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Builders learn about buyers

Consumers spend more time researching homes before they buy a home than builders think, according to a survey by

That was a big surprise to the industry, said Tammie Smoot, Internet Marketing Consultant for Move, one of the largest creators of builder Web sites in the country.

Smoot's seminar was part of a three-day Building Industry Expo and Conference held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center that ends today.

More than 300 builders from across the state attended classes and viewed new products and services at the expo, which was the first ever held in South Carolina.

In the survey, 1,001 new home buyers said they spent 164 days in the home buying process - 84 days researching and 80 days deciding - after they've contacted a sales agent.

But builders who were also surveyed said they thought buyers spent 79 days in the process - 35 days researching and 44 days deciding after contacting an agent.

Smoot says this means builders must start marketing their new communities much earlier than the traditional 30 days before they open sales centers.

Online buyers are more informed and more satisfied because they don't buy on an impulse, the survey showed.

"They did their research and didn't get caught up in the excitement of the moment," Smoot said.

Age groups have different buying habits, too.

Young buyers do everything online. Baby boomers prefer testimonials - they want to know what their friends and family liked.

And Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1978, love new homes, Smoot said.

But the key to getting your new home sold is to please the woman, she said.

"Women buy the house and they buy with their hearts," she said.

Their most important concern: safety.

Smoot also told builders they need to advertise their Web site. Most builders have one, but less than half market it, she said.

The reason it's crucial: Between 74 and 94 percent of buyers start their search online. Online buyers spend an average of 41 hours searching online and will visit only four to six homes before making a decision.

"If it's an Internet buyer, your odds of closing are a lot higher," she said.

At the expo, exhibitors called South Carolina's first builders' expo a success. Many companies were able to attract new builder clients and inform builders about new products.

"This is a great opportunity for us to increase brand awareness," said Christie Koerwer, a district sales representative with Hanson Roof Tile. The firm has a new plant in Florida that will start distributing to the Grand Strand, she said.

Lamar Clark, a representative with PGT WinGuard, said he met new prospects and talked about his company's impact-resistant windows.

The expo will be held next year with even more exhibitors, said Ralph Bussey, president of the Horry Georgetown Homebuilders Association.

Contact JENNY BURNS at 626-0305 or

By the numbers

New home buyers said they spend 164 days total in the home buying process - 84 days researching and 80 days deciding after they've made contact with a sales agents.

Online buyers spend an average of 41 hours researching online.

Online buyers will only physically visit four to six homes before making a decision.

Buyers will spend an average of eight minutes and 58 seconds in a model home.