the right point in their buyer journey, so that they can continue to move down a seller's funnel, but move down it because they've been given great information and confidence. Therefore, when they do arrive in the seller's inbox or in their model home, they're an informed buyer and they're there because they understand what's on offer and are ready to make good purchasing decisions.

So, yeah. Always On is the ability to geolocate a model home or a plan on any lot. So, that means that if you're building new communities, you can set up these virtual model homes on the lots and allow them to be experienced by buyers. And that means they can be experienced at 3:00 AM, I think probably go home to bed would be my advice there. But when the suns come up, get out there and this allows you to again, make some of your initial stages of your buying journey in, I guess your own time, but with tools that have never been available before. And then that will help inform them to move them down the sales pipeline. So, that's homeAR [00:15:00] Always On. That's a new feature we launched last year and it's exciting progress for us.

Greg Bray: So, just to clarify, Richard, the customer is using their own device at that point, their phone typically, as their viewport if you will, into what they're seeing around them. And they're pulling that up through that QR code and then loading that through the website to then be able to view where they're standing right now and look at that home. Am I understanding correctly kind of that process?

Richard Penny: So, very close. The process is the sign that is on the lot, there's a QR code on there. You use your phone to scan the QR code. homeAR is app-based technology. And we use mobile apps right now because they provide us with some capability to deliver an experience that web-based AR is not yet. So, it's a quick download of the homeAR app. When the app downloads, the house appears in front of you and you can walk through it as Kevin and I have been describing.

So, it's all available on your iPhone or your Android phone that's in your pocket. There's no extra headset or technology required. That's what's important really. This is about delivering the experience on the technology that's [00:16:00] available in our pocket rather than having to utilize stuff that people don't yet have and don't have access to.

Greg Bray: Such as the big goggles that we don't all yet walk around with in our pockets ready to just put on.

Richard Penny: That's right. And don't get me wrong, you know, there are great applications for VR. It's an important technology. It's a just a different technology for a different use case. One day we'll wander around with, not big headsets in our pockets, but elegant and effective headsets on our faces. You know, and when that happens, we'll be right there delivering a great experience through that. But right now the best experience available, we believe, is on the device that's already in your pocket, and so that's what we're utilizing.

Greg Bray: Do you find, Richard, that sales teams are using this as well when they are walking a community or driving around in the golf cart, so to speak, with the buyers? Or is it more the self-service buyer that's out by themselves taking a look?

Richard Penny: We've designed the tool to be able to be self-serve and for buyers to be able to utilize it themselves, and that's why tools like our Always On feature makes it really seamless for [00:17:00] buyers to do that. It requires no training and really simple process. But certainly, equally, it's been designed to be the tool in the toolbox of the builder sales team. So, being able to take a buyer through a group of plans. Maybe you're a semi-custom builder and you've had an inbound inquiry for a buyer with land, being able to either send a selection of plans or even meet them on their lot and take them through a selection of plans is a way that we're seeing the tool utilized by those sales teams.

So, we like to talk about homeAR as a tool that enables the journey from website to building site. Really what that means is, how do we give buyers that informed experience right from the time that they land on the website and go, I'm considering this builder, or there's something different about this builder and they're giving me more information than I'm able to get from other builders' websites. So, I can now go off in my own time and experience more of what that builder has to offer.

Then the next stage, being able to, when an inbound inquiry has come in, having a salesperson with the tools to be able to [00:18:00] provide that buyer with the next level experience. So, here are some plans that I think would be relevant to you, Mr. Buyer. Please give them a try. We'll meet you on your lot and we can take you through them together. Then that first meeting on site with the buyer, whether that be in a new community or on their own lot.

You know, even as a custom builder, being able to show a buyer through some previous plans to help inspire that design process, to give them some ideas about how they could configure their windows so that they're gonna get that little peak of the mountain or whatever it might be. So, we like to think that it can play a role right throughout that buyer journey all optimized to give the buyer great information at the right time so they can move deliberately through a buyer experience.

Kevin Weitzel: The beauty of it is you're not trying to push a replacement to their technology. I mean, it doesn't matter whether you're getting digital assets from us or from Focus360 or Anewgo or BDX or anybody. You know, it can be a compliment to those other services that they've already deployed. But allowing them to actually see physically in virtual reality, on augmented reality, on the location, what their house would look like, [00:19:00] which is freakishly fantastic.

Richard Penny: I think you're right. Talking about it as a compliment to other things. You know, I went to a construction industry conference last week in New Zealand, and it was all about the digital future of the industry. There was a lot of talk about BIM and various other 3D technologies and other technologies, and a lot of the focus was around how do we use these technologies to reduce waste and inefficiency. You know, and these are major issues, don't get me wrong, but what we think is missed is there's these 3D assets that have been created, more and more the design phase is taking place in 3D tools and creating these 3D assets that can then be utilized not just in the construction process or the documentation process, but being utilized in that customer experience.

Those models, whether they're being at initial design stage or whether they've been created by a team like OutHouse for other purposes, for renders. Those assets, we need to make the most of those. You know, they're hugely valuable assets and can be used in many different ways, for many different purposes. Our job is to make that asset usable in the unique environment of augmented reality so you can see the [00:20:00] house in context. So, you're right. It's not a substitution, it's complimentary for sure.

Greg Bray: And to that point then, Richard, how much can you use arts and pieces that they're already doing anyway to help build your models? Or is it a completely different process? If I've already invested in some renderings or if I've already invested in some other types of virtual tours, are there pieces there that then flow into the creation process so I don't have to start over? Or is it really different enough that it's kind of a separate investment?

Richard Penny: You're absolutely right. You can leverage the investment you've already made. So, we can effectively reuse those models. There's work to be done to make them homeAR optimized or AR optimized as we call it, but certainly, models that have been created for render purposes are part of the process that we would then be able to leverage that to be able to put those plans into AR. So yes, there's complimentary pieces of work there. So, if you have invested in a suite of renders, then you do have a library of assets that can then be leveraged further in tools like augmented reality. So, [00:21:00] certainly it's an and, not an instead of

Greg Bray: That's good to know because I think probably the people that are sitting here listening are going, okay, this sounds wonderful, but can I even afford it? And you don't have to get into pricing, Richard, but I think I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's a whole lot cheaper than building a model home to get a bunch of these. Is it fair to say too that it's okay to start with just a portion of your plan library and don't feel like you have to do all of them, you know, maybe your most popular handful of plans? Or do you feel like once you start you can't stop and you gotta do 'em all?

Richard Penny: We like to think that once you start, you can't stop, but that should be because you're seeing the value. And I think you're right. Just start, right? And I think starting with a subset of your most used plans, or maybe your most impactful plans or whatever that gets you to that first point when you see the delight in a customer's eyes when they see this house appear in front of them and have them go, I don't even really know what just happened there, but I want more of it. And then seeing how that can really get the conversation going in a great direction. I think that will pretty quickly lead to having, you know, your [00:22:00] portfolio in a tool like this.

But it's a prove-it thing, and so we always encourage our customers to take that first step with a proof of concept use. Maybe it's a set of plans that are being used in a new community or maybe it's just one home that you built, that you're pre-selling and start that and go from there. But, you know, it's one of these technologies, I think, that once people get familiar with it and understand what it is, it pretty quickly gathers its own momentum.

Greg Bray: I'm with Kevin. You know, when I saw the demos, I was pretty impressed, and it was pretty smooth and seamless. And that's one of the reasons why we wanted to talk more with you today. When you talk with builders and are kind of running into some of their objections, what are some of the concerns they have that might stop them from moving forward with an investment in this kind of technology?

Richard Penny: I think you've touched on two of them already. There's a perception that this is gonna be hard and they have to change or move from we're already doing this or we've already invested in this tool for virtual tours on our website. These shouldn't be viewed as substitutional. You [00:23:00] can leverage the same assets for multiple purposes so it's not starting again. If you've got anything, even a library renders, you've already taken some of the first steps towards this.

Well, the very first objection we get is not an objection. It's what Kevin described is, I don't really understand what you're talking about. I'm putting you in the category of something that I already have or I've already evaluated and decided not to go with. So, the first job we have is making sure people understand what it is that makes augmented reality unique. The second job is helping them understand that this is not a huge investment in creating assets that are from scratch. And the third thing is the price piece, which you touched on, Greg.

In the past, there has been augmented reality offerings that have really required some heavy technology and some one-off project work that has been very expensive. And so we've seen huge sticker prices of put this house into AR was gonna cost X. Our approach to that has been let's build the technology that automates a lot of that process that takes the content that you've already got. In an automated way, turns that into an AR [00:24:00] experience and therefore do it at economics that work for our builders. So, the price point piece, trying to make that go away is obviously a big focus for us. So, those would be the main things, the hurdles we've gotta get over.

Kevin Weitzel: Wait a minute. At IBS I gave you two solid objections. One was fear of being freakishly fantastic and two was aversion to awesomeness. You didn't use either one of those two. Come on, Richard.

Richard Penny: Let's retake that one, Kevin. We'll do that again.

Greg Bray: Aversion to awesomeness.

Kevin Weitzel: Aversion to awesomeness. Some people are just averted to being awesome, which I don't understand. But there are a lot of builders, let me just back it up technology-wise. This is light years ahead of just a rendering. There are still builders out there that think a 2D stick extraction from their construction document's elevation of a home is sufficient to showcase here's how your home could be designed. That's garbage. In today's day and age with photo renderings, and with virtual reality, with augmented reality, it is just crazy that builders are that averse to just being simply awesome.[00:25:00]

Richard Penny: Just to riff off what Kevin said there, I think, I understand that builders have budgets to manage as well, and I understand that costs are real, but we've really gotta think about this from the point of view of if we can solve what I think are some fundamental flaws in the buyer experience, then we can actually unshackle this industry. To a certain point, the industry is held back.

When you think about the customer experience of buying a new home relative to pretty much anything else you purchase, you know, we can regurgitate the things like getting an Uber or booking a holiday home on Airbnb, or all of those experiences have been transformed outta sight by technology. So, relative to anything else you purchase, the buyer experience for a new home is, I think, objectively garbage. And that's not to, you know, knock anybody out there. I just think we need to do better, and if we do better, we will get the rewards.

Because it's this fear and unknowns, those are the things that create friction in this buyer process that ultimately turns a lot of people to just go and buy somebody else's house because they can see it, they can touch it, they can feel it, and they know what they're going to get. [00:26:00] So, if we can remove that if we can commit to that, then the payback will be many, many, many times over. That's the piece that we're trying to solve. Now, I understand that takes bravery.

Over the last few years, it's been possible to use fear and FoMO to sell homes, right? People have been whipped into a frenzy. I've gotta get in now cause I'm gonna miss out. Well, that might work in boom times, but it doesn't build a brand experience that endures and it doesn't move our industry forward. This industry can be much bigger. We can build more homes, we can put more people into homes they want if we do a better job of delivering a great buyer experience, and that's ultimately what we are here to try and achieve. So, that's what I would encourage builders to look at it rather than looking at it from a dollar and cents invested. Now, I understand that's easy for me to say, but that's what I'd encourage.

Greg Bray: Well, Richard, I think you hit on a couple of really important things there though, right? There's that fear of making a mistake that a buyer has because this is a big deal to buy a home. It's a big investment. It's a big purchase. We don't have a lot of experience cause we don't do it every day. You know, it's something that we only do a few times in a lifetime, sometimes only once.

The idea of [00:27:00] something I can't see and trust, the trust that goes into that commitment of you're gonna give me what I really want because I can't see it and I can't go look at it. Compared to the resale home down the street, the used home, if you will. Yeah, it may have some bumps and bruises in there, but I can see 'em and I know where they are or maybe I don't, some are behind the walls. But at least I know what I'm getting and I get rid of that fear. Even if I'm not thrilled with it, I get rid of the fear, right? Because I know what it is.

Kevin Weitzel: Even something as simple as a model home in a community. You might have two, three, sometimes it's four models, but you might offer 7, 8, 9 plans. You know, I think it's just the willingness to be wonderful, to be able to allow for those other augmented reality virtual tours of the home.

Willingness to be wonderful. You know, we should be writing these things down.

Greg Bray: I was just gonna say, you should be trademarking them, not just writing them down. Kevin's on a roll, man.

Richard Penny: I'm gonna walk outta here and use them in my very next meeting.

Greg Bray: Oh gosh. Well, Richard, we appreciate [00:28:00] you sharing time with us today, especially from halfway around the world. Any last words of advice for our marketing folks that are listening in today?

Richard Penny: I think, and again, it's easy for me to say, but I think it's be brave, right? There's never been a better time to innovate and to lead. Deliver the best experience you can to your customers. It will pay you back. Don't wait until all your competitors are doing it. That would be my advice.

Kevin Weitzel: I have one last question. Being that you're in New Zealand and there's a lot of sheep. The sheep outnumber humans there. Just a thought. Is anybody insulating homes with sheep's wool instead of making those pesky, itchy sweaters?

Richard Penny: There's been a lot of work in utilizing sheep's wool for insulation. I can't speak to where that's at, but that's certainly something that there's been a lot of R and D gone into. And I'm not sure where it's at in terms of commercialization, but there's certainly byproducts of our sheep population that we should be utilizing better. And I know there are smart people out there trying to solve that. So, I'm sure it's on its way. If it's indeed possible, then it'll be happening.

Kevin Weitzel: Awesome.

Greg Bray: All right, so Kevin does not want an itchy sweater, but he wants his walls to be his sweater.

Kevin Weitzel: Well, honestly, it doesn't itch [00:29:00] me. I can wear Merino wool. It doesn't matter what wool it is. I can put on a wool sweater and it doesn't bother me a bit, but so many people complain about it. If you're gonna complain about it, let's just make home insulation out of it. It's a renewable resource. It constantly grows. Boom. Done. Problem solved. You're welcome, New Zealand.

Richard Penny: New Zealand thanks you, Kevin.

Greg Bray: Richard, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way to get in touch?

Richard Penny: I'm on LinkedIn at Richard Penny and I'm on email at rich@homear.io.

Greg Bray: All right. Well, thank you so much again, Richard, for your time and we look forward to seeing your technology continue to grow and advance and help our builders.

And thank you everybody for listening today to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.

Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel OutHouse. Thank you. [00:30:00]

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