A month ago, prospective homebuyers wouldn’t have been able to book an appointment or showing in any of Taylor Morrison’s 30-plus Orlando communities through the company website.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the nation’s fifth largest homebuilder to adapt quickly and fast-track its transition to a virtual sales platform. The challenges will leave the company in a stronger position going forward, Orlando Division President Brian Brunhofer told GrowthSpotter.
“We transformed our website and our interactions with people based on the dynamics of a virtual selling world,” Brunhofer said. “In the last week and half, we’ve sold six homes virtually – which doesn’t sound like a lot – but 45 days ago we never would have thought that could be done.”
To be sure, Taylor Morrison is still conducting business in person, within the limitations of social distance protocols. But Brunhofer said the pandemic forced the company to adopt new sales methods and accelerate the use of technology.
“For a while now we’ve been thinking about if there’s a way we can start moving into that age of selling," he said. "The fact that in a very short period of time we got there and we got good at it and have had success is very exciting for a sales team,” he said.
Like other national builders, Taylor Morrison implemented more remote and curbside closings, online design selections and virtual walk-thrus. The key to the company’s success has been constant, daily communication among the executive level staff.
Brunhofer said the company began holding daily conference calls with all division presidents in the weeks leading up to the February closing of Taylor Morrison’s $2.4 billion acquisition of California-based William Lyon Homes. Those daily “huddles” continued following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The times we’re going through right now, it has been monumental that we can talk about things across the country every single day, and the transparency is key,” he said.
The company released its 1st Quarter earnings ahead of schedule, and announced that Chairman and CEO Sheryl Palmer would forego a scheduled $3 million equity bonus. All company executives and division presidents voluntarily took 25% pay cuts during the federally imposed shut down periods.
“That’s just everybody taking a step back and, not just our company but a lot of other companies, saying how do we proactively get after doing what’s best for the company,” he said. “And that was certainly an important step for not only division presidents, but the rest of the executive team as well. So we’ve done everything we can to address the current market environment and figure out how we’re going to forecast out the impacts this had.”
Nationally, Taylor Morrison is adjusting its land closings, phasing and speculative construction scheduling. But Brunhofer said the Orlando division is moving forward selectively with land acquisition. And it’s still planning to hold a model center grand opening in early May to celebrate the introduction of eight new floorplans designed exclusively for the Solivita retirement community.
“We’ve integrated into Solivita a new product offering for three months now, and we’ve been able to sell that product but what’s been key is getting that new model presentation all together,” he said.