Build your Developer Credibility: There is no Smoke without Fire
Developers of off-plan real estate can often be treated with suspicion by prospective buyers. Developer credibility is therefore key for successful sales. There is very little in the way of protection for off-plan investors under law. Any remediation can also take quite some time in case of poor or non-delivery.
Often, developers do little to validate their integrity. We all know there is no smoke without fire, and the same rings true for customers when they assess your proposition. You need their trust.
So, what can you do to help reassure them that the plot of sand or mud you are showing them now will eventually emerge into a desirable property that they will love.
1. Explain Regulations
Often purchasers are unaware of the building regulations that apply to their purchase. Some of these govern the standards of the construction and inspection methodology. Other regulations relate to requirements for refunds and other compensation requirements.
In particular, if purchasers are buying overseas, they are less likely to be familiar with the rules. Simply setting them out to make clear the protections in place can give you better developer credibility. It also helps customers feel more comfortable with their purchase.
2. Subscribe to an Industry Body or Redress Scheme
Industry bodies, such as National Home Builders Council (NHBC) in the UK, can provided added security for buyers. Some of these provide third party warranties. NHBC following inspection of the property provide a third party 10-year build warranty as an example.
In addition, you should subscribe to a body with a redress scheme. Customers will be more confident there is an independent third party who can preside over any discussions if problems arise.
3. Link Payments to Construction Stages
If as a developer you are reliant upon customer funding for the build, aim to link payments to construction stages.
Some jurisdictions define when payments have to be made for an off plan property. If not, linking the payments to measurable stages of construction which the customer should be welcome to inspect can help reduce suspicion. Alternatively, if cash flow allows, defer payments to provide post delivery payment options.
4. Create Buyers Accounts
If you can, place money from customers in protected buyers / client accounts. Funds should only become accessible to you as the developer once milestones are met. Milestones could be defined in construction terms, upon procurement, upon registration or upon inspection and client sign off of various stages.
This customer protection will enable you to take regular payments from customers without them feeling concerned about the security of their money.
5. Communicate Longstop & Completion Dates
Set a longstop date and indicative completion dates to give customers a realistic understanding of delivery schedules. You should put construction penalties in place in case of substantially late delivery.
A provision to reimburse customers invested capital after a certain delivery delay also helps allay customer concerns. The longstop date usually works well for a refund or penalty deadline.
Developers should take insurance for such cases and have a force majeure clause in place for exceptional circumstances.
6. Be Transparent Over Ownership Costs
Quite often the ownership costs that a customer will have post purchase are not well communicated. Understandably, the sales people don’t want to focus on the costs as this isn’t the sexy part of any project and isn’t a selling point in its own right.
However, providing a summary of purchase, ongoing and resale costs for any project to prospective buyers can help build developer credibility. Even though you cannot anticipate changes to regulations and law that will impact these costs, by being transparent at the beginning you will better gain trust and reduce later complaints.
7. Customer Care Service
Putting in place a customer care service and defining the scope of service available to customers means that you can handle customer concerns more easily. As long as you get your communications right, it also means that your customer knows who they should speak to when they need help or additional information.
You should also put aside a small budget for compensatory payments or to offer additional incentives or features when things don’t quite go according to plan.
Having customer protections in place and providing customers with clear and transparent information will enhance your credibility as a developer. These protections aren’t your headline selling point, but you can use them to boast being credible and transparent which will increase customer confidence. By being more credible and customer centric you are also more likely to receive word of mouth referrals and repeat custom. So, what are you waiting for?
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