Women and Homebuying, Revisited
Last month we focused on a few of the main takeaways from a research article titled “A Glimpse into the Post-crash Environment,” by James Chung and Sally Johnstone of marketing specialist Reach Advisors. Originally published in the March/April issue of Urban Land, the article had also been the basis of a June 30 webinar Chung presented for the National Association of Home Builders.
The Reach Advisors item zeroed in on demographic trends among members of Generation Y – prospective homebuyers born between 1979 and 1991. One of the most pertinent findings in Chung and Johnstone’s research was that the education level of Generation Y women is exceeding that of Gen Y men and, consequently, so is the homebuying power of women in the group.
For builders, the issue becomes how to make the most of the information. One place to start is an article on marketing to women homebuyers, subtitled “Women Home Buyers, a Major Economic Force in the Industry, Have a Language All Their Own,” that appeared in the spring 2010 edition of NAHB’s Building Women Magazine. NABH’s Nation’s Building News republished the analysis – by Karen Dry, a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual Insurance Services, and Linda Hebert, president of Diversified Marketing & Communications – in its August 23 issue.
While it cites research showing women’s influence on homebuying decisions – almost 91% of all new home purchasing decisions are made or influenced by female buyers; high-net-worth women account for 39% of the country’s top wealth earners; and over the next decade women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S. – the article also offers six practical steps to consider when marketing to women.
Given the hundreds of other details homebuilders have to worry about to get a property ready for occupancy and display, specific advice of this nature can be helpful, and it certainly can’t hurt.
Among the guidelines suggested by Dry and Hebert:
– Use descriptive language that evokes feeling and thought. For example, describe a granite’s origin in a way that helps your prospective client visualize where it came from. Use words like, “Santa Cecilia granite, honed to perfection from the rich, fertile lands in central Brazil.”
– Use color and textures in your marketing material. Unlike men, Dry and Hebert note, women will actually read every word of a marketing piece and, if they like the house, will hang on to the brochure and show it to friends. Even if they lose the brochure and/or forget the model name or development name, they’ll remember what they experienced during their visit and eventually find their way back to the sales agent.
– Engage all five senses. Be attentive to the way color, light, sound, touch, smell, and taste can leave lasting impressions during a first visit to a display home. Dry and Hebert point out that it’s probably wise to avoid using overpowering air fresheners, but subtle scents can enhance a tour experience, as can appropriate snacks, candles, and music, and giving visitors the go-ahead to open all the closet and kitchen drawers.
– Do something extraordinary. Women like to be pleasantly surprised, the authors say, so take ordinary activities and make them extraordinary. For instance, if your demographic has a high percentage of single working mothers or downsizers, it’s likely they work long hours, so hold grand openings in the evening, place candles in the rooms, and offer a glass of wine to each adult. And if the community is populated by a lot of young families, the open house can double as a forum for a children’s author, who can read to the kids while the parents explore the house.
– Educate her. Today’s woman wants to know how her house works. Show her where the electrical panel is and label each connection. If you are a green builder, be prepared with cutaway displays that help illustrate the home’s special performance features and components, and include printed material that highlights energy efficient appliances and systems.
– Ask for feedback. Dry and Hebert acknowledge this can be a scary thing for a builder or remodeler, but prospective clients generally don’t mind offering feedback, and it is one of the quickest ways to introduce improvements to a marketing approach.