How Mobile is Reinventing Home Builder Marketing (Again)

Ten years ago as an industry most of us were using print ads to sell homes. Three years later the depth of the recession and the rise of social media challenged all of us to rethink how we sell homes. Today another shift, one that brings an unprecedented opportunity for home builders, is challenging us again.

And it fits in the palm of your hand.

Mobile marketing, although not new, has changed consumer behavior over the last several years. Two-thirds of U.S. adults now own a smartphone. And, just as land lines are less common at home, a growing number of smartphone users are eliminating high-speed internet at home in favor of their phone’s data plan. In 2014, mobile internet usage surpassed internet usage on PCs for the first time in history.

The tipping point of mobile marketing is here.

The rise of mobile doesn’t mean that we need to abandon web marketing any more than the rise of social media meant we had to abandon email marketing. But it does present an opportunity. An entire generation that grew up with mobile phones is now entering the housing market, and that’s a billion dollar opportunity for builders.

Mobile and Millennials

Real estate marketing to millennials

There are an estimated 77 million Millennials in the U.S., the largest generation in history. Millennials already make up more than a third of real estate buyers and according to recent research, 30% of Millennials plan to buy a home within the next five years.

But Millennials do not shop for real estate the same way their parents did.

Of course, Millennials are not the only ones using smartphones in their real estate search. But as an industry, if we fail to make the shift to mobile the risk is that we will miss the largest segment of the market. The question is not if we need to develop a mobile strategy, but when. And simply having a mobile-friendly website is no longer enough.

Mobile-Friendly Website? That’s So 2013.

Within the last couple of years there has been a rush to responsive websites, or websites that are designed to be mobile-friendly. This became even more important this year when Google announced its latest update in April (dubbed “Mobilegeddon”). The company announced that websites would need to pass the mobile-friendly test in order to rank well in search results.

But as some home builders are still weighing the cost versus benefit of updating their old website with a new, mobile-friendly version, the trend has already shifted again. Most consumers no longer view websites on their mobile phone.

Consider these smartphone stats:

  • 89% of time spent on media is through mobile apps (source)
  • Only 11% of time spent is through the mobile web (source)

Mobile apps have become the gateway to how people consume media on mobile devices, including websites. Pull up the website of many major B2C companies on your smartphone and you’ll see this trend. Companies such as The New York Times, Walmart, and Keller Williams (to name just a few) now direct consumers to download their free app instead of viewing the mobile website.


Apps have become the preferred way for consumers to engage with brands on mobile devices. Companies are embracing this trend because of the access that mobile gives them to their customers.

Getting “Pushy” with Buyers

Why are so many major companies investing is apps? One reason is the success of push notifications.

The average open rate for real estate emails is 22%. Push notifications earn an open rate of between 50-80%.

On the traditional web, a potential home buyer registers on your website and gives you permission to send them an email when you have new content. On a mobile device, a potential home buyer downloads your app and agrees to receive push notifications, or SMS marketing. Push notifications are text messages that you can send to a large group of people that have downloaded your app.

The higher conversion rates of push notifications are attractive but there is another benefit for home builders as well. According to recent research 90% of all push notifications are read within 3 minutes. This offers home builders a tool to deliver both information and urgency. A push notification that is sent on a Saturday morning about a new release can be read by up to 80% of your list within 3 minutes.

But Don’t Take Our Word for It…


We never advocate for jumping on the latest marketing trend just because everyone else is doing it. Smart marketing always begins with understanding the digital habits of your own customers, then finding ways to improve their online experience. The less friction that exists between how your buyers want to receive information and how you deliver it, the more trust you will build with potential buyers. And trust sells homes.

To better understand how your own home buyers want to receive information, look at your website analytics. How many buyers visit your website from a mobile device? How much time do they spend on your website compared to desktop users, and how many pages do they view?

If your mobile users are spending significantly less time on your site than your desktop users, this could indicate that mobile users are not able to easily find the information they need. This could mean lost sales opportunities for your company.

If a significant percentage of your traffic (30% or more) is coming from mobile devices, it’s time to start investing the time and money in developing a mobile strategy.

Mobile + Content (So App-y Together)

A few years ago there was a lot of hype about apps as the next big thing. A handful of builders developed their own apps. Since then many of those apps have been abandoned. Why? Apps, like every other form of digital marketing, are driven by fresh, consistent, high quality content.

Content = marketing. Marketing = content. Exceptional marketing is driven by exceptional content. Mobile devices are simply another delivery system for that content, and apps are another way of turning that content into engagement.

Before you decide to invest in building an app for your company, look at your current content marketing. Invest in compelling content first, and the system to deliver that content second. Your app will only be as successful as your content.

Start Small, Start Smart


Like everything else in your marketing plan, test what works for you based on your buyers, your product, and your market. Review your business goals with a trusted marketing partner to determine if investing in an app is right for you.

Questions to ask include:

  • What are our business goals, and how will an app help us reach those goals?
  • What problem are we trying to solve by developing an app?
  • What opportunity or competitive advantage do we hope to create?
  • What is the digital sales path from downloading an app to appointment?
  • Do we have the resources (time and money) to maintain an app?
  • How will an app help us deliver exceptional buyer experiences?
  • What are our core brand messages, and how do we deliver those through an app?
  • What content do we have available, and how will we deliver it through an app?
  • How will we measure success?

If you decide that an app is right for you there are several low-cost options available. Companies like Como, Buildfire, and AppsBuilder give you the opportunity to create your own app with no coding skills. You can even create a sample app for free to get a better idea of the features you can include.

Mobile marketing gives home builders an additional way to inform, influence, and engage potential home buyers. How are you using it?

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Need a trusted marketing partner to help you develop a digital strategy? Contact us today about full-service digital marketing solutions for home builders.


Dawn Sadler

Dawn Sadler is the Founder and CEO of Builder Target. She is also a speaker, author, and content strategist.

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