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Backlog Management Best Practices to Create Home Buyer Delight

By Jennifer Mencias 8 min read

A new home sales process may start when a buyer enters a model home or goes to the builder's website for the first time, but the real work begins after the customer has signed on the dotted line and continues until after they close. A customer’s experience with the entire building process directly affects their emotional relationship with the home and can impact trust with agents and builders.

In today’s seller’s market, a strong focus on exceptional backlog management should be even more of a top priority for both agents and builders than ever before. The pandemic has created a tumultuous past year and a half with many hurdles for builders to overcome, and having a communication strategy about these obstacles that impact the backlog is critical, especially with strategies to manage construction delays. Exceptional backlog management creates a favorable customer experience throughout the entire building process, regardless of inevitable ups and downs — here are ten backlog management best practices. 

1. Design and Maintain an Organized Backlog Tracker

An organized backlog tracker allows sales agents to keep a birds-eye view of customers in permitting and under construction. Trackers can outline details such as job number, buyer name, floor plan, lot address, sold date, construction stages, plot surveys, deposits, start, pre-construction, orientation, and closing dates, along with lender loan product and Realtor and identify contingent sales. Color coding helps with organization. The tool can remain healthy and usable throughout the building process if agents regularly groom and refine it in collaboration with the rest of the team. 

2. Track Customer Conversations and Share Insights with the Superintendent

Beyond backlog trackers, agents can also keep conversations with customers organized using the builder’s CRM or by creating their own spreadsheet with detailed notes on the time of contact, who took part in the conversation, and the topic of discussion. 

Agents should plan to meet with their superintendent each week to share the latest on customer conversations and keep up with any issues such as scheduling challenges and concerns either with the buyer or the builder. Following the weekly meeting, agents should send in a backlog report to management summarizing the positives and negatives of the buyer’s emotional status and any issues that need to be addressed. Important items can be colored in red and marked as high urgency.

3. Be Upfront and Timely with Customers About Less Than Good News

If something threatens the expected timeline of an item in the backlog, put it on your buyer’s radar right away. Agents should come to customers prepared to talk through a good explanation of the issue, how you’ll overcome it together, and what the plan will be if it does affect the schedule for completion. Deliver bad news in person if the buyers are local and if you have a possible solution for the issue the customer faces.

Agents can also turn to builders to help with client management and explanation if a project takes longer than anticipated. We tell our agents to “eat the frog” or share every piece of news, good or bad, and stay as transparent as possible to avoid misunderstandings and future resentments. Another of our favorite sayings: “Good news travels fast; bad news needs to travel faster.” Check out this article to learn about ten best practices for managing construction delays with buyers

4. Know the Preferred Communication Style and Stick to It

Everyone has a preference for when and how they like to communicate with others throughout the day, which depends on work schedules, family life, and comfort with different communication styles. For most buyers, a group text will enable the most open and productive communication forum for all, allowing them to come to agents sooner with any frustrations or questions. Others might have an aversion to technology (or people) that could make them feel very uncomfortable with frequent texting. Ask what each customer prefers and make them feel at ease during the communication process to build the best rapport. 

5. Get to Know Unique Customer Interests Beyond Home Preferences

Communicating about the building process is important, but it’s equally as critical to get to know your customers on a personal level — what are their unique passions and hobbies that make them tick? When agents call buyers on the phone, they should use the time to catch up on their most recent fishing trips, promotions, or favorite TV shows before diving into any business. 

It’s also important to remember the personality type of each buyer and communicate with them accordingly. If they have a “relator” personality type and you’re a “driver,” mirror and match their energy and understand they may need some time to warm up before opening up to you. If they’re an “analytic,” take note to scale back exclamation point usage. Catering to each individual personality type helps agents build stronger and more trusting bonds.

6. Share Updates (or Non-Updates) with Buyers at Least Once a Week 

Sending updates on progress to buyers — even if you’re sharing a non-update — helps maintain the open communication needed to foster a positive relationship. Agents should take photos to share with buyers of foundation, slab, block, framing, electrical drywall, floors, cabinets, and countertops stages, among many other building milestones. If there aren’t any notable updates to share one week, agents can shed light on activities and happenings outside of the community to keep customers excited. Even if buyers are local, they may not know about hidden gems around the neighborhood — coffee shops, restaurants, parks, movie theaters, etc. If you’re talking to customers on the phone or in person, send follow-up emails to make sure updates are in writing too — keeping a written record of all events and communications can be a lifesaver in a variety of circumstances.

One other important note: When agents take a vacation, they should set up their backlog when they’re off by adding an auto-reply to their email, setting the expectation up front by letting customers know they’ll be gone, and having another agent fill in to provide updates in the meantime.

7. Try your Hand at Videography 

We’ve recently seen great success at New Home Star with using home video updates for customer check-ins. Agents can shoot these videos during home walkthroughs, which are typically already done weekly. In the video, walk the customer through the home so they can feel like they’re there with you. You don’t have to be a professional videographer, but remember to move the camera slowly so they catch all of the details. Videos especially help at the electrical and plumbing stage if the buyer plans to do work on the house after closing. We’ve even seen agents go above and beyond and get creative with drone footage.

When ready to share, the videos can be uploaded to YouTube as “unlisted” so only someone with that particular link can view the email, to Vimeo, or video messaging apps like Marco Polo.

8. Remember: Customers Are Not Experts in New Home Building

Most buyers are unfamiliar with the new construction process, so any updates shared should be educational and tailored to your buyer’s personality type and hot buttons. In videos especially, we recommend providing some construction background like how the green plate is connected to the foundation, how the floor joists are braced, how the plumbing is coming up through the floor, and what they can expect for underfloor insulation and underfloor ground cover. Understanding these details can help customers better prepare for and comprehend any delays that may arise.

9. Remind Customers Why They Bought the House 

Remember all those little reasons customers bought the house in the first place? They usually don’t. So remind them! When you get the structure up in the home, shoot a video of that impressive backyard space and show them where they can put their outdoor fire pit and dining furniture. Refresh their memories on the unique features of the home and explain the benefits and the emotions tied to those benefits. If they have family hot buttons, let them know the pool just went in. Remind them that they aren’t just buying a home — they’re providing a lifestyle for their kids and building a foundation for memories they’ll cherish forever. 

10. Know the Journey Doesn’t End Once It Closes

Even after closing, agents want to maintain the most favorable buying experience and personal connection with customers. They can accomplish this by checking in periodically to make sure buyers are happy and don’t have any concerns. These check-ins not only increase the chance of referrals, but they help agents identify any problems before they receive their survey from buyers. If the new homeowners are throwing a welcome party, see if you can snag an invite. And lastly, ask for testimonials for the website to illustrate the positive home buying process to others and show that the long process is worth it for a home that fits all of your needs.

Most importantly, customers are drawn to agents who are genuine, so bring your full self to work and let your personality shine through every interaction. The home building process is filled with emotional peaks and valleys, but if you take care to create a personalized, positive customer experience every step of the way, you’ll build long-term bonds with buyers and help builders see that you have a shared desire to protect their backlog, limit cancellations, and convert every buyer to a new homeowner.

To learn more about New Home Star's extensive sales training program, click here.  

Originally published Sep 1, 2021 under Explore the latest topics, updated May 9, 2024

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