Hubbell’s UTour program meets the changing needs of today’s market.
Virtual tours are not a new concept in the real estate market, and their use has grown over the past pandemic year. For many buyers, however, nothing can replace the live walk-through. Meeting the needs of those home buyers has been especially challenging in light of social distancing and safety expectations.
“We really wanted to find a way to respond to customers that would make them more comfortable,” says Hubbell Vice President Rachel Flint. “But we also needed to make sure it was a safe, secure option for us and for the customer.”
As part of the National Association of Home Builders’ Builder 20 group, Hubbell was aware of how other large-scale builders were facing and addressing similar situations in their own markets. “One company had talked about the program they were using—UTour—and the positive response it had gotten,” Flint says. “We were able to work through the evaluation and testing and fully implement it in six of our communities in May.”
UTour is accessible on a variety of Hubbell properties across the metro, focused especially on communities that appeal to more-tech-savvy buyers. “Our urban properties are especially popular with Gen X and Y buyers,” says Flint, “and they are the most frequent users of the UTour app so far.”
The app allows customers a window of time to view a property via a self-guided tour, which means masks and exposure to others are not factors. This also enables potential buyers to tour available properties at a time that fits their schedules without having to coordinate with a REALTOR® for the initial visit.
“This is in no way intended to exclude agents,” Flint says. “Our goal with this program is to meet our younger buyers where they are.” She adds that the UTour option ultimately saves time for both agents and buyers. “The truth is, a customer might want to make that initial walk-through on their own. But if they like the property, the first thing they’ll do is contact an agent. And at that point, the agent already knows they have an interested buyer.”
In April, Hubbell implemented a similar program with its rental properties. The app Rently allows potential renters to view a model rental property on a self-guided tour before contacting the management for an in-person meeting. “It’s a great way for customers to get a look at rental units and communities on their own time so they can decide if it’s a good fit,” says Flint.
The success of that app gave Hubbell Homes even more confidence that the UTour program would be well-received.
To set up a self-guided tour, customers simply visit the website Hubbell set up exclusively for the program, TourHubbell.com, and complete the registration process. “We require either a driver’s license number or a credit card so we can verify the customer’s identity,” Flint explains. “There’s no charge to use the program.”
Once the registration process is complete, customers select the community and property they wish to tour and the time that suits their schedule. They then receive an access code that is active for 1 hour, beginning at the scheduled appointment time. “They have that 1-hour window to enter and tour the property,” explains Flint. “If they don’t enter the home within that 1-hour window, the code won’t work.”
This system not only offers Hubbell security for its properties, but it protects customers as well because only the scheduled customer will have access to the home during that 1-hour window.
“Feedback has been great so far,” says Flint. “The program is active in 10 homes right now. Over the next few months, we’ll be testing the response from customers and agents and monitoring its use.”
The goal going forward is the same as the goal in initiating the program. “We just want to be responsive to our customers, whether that’s buyers or agents,” Flint says. “Even as things open up more after the pandemic, that goal is still the same.”