Perhaps no meeting in the new home process gets as little attention as the closing appointment. While it admittedly is a fairly mechanical process of signing one’s name about 75 times and exchanging a (usually large) check for possession, we can still make it hospitable. The appointment usually takes only about an hour, but preparation and planning can generate dividends beyond the exchange of funds for keys. Here are nine tips for making the closing a great experience for your buyers.
1. Begin at the Beginning
Outline steps to possession from the start, including the amount of advance notice for the meetings that need to take place. Typically, these include an orientation, a confirmation tour, and the closing appointment. Ensure that your customers understand how and when keys will be delivered and that they can store belongings in their new home only after closing and key delivery.
2. Embrace “Complete and Clean”
Numerous systems exist for finishing a home for delivery. Among these are the superintendent’s punch list, quality assurance inspection (in-house or third party), an inspection by a warranty rep, or a blitz by a specialized prep team. Any of these can work; all of them can fail. The difference is not the method so much as the commitment to finish the home. This, after all, is what builders get paid for.
3. By the Way …
Provide reminders to your buyers no less than two weeks prior to the anticipated closing. These would include utility transfer details, homeowner insurance, last-minute mortgage details, when final figures will be available, and the form of payment that will be needed. Make certain they know where the closing will take place.
The focus of an effective homeowner orientation is education. How do the home’s features work? What maintenance is needed? How does one keep the cosmetic surfaces looking good? What should the buyers expect long term?
The traditional inspection, which frequently results in a nit-picky list, often transpires because the home is incomplete: Paint touch-up has not been done; sometimes cleaning is still needed. Home buyers will not listen to educational repartee when they are noticing item after item. Avoid this agony by presenting a home that is move-in ready at orientation.
Inspection should be incidental to education: The home buyer should confirm the good quality, correct installations, and acceptable condition of cosmetic surfaces.
Add an element or two of showmanship. This could be refreshments or a move-in gift—something that shows thoughtfulness. One company, delivering a home to a recently widowed woman who was very attached to her dog, brought her to tears when they gave her a dog tag with the dog’s name and her new address. For just a few dollars, they created a story she repeated for months.
6. Move Like You Have a Purpose
With (hopefully a short) list in hand, begin immediately to address noted action items. The quicker you communicate with trades and skilled personnel, the more likely you can clean up those few last-minute details before possession. Document each company or person you contact.
Most superintendents get this part done. Here’s where problems start: The follow-through stops with the phone call or email. The essential final step is to confirm by personal inspection that the corrective work was done, and done right. Service technicians quickly learn that when the superintendent asks for something, she means it.
7. Confirmation Tour
This 15- to 20-minute visit to review progress on any orientation items sends the home buyers to closing with peace of mind. Note that it will not help your position or reputation to bring buyers back out to look at a long list of still-incomplete items. Real progress is critical.
8. Closing Details
The company representative who conducts the orientation and confirmation tour needs to know the basics of settlement appointments: where, how long, who will be there, what preparation does the home buyer need to address, and above all, who should buyers contact with last-minute questions?
9. Closing with Style
Buyers should be greeted immediately and ideally by name. Depending on weather, offer to hang up coats. Get them comfortably seated in a private area and offer refreshments. The closing process should begin promptly, conducted by a professional who can define terms and get answers to questions. After an efficient review and execution of all necessary documents, again, a gift is in order. Something as seemingly small as key rings for their new keys is enough. The goal is to earn a smile. If you can maintain that mood, it helps earn a loyal home owner who will reward your efforts with referrals and positive word of mouth.
Carol Smith is a widely recognized expert on home builder customer service. She offers service assessments, document review, consulting, and service seminars. Reach her at 719-481-6247 or email@example.com.