Customer Journeys for Real Estate

ArticleDecember 15, 2016

Customer journeys are about understanding the situation your customers find themselves in (both physical and emotional) to build empathy and make better decisions about how to talk to them. For a homebuyer, the customer journey of buying a home can be a scary one. The biggest purchase of your life, some say, with all the paperwork that goes along with it. Buyers concern themselves with questions like: 


You get the idea. It's important to understand customer concerns. You likely know a lot more about the process than they do. The customer journey starts there.

But at the same time, the homebuying process is also exciting. The “fantasy-phase” that buyers begin when looking for a home, before they become discouraged with showings and disappointing offer rejections and worse inspections, is key. It’s critical to tap into this excitement early and often.

When developing customer journeys for real estate it’s important to understand each of things things. Understanding customer concerns while not forgetting to “feed the dream.”

Buying Cycle vs Building Cycle

The typical home buying process takes anywhere from 45 - 120 days once started. A development, however, could be anywhere from months to years to complete:

Design/Planning > Financing >Construction > Lease Office >Model > Construction Complete / Vacancies


Think of other long term marketing strategies. Blockbuster movies, product announcements—these, too, can happen years in advance. They plant the seeds of excitement and start to build awareness early, long before the final product is ready.

With such a long timeline, it can be difficult to market effectively through the entire process. It may be tempting to save marketing dollars for closer to when models are in place, but what about the year leading up to that?

Start Small    

So how do we start taking advantage of a customer journey early? The second you have branding, renderings, a name, whatever, it’s time to get a website out there. It might be all inspiration photos and copy, maybe a rendering, but it’s job is to once again address buyer concerns and generate excitement. Explain what the property will be like, how it will be different. Give those banners you’re buying somewhere to go to. But most importantly, it’s to get visits and email addresses.

With visits, you can start targeting with awareness campaigns. Keep that awareness going as users browse sites during their research phase.

Emails give you the ability to start marketing early. But avoid the spam! Tell a story. Let potential buyers into the design process. Talk about, or better yet, have your architect talk about the approach to the materials. The key is to get people interested emotionally long before they are ready to buy (and you’re ready to sell). If done well, they’ll wait for you!

Build on What You Have

As your development takes shape and grows, so should your website. That’s why Elevated Third builds websites using Drupal, a content management system designed to grow and change over time.

Your website should adapt to new media, such as 3D models, floorplans, material lists—everything you are already doing but not sharing soon enough (if at all). That’s how Drupal can help and allow you to put your content out there sooner. But don’t just throw it up there, tease it through your email list.

Process Diagram

One small taste can be more tantalizing than everything all at once. Share content to your email list, and to social before adding it yourself to your Drupal site (no IT required). This kind of publishing helps you stay top of mind of potential buyers and differentiate your development from the one next door and the one down the street (hey, that’s Denver). If you want followers, you need to give them a reason to follow you.

Find the Right Moment

Once your renderings, floorplans and media are complete, it’s time to start taking advantage of the list you’ve cultivated. Start teasing early showings. With marketing automation integrated into your Drupal website, you can segment your growing email list by lead score (an indication of your most interested potential buyers based on their website activity and email interactions).

Email these highly-scored leads for a VIP night beforehand to preview your model. Add them to your remarketing list for additional awareness. You know they’re interested, now it’s about getting them in the door.

Follow Up on Showings

As the development nears completion, your Drupal website should be in full lead-generation mode, tightly integrated with your marketing automation platform. Showing requests are followed up on with automated drip campaigns. No one should come for a visit and disappear! Send buyers a materials and options brochure, or school scores in the area. Back to the customer journey mapping, address concerns and excitement—over and over and over.

Your marketing automation platform will also notify your sales team of the warmest leads to reach out to directly throughout the process to prioritize your time and make the most of the staff you have.

No Free Lunch

Customer journeys aren’t a magic bullet for real estate developers, but they can provide valuable insight for more effective, long-term marketing, especially when paired with the strategic know-how of an experience digital agency. Your agency should be able to guide your marketing in tandem with the phases of a project to produce valuable customer insights and high conversion.

Judd Mercer
Written By
Judd Mercer VP Creative Strategy

A dot-bomb survivor, Judd learned the trade of a designer as a high school intern and has been doing it ever since. Expanding into design strategy, copywriting, architecture and analytics over 16 years, he’s evolved into a strategic design leader with the ability to think big and go wide.