This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Reilly LePage of Logel Homes joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how home builders can begin to elevate the online home buying process by adopting new technology.
Home buyers need and want more information and buying power from home builders' websites because they get it from all other industries, yet home builders can still be reluctant to make that readily available to customers. Reilly explains, “The idea with a lot of homebuilders is, let's not put our pricing and our availability and what we have to offer on our website or online anywhere. That will force the customer to come to us directly into the sales center or show home. But I think there's a mark that's being missed there because everybody's so used to finding all the information they need or want in seconds with Google with their mobile phone, right? You can buy a car online. You do the majority of your shopping online nowadays.”
To gain insight into what customers expect from an online home buying process, home builders need to approach pointed questions from the home buyer’s viewpoint. Reilly says, “So, I would just ask them to consider how are the customers' perspectives changing. How are their buying journeys in other industries and with other products, how are those changing? Homebuilding, real estate, all the law that's attached to it, are probably the slowest-moving beasts in both our countries. And so how do we kind of start to change that mentality?”
Home builders must begin to implement different aspects of the digital home buying process to continue to improve the home buying experience. Reilly says, “I think we do that by adopting these new technologies, understanding that prop tech has a place in new home sales. It's always going to be one of the biggest purchases anybody ever makes, but why not make that smoother?”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how home builders can make the home buying process easier and smoother.
About the Guest:
Reilly is a University of Calgary, Haskayne School of Business Marketing Alumni, a Logel Homes team member for over 12 years, and BILD Calgary Region committee member. Having developed a passion for homebuilding during his time in Sales, and now as the Sales and Marketing Manager, Reilly currently leads the team through initiatives including excellence in sales and customer service, and innovative marketing and advertising. The culmination of these efforts has led to recognition as one of Calgary's top new home sales teams, as well as having some of the best marketing and presentation centers in the home building industry. These milestones have been complimented by a strong sales & marketing strategy showcasing both traditional and digital mediums, brought to fruition through a team effort.
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 Zonda and Livabl.
Greg Bray: And we're excited today to have joining us Reilly LePage. Reilly is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Logel Homes. Welcome, Reilly. Thanks for being with us today.
Reilly LePage: Thanks for having me guys.
Greg Bray: Why we start off with getting that quick introduction and find out a little bit about you?
Reilly LePage: Yeah, for sure. I'm Reilly LePage, the Sales and Marketing Manager with Logel Homes. I've been with the company for about 12 years now. We're located up in Calgary, Alberta, [00:01:00] a multi-family builder, so we focus on condos and townhomes.
Greg Bray: Well, I have one really important question, Kevin, before you go. All right.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah.
Greg Bray: So, Reilly, process or process?
Reilly LePage: Process.
Greg Bray: Okay, alright.
Kevin Weitzel: He passed the Canadian filter. Alright, so Reilly, one thing we always like to get knocked out of the way is to find out something personal about you that has nothing to do with your job or the home building industry that our listeners will learn about you today on our podcast.
Reilly LePage: Sure, yeah, I mean suit by day, right? Guitar, motorcycle, cigar aficionado by night.
Kevin Weitzel: Motorcycle. What are you riding?
Reilly LePage: Harley's Sport Glide.
Kevin Weitzel: Oh, Sport Glide. All right. I've had twenty-one motorcycles myself, so I'm right there with you, nine of which were Harley-Davidson's.
Reilly LePage: I could tell by the facial hair.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah, yeah, it's usually a giveaway. I run with certain circles, you know. And cigar, you're in Canada so you guys can get the good stuff out of Cuba, right?
Reilly LePage: We can, yes. It just costs an arm and a leg.
Kevin Weitzel: Hmm, and you'll be sending a gift [00:02:00] box down to Phoenix, Arizona very soon, correct?
Reilly LePage: We will. Or if you visit up here, we'll have you mule some cigars across the border.
Kevin Weitzel: There we go. There we go. Gotcha.
Greg Bray: Wouldn't want to get him in trouble with customs there, Kevin.
Kevin Weitzel: It was another test. It was another test to see if he was gonna send them or not. Alright.
Greg Bray: Well, Reilly, tell us how you got into the home building industry and what's kind of been your path.
Reilly LePage: I started with the company back in 2010 when I was at the University of Calgary at the Haskayne School of Business. So, my education, I have a marketing background, but I started in sales. So, by practice, I've come up through the company in the sales team. So, starting as an associate, then area sales manager, and then moving on to our head office as the sales and marketing manager.
It was a neat experience to start off in school and working for a home builder and being able to apply that knowledge that I was learning in tandem with the actual industry experience. So, that's kind of how that all started. It's become a passion of mine. The rest is history. Haven't looked back 12 [00:03:00] plus years now.
Greg Bray: Well, tell us a little bit more about Logel Homes, the kinds of homes you guys are doing, and the buyer demographics that you're working with.
Reilly LePage: Yeah, we started about 20 years ago under the name Cardel Lifestyles. We recently rebranded, well not recently anymore, 2017 under Logel Homes. It's a family-run business. So, the owner, Tim Logel, two of his sons, Kevin and Braden, and his brother Brad work for the company.
So, we started off with apartments, do some townhomes now. We're in five different locations throughout the city. So, we're a suburban builder. We focus on four to five-story low-rise buildings, and then row town homes as well. So, we're on track this year to do between four and 500 sales, and we'll have about five, 600 under construction in the next year. So, things are picking up for us.
Greg Bray: What was kind of the thought behind multi-family versus individual single-family homes? Is that just kind of the market where you're at, or was that something that they just decided to focus [00:04:00] on? What was kind of the background to that decision?
Reilly LePage: Yeah, that's a great question. Tim started with Cardel Homes about 40 years ago and they were a single-family builder, still are to this day. As things changed throughout the eighties, the nineties, early two thousands, he was finding feedback from his customers that homes were getting more and more expensive. Affordability was starting to become a bigger issue.
And so that's where he realized there was this niche where the answer might be more apartments and condos, an affordable product type for Calgarians. So, that's kind of where the idea came from was addressing affordability. And that still rings true today, especially with what you see in the news, both in the States and in Canada.
Greg Bray: Definitely affordability is the big topic right now in housing, you know, especially as materials and land and everything continue to go up. The kinds of homes we build are going to have to adapt at some point. But I also know that sometimes townhomes are not necessarily by default, more affordable. Right? Sometimes you see those being just as expensive as other places. Is there something in the affordability [00:05:00] area that you guys kind of use to guide that as you're trying to figure out your product?
Reilly LePage: By nature, the suburbs are more affordable. So, we don't focus on any inner city, like infills or anything like that because the land costs are so much higher. I mean, we're seeing it across the board with trade suppliers, land costs increasing for sure. But, you know, we try to pick what we call A locations in these suburban communities, you know, really centered around that sense of community. We really try to hit that mark when it comes to affordability, so not to go into a different market segment.
We've got competitors that do, condos and townhomes as well, but they focus on that next price bracket, the next style up. And we found this works really well for us because regardless of the market, somebody always needs their first home or somebody always needs to downsize or we call it right-sizing now, and so that's what we're offering. And in a hot market or a slow market, there's always somebody looking for that.
Greg Bray: Well, one of the reasons that I was excited to talk to you today, [00:06:00] Reilly, is you guys have been on the front edge of doing some of this reserving your home online pieces that we've seen growing interest across the market. There's certainly some builders that are fully selling homes online now, but it's still a small percentage. Like to drill in there a little bit, learn a little bit more about the journey you took to come to that and some of the things you've learned along the way. So, what was kind of the background of what got you guys interested in saying, Hey, this would be good for our buyers, this is something that we should explore?
Reilly LePage: Yeah. Great question. As an industry, Information is coveted. You know, it's a frame of mind, and maybe controversially I'll say this, it's outdated. The idea with a lot of homebuilders is, let's not put our pricing and our availability and what we have to offer on our website or online anywhere. That will force the customer to come to us directly into the sales center or show home. But I think there's a mark that's being missed there because everybody's so used to finding all the information they need or want in seconds with Google with their mobile phone, right? You can buy a car [00:07:00] online. You do the majority of your shopping online nowadays.
Initially, we wanted to be a lot more transparent and what we started to do about six years ago, all of our pricing, all of our availability, it's all readily available. It's updated every couple of hours, completely live. So, when we started doing that, our customers that were purchasing with us had great feedback. They said, you know, I came into your show home to talk to you today, because I specifically found the home that I was looking for, or at least it piqued my interest, and I really appreciated the fact that you gave me all that information upfront. You know, I'm not going to visit builder XYZ because I don't know what they have, couldn't navigate the website properly and find that information out. So, first, it was transparency.
And then when we got linked up with Ownly and they started offering the buyer verification, the home buying power tool, the home valuation, and then reserving online for us, we just thought that adds a whole nother layer of transparency, just better confidence for [00:08:00] the consumer, in that home buying process. That was kind of the catalyst for it. And just understanding that we're in a digital age. We're in a digital generation. We need to kind of tap into the younger generations, but also not discount baby boomers and older, and kind of have that offering. We're not trying to replace salespeople by any means. This is definitely a sales enablement tool. And I like to call it a customer enablement tool as well, just because of that transparency aspect. Does that kind of get you started?
Kevin Weitzel: It does. We've actually had Jason on our podcast with Ownly. Interesting product. So, let me ask you this, because from a technical standpoint, and obviously some of it's more into the digital side of the assets themselves. Obviously, on condos, they're going to be relatively, here's your condo, but on your townhome offering, are you offering structural options, design options? What are you offering there? Or are those all spec-built as well?
Reilly LePage: Yeah, that's a good point. It's a little bit different from how Ownly operates with single-family builders. We're actually stopping it at the reservation process. [00:09:00] There's a lot more regulation in the multi-family arena in Alberta. We have the Condo Property Act. The single-family home builders don't have to adhere to that. And so it imposes a lot of restrictions on how deposits can flow, how the sales process goes.
So, we wanted to stop it at the reservation, let people take it all the way to that point, and then flip it over to our salespeople. So, basically, the customer has, okay, here's my home, here's the location and the price, I'm ready to go. On the flip side, our salesperson has that same information. Now let's just connect them and move forward through the process. So, we're not offering any of the structural options or the upgrade options.
We're a little unique as well as a multi-family builder. One of our differentiators is that we're highly customizable. So, we offer over 1200 options that our customers can pick from to outfit their condo. Which is unique. Most multi-family builders, you'll have three or four color palettes and pick A, B, C, and D. So, ours is very a la carte, make it your own. Great resale value that way so [00:10:00] it's not as cookie cutter.
So, that's a huge logistical challenge that we didn't want to get into with offering all those things online. And customer experience, it's the number one thing for us. So, we want to make sure that when we're having that offering, that we're utilizing it and we're putting people in front of a professional interior designer rather than having that online. So, that's why we stopped at the reservation process.
Kevin Weitzel: Gotcha. Thank you.
Greg Bray: So, in the creation phase, Reilly, as you guys are putting this process together, there's the technical piece of just the right buttons and right places to click on the website, you know, that they go into it, but there's this whole business decision and process choice. Like, how much are we going to charge for this deposit to hold it? How long are we going to hold it for, you know, before it goes back? You know, some of these types of things that there's no right or wrong answer to. It's just kind of you got to figure out what works for you guys. How hard was that to find the right fit and the right mix of some of those business choices?[00:11:00]
Reilly LePage: You know, it was actually pretty easy. We wanted it to align with what we were already doing in person. There's some unwritten rules in the home building industry in Calgary. You know, you can reserve a home pretty much with any builder and it's generally 1000 refundable bank draft or check, and then that holds your home or lot for about 7 days.
So, we just ran with that and we just redid our paperwork. Made sure the process was seamless using DocuSign. We're set up with Stripe. You know, it's a similar thing to Interac where people can use their credit card. They can skip that check or bank draft. So, pretty simple. We just tried to emulate what people were already doing in person and make it seamless online.
Greg Bray: All right. So, the big question is how are the buyers reacting to it. What kind of a take are you getting on it?
Reilly LePage: Well, Greg, I've got some stats for you.
Greg Bray: All right.
Reilly LePage: Are you a stats guy? You know, at first, I'll be honest and I've said this to Jason Hardy before. At first, I was skeptical and now I'm a huge believer. We had a really [00:12:00] soft launch and the response was outstanding. Now that we're fully engaged with the platform, here's our August analytics just to show you how well it's going. Uh, it blew my mind. We had over 550 visitors through the platform, we had 107 leads, and we had 10 people save homes. And to date, after about five weeks of operation, we've had three or four reservations online. it's been fantastic.
The coolest thing, the first person to ever use the platform, they came to buy a townhome. They hadn't talked to a mortgage specialist yet. So, that's a typical thing. I'm sure you guys see it too, where customers are ready to go, they love the home, but we haven't done our homework, we don't know what we can afford. So, we said, well, let's get you in touch with the mortgage specialist. And they said, well, actually, our lady is out for two weeks on vacation.
So, we had just launched Ownly. We put it in their hands. They did it on their own time at home after dinner, and they were able to find out their buying power. It fit the [00:13:00] town home budget that we were offering and they were able to move forward. So, first case study. It was just amazing.
Greg Bray: That is terrific. And I didn't realize that you guys were quite that new with it. I thought you'd had it up a little longer. So, that's fantastic feedback to see that kind of engagement so quickly with something that's out there. You think it's great. Does the rest of the team agree? Is everybody excited about what's happening or, or is there still some skepticism about did we do the right thing here?
Reilly LePage: No, everybody's really impressed with the turnout. There was a lot of legwork upfront with the sales team because really, that's where the adoption will live or die. And our team really loves it. We've got a pretty diverse sales team. You know, I won't say everybody was on board initially, but now they are. They see the value. Because at the end of the day, when a customer has gone through and they've checked out their buying power, perhaps they've saved a home. We can see that. There's no better lead, right? There's nobody more charged and ready to move forward in the process than that person. So, our sales team loves it.[00:14:00]
Greg Bray: What were some of the concerns early on from the sales team and how did you kind of work through helping them see the vision of where you were trying to go?
Reilly LePage: I think it was the technical aspect. it's a new technology. It's out there in other ways. if you apply for a student loan, it's a very similar process. If you work through our version of the IRS, CRA, it's the same thing. You know, I think it was understanding when you're finding out your home buying power, for instance, it's taking a snapshot of your main checking account, essentially, what's flowing in and out to give you a better idea of what you can afford.
So, a much stronger tool than if you went on, you know, a bank's website and you plugged in a bunch of information. People overestimate how much they make and the underestimate how much they owe, right? So, this is taking real-time information. The biggest hurdle was just having everybody understand that we're not seeing that. Ownly doesn't see that. It's not stored anywhere. It's based on an algorithm that they've developed and it's just taking a [00:15:00] quick peek. And the Ownly information that's stored is that range of affordability that they have.
So, you know, if you go through it, Greg, it would spit something out saying you can afford 700 to $800,000. Well, now we know what floor plans might suit your needs based on that price. So, I would say that, and just with anything new sales is slow to adopt, but we've got a really great team and they've actually been pretty quick with it.
Greg Bray: Was there that concern that, gosh, you're coming from my job, from the sales team? Did you have somebody that dramatically worried about, or was it more like, Oh, I've got to learn this new tool, and I don't like learning new tools?
Reilly LePage: Yeah, I don't think anybody was too worried about that. That's a good point, and I think it probably crossed a few of our teammates' minds. But once we presented it as a sales enablement tool, it's another layer to better understand our customer, which in turn lets us better help our customers, right?
The adoption was the biggest thing. Here's a new piece of technology for us that we're layering into our day-to-day. And the market's hot right now, so we're seeing [00:16:00] record numbers through our sales centers and our show homes. So, I think there was probably a couple of moments of eye-rolling saying, Oh, something new, hey, but we got through it. And some of the key voices on our sales team were really keen to adopt it. So, it actually went pretty well.
Kevin Weitzel: Well, I think that out of a convenience factor of it just basically teeing up deals is it should be a welcome, item for your sales team versus the other side of the fence. Whereas if you went to where it didn't stop at the reservation, it went into design selection, and structural option selection, and sign the final dotted line, and here's your keys that could replace the sales team. Which I'm a fan of. Oh, sorry, did I just slip up? Uh, not replacing a sales team. We have a different problem down below the border. Which is the glomming on of a realtor. Yeah.
Reilly LePage: It's similar here. We're very realtor-friendly, but it's a huge expense at the end of the day. Again, it's a sales and customer enablement tool, so not replacing anybody's jobs. As [00:17:00] the team leader, I thought, how do we put more valid leads into our salespeople's hands? Ownly had the answer for that.
Greg Bray: So, if we've got somebody listening today who is a marketing executive and they think this would be a great thing for them to do, but maybe ownership isn't quite on board yet, with looking into a tool or a process like this, what kind of advice would you give them for trying to pitch it to the purse string holders, so to speak, that this is something worth trying?
Reilly LePage: Well, I was fortunate ours we're on board, so I didn't have to pitch too hard. That's a tough question. You know, I think the biggest thing is we're seeing rapid, rapid changes. If you take something like let's use 1980 to 2000, I would argue that in the last five years, we've seen more change than those 20 combined. Right?
So, I would just ask them to consider how are the customers' perspectives changing. How are their buying journeys in other industries and with other products, how are those [00:18:00] changing? Homebuilding, real estate, all the law that's attached to it, probably the slowest moving beasts in both our countries. And so how do we kind of start to change that mentality?
I think we do that by adopting these new technologies, understanding that prop tech has a place in new home sales. It's always going to be one of the biggest purchases anybody ever makes, but why not make that smoother? To the point where eventually they're going to still have that customer service-oriented in-person experience, right?
Greg Bray: So, when you guys are pondering making that experience smoother for you, what other areas are you kind of looking at beyond just the reserving the home? Are there other initiatives that you find help smooth that journey for the customer as well?
Reilly LePage: Yeah, absolutely. Well, on the digital side, we're revamping our website and the whole Ownly platform, the understanding you're buying power and reservation, that's going to be more front and center on the new version. We get a lot of feedback that people are like, you know, I'm here now. I [00:19:00] bought my home, but when I was starting, I didn't even know where to begin. That's one of the things we're trying to do is create that guide for people that's more front and center.
The other thing that we're doing is further down that pipeline in the customer process. I was mentioning how we do a lot of a la cart design options. While we used to have that curated by our design manager and our salespeople would handle that part of the process, but as volume increased for us, we found that they didn't have the bandwidth to complete that process. We didn't want the customer experience to suffer for it.
So, we actually expanded our design team and now included in the purchase price, there's no extra cost to the customer, nothing's changed since we implemented this. All our customers get one-on-one design appointments with a professional interior designer. This year has been big for us because we really changed the front end of that customer journey, and we also added to near the backend, that design experience really elevated it.
Greg Bray: Sounds like you guys are really focused on that customer experience which is fantastic. I'm sure you'll see [00:20:00] the results from it as you continue to move forward with that. When you think about customer experience, are there other companies, especially outside the industry, that you really look to as kind of inspiration? Like, oh, let's see how we can be like, you know, XYZ company and their experience. Any shining stars that you follow?
Reilly LePage: That's a good question. I would say anything that's customer-oriented, we try to keep our finger on the pulse, as you say, outside of the industry. I wouldn't liken ourselves to a Mercedes Benz or anything like that, because we're a suburban builder. We're not selling 2 million penthouses downtown or anything, but when you consider luxury vehicle companies or anything like that, and you see that level of customer service that they have, that's definitely something to emulate. We're not that prestigious in what we're building. You know, these aren't estate homes and whatnot, but that's something that we would look at for sure, those types of industries and businesses.
Greg Bray: There's no reason you can't make the people feel like they're buying something prestigious. Right?
Reilly LePage: Well, that's exactly it. Here is the Benz without the price tag.[00:21:00]
Greg Bray: Yeah. Well, Reilly, this has been great information. We really appreciate you sharing. Do you have any kind of last words of advice as we finish up that you would like to share with our audience today?
Reilly LePage: Yeah, you know, you guys had sent me a couple of questions prior and one of them I thought was interesting about what advice would you impart going through an implementation. And I would say, double your timeline and lower your expectation.
No, in all honesty, the Ownly team for anybody that's going to adopt it, we've worked on some pretty major implementations these last couple of years. There was a lot of challenges to work through as a multi-family builder and their team was just outstanding. So, I think, just identifying who the key stakeholders are, getting everybody involved, understanding, setting those expectations in advance, and it was pretty smooth and seamless. We just needed another month.
Greg Bray: There's something about that technology and software thing that just always takes longer than we want it to. It just always seems to do that, for sure.
Reilly LePage: Kevin, you're on the digital [00:22:00] side, would you say that's about accurate?
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah, you know what it comes down to, and it's not even about finger-pointing or blame. It comes down to two different systems trying to work with each other to achieve a common goal, but not necessarily having tied-in systems. So, you as a home builder might have certain things in place and a certain technology stack in place that you are accustomed to working with, or that your it department is accustomed to working with.
And then a team like an Ownly, or whoever comes in with their way of integrating with it, and maybe not all those alignments are in alignment. You may have to massage one end or the other to make it happen. And that happens all the time on the digital side where a builder, we say, well, we need your CAD files. Oh, well, we don't have any CAD files. We get them all from our architect. Okay, well, we need to sign a LUA, a Limited Use Agreement that your architect will allow us to utilize the CAD files. We need you to instigate that, you know, to get it started. Otherwise, we're dead in the water. And that happens all the time. So, yeah, I totally agree with that statement. And it is one of these things that people [00:23:00] think it's an easy button, you know, Oh, I just checked this box and new website. Right, Greg?
Reilly LePage: Have you been watching my emails this week or something? Because that was oddly specific.
Greg Bray: It's never as easy as we want it to be. That's for sure. That's for sure. Well, Reilly, thanks again. If somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Reilly LePage: Just by email. First dot last name, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, thank you everybody for listening today, and thank you, Reilly, again, and join us again next time on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with Zonda and Livabl. Thank you.