The internet has been an incredible resource for consumers researching their purchasing options. Whenever you go to buy something online, you take at least a cursory glance at what the reviews say. Sometimes, a negative review causes you to re-think your purchase.
If you’re starting the home buying process, you’ve probably noticed that even home builders have online reviews you can read. Should you use these reviews to help you make a decision? Yes! However, you also need to be careful to ensure you're getting the right information.
Is There an Agenda Behind the Review?
While you can’t always know the person behind the review, it’s important to think about who wrote the review and why they did so. Was it someone who was unhappy with the customer service or someone who was unhappy with the finished product? Did the person leaving the review actually build a home with that builder or not?
It's also worth keeping in mind that people tend to only leave reviews if they have either a very positive or very negative experience. We've all bought things we were happy with in the past and never even thought about leaving a review, and new homes are no different. A handful of negative reviews doesn't necessarily mean that there weren't far more customers who were perfectly happy with their purchase.
They’re Likely Skewed Toward Negative
In general, people tend to talk more about what they don’t like. When you’re unhappy about something, you look for things that you can actually do that might make you feel better. If you’re just the “little guy” who feels he’s been wronged by a “big company”, one of the most powerful things you can do is to write a negative review. This hurts the company.
Those who had great experiences don’t feel the same need to do something, so you may not see as many glowing reviews of any company.
They Rarely Tell the Whole Story
No one is going to take the time to write about their entire experience start to finish. It would take too long. This means that any reviewer is going to pick out a few highlights to illustrate their point. For instance, someone who had an overall positive experience might talk about the knowledge of the interior designer or the skill of the builders. There may have been a few bumps along the way - such as a delay due to bad weather or having to choose a different product when the one they wanted wasn’t in stock - but the reviewer won’t always talk about those things. Those may be more important to you.
At the same time, someone who’s had a negative experience won’t talk about the good things about the experience. They'll likely only focus on the things that went wrong or the delays they experienced in the building process, without mentioning how happy they are with the community they now live in as an example.
The Builder Response Is Just as Important
Often, builders have an opportunity to reply to positive and negative reviews. Pay attention to how the builder replies. Does the builder reply with a “Thanks” to those who leave positive reviews or do they only reply to the negative reviews? When replying to a negative review, does the builder sound respectful or do they sound condescending toward the reviewer? You can sometimes get a sense of the company’s philosophy by looking at how they respond to both praise and criticism.
Your Experience May Differ
Finally, the most important thing to remember as you look at online reviews of builders is that you might have a completely different experience. Bad reviews are often based on an interaction with a single person. That person might not be the person you’re working with. That person may have seen the bad review and changed their ways to create better experiences for customers. The chemistry between you and the “bad” rep may just simply be better. If you like what you see with a builder, a few bad reviews shouldn’t hold you back.
Online reviews of builders can help you make a decision, but they’re only a small part of the puzzle. Focus on the quality you see in the home models and the customer service experiences you have with the builder rather than relying on what others have to say about their experiences.