In the Central Texas area, our homes of the future are looking to be more energy efficient. In the past, builders and buyers used coastal grass like St. Augustine because it was readily available, but the consumer preferences have changed; They do not want to spend money on watering grass. Builders are now looking at local and native grasses and plants for landscaping. This allows an attractive landscape that does not require heavy watering and maintenance. The use of decomposed granite, river rock, and mulch beds in lieu of sod and irrigation allows people to have an easy-care yard that is environmentally friendly.
As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Henson.
Kyle W Henson is the Internet Sales & Marketing Coordinator for Buffington Homes in Austin, Texas. With 16 years of experience as a Realtor, he has sold for multiple builders on several operating systems and CRMs, and has seen the ups and downs of the ever-fluctuating market. Kyle has made Central Texas his home for 29 years with his beautiful wife, 2 outstanding children and a bossy wiener dog.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I graduated from College with a History/PoliSci Bachelor’s Degree and promptly put that to use working for a logistics company in Austin. After the hi-tech bust in the late 90’s, I transitioned to Real Estate and sold new homes on acreage sites across Central Texas.
In 2010, I began working with Buffington Homes, a family business that I truly feel included in. In just a few short years, we have gone from an entry/first time home buyer to a move-up builder. I love the job and my co-workers — working at Buffington Homes feels more like being part of a family than a job.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Back in 2008 I was still working as a Community Sales Manager for another builder and spent a lot of time in the field showing lots and showcasing homes. One of my communities was on a private golf course and I had several addresses that backed up to the course itself.
One Sunday morning, I was walking the homes, unlocking the doors, turning on lights, that sort of thing. When I was checking one of the more expensive homes, I discovered that some kids had an “After Prom” party in this nearly-finished 3000 sq. ft. home. The 5-bedroom house was trashed with empty bottles, beer cans, and cigarette butts. It even had the smell of a dive bar!
I called to get it cleaned right away — the cleaners did a great job transforming the property’s aesthetic (and smell) back to its original state.
The kicker? The “Prom” house got a signed contract that week.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Embracing technology provided me with an entirely new set of tools to work more efficiently and effectively. Previously, I had always used a legal pad with multi-color highlights and ink colors. I started using a database manager that reminded me to follow up and set new appointments — two crucial tasks in real estate. I learned how essential a database manager is, which is why this is how I currently maintain Buffington’s current database.
When agents embrace technology and stop believing they can track leads with Outlook and a legal pad, they will go much further, a lot quicker. A good CRM or lead database will help you find that tipping point sooner than later. If you are starting out in the business, look for an employer that has a CRM or database program that will help manage your leads. You will be so much more successful if you are utilizing this tool, especially starting out!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My first broker was also my Real Estate instructor. He was a true character and could sell ice cream to Eskimos. He had several stories that were more than that… they were “country boy” instructions. Basically, they were stories that told you how to sell.
“ALWAYS Ask for the sale,” and when breaking the ice with new prospects by opening the door and saying, “I hope you brought your checkbook”. These let us know that timid salespeople are poor salespeople. You can’t be timid and a great salesman, “unless you have a monopoly”. Buyer’s want to be “sold.” They want to be assured they are getting a good product; not to mention a great deal and the truth!
People do not want to second-guess a purchase. Your job as a salesperson is to ask for the sale, be very knowledgeable about your product, and make sure your buyers are so confident in their purchase, that they introduce you to their friends that are also looking to purchase.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
“Customers For Life” by Carl Sewell was a quick read but it has stuck with me for the entirety of my career. Sewell owns a group of car dealerships in the Dallas area, and he teaches how to take exceptional care of customers so that the buyer always comes back.
That is only achieved by completely taking care of your buyer during the purchase process. If they refer to you as “my realtor,” “my butcher,” or “my tailor,” you are doing a great job in going above and beyond for them. Ultimately, these clients will partner with you for life, and feel confident enough to refer their family and friends.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we would all have a Merry Christmas.” This is what always pops in my head when someone gives an excuse. Things happen- good and bad. But lack of planning and follow-up always increases the odds for failure.
Excuses are not important. If someone lets me down, I do not want a 45-second voicemail telling me it was not their fault: Step up, and explain the problem and your solution. Assure the buyer that this is an opportunity you will both overcome. If It was your mistake, fix it and don’t let it happen to your next customer. Don’t try to explain why it is not your fault. Instead, fix the problem, not the blame.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.
In the Central Texas area, our homes of the future are looking to be more energy efficient. In the past, builders and buyers used coastal grass like St. Augustine because it was readily available, but the consumer preferences have changed; They do not want to spend money on watering grass.
Builders are now looking at local and native grasses and plants for landscaping. This allows an attractive landscape that does not require heavy watering and maintenance. The use of decomposed granite, river rock, and mulch beds in lieu of sod and irrigation allows people to have an easy-care yard that is environmentally friendly.
Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?
In the 90’s and 2000’s, double-paned windows were included as options. Today, this is expected from home buyers and is now a standard feature. The same goes for Energy Star HVAC and Appliances. Insulation is getting better and buyers are more informed. They are looking to lower their energy bill and expect builders to increase the standard features in new homes.
Buffington Homes even has a new “EcoSmart Community” in the Central Texas area. Solar panels, geothermal, upgraded insulation, radiant barrier and all LED lights in the entire house are standard. Two years ago, buyers who were looking for these kinds of features may have been considered “tree huggers,” or “environmentalists.” But since pricing has gone down on these “EcoSmart” features, builders are able to include it in the build as standard features. Additionally, as other builders follow this environmentally-friendly trend, buyers will begin expecting these elements to be included in new builds.
We also have standard “pre-wire” for electric car charging stations in our garages. As the cost of electric vehicles become more affordable, many builders will put automobile charging as a standard component in all homes. As buyers begin to expect these features, and you do not include them as standards, the builder next door will (or already has).
There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?
Smart homes is just the term for home automation that is becoming more affordable for buyers. Alexa, Google Home, and other devices can be installed to control many “smart home” features. Examples include climate/thermostat, lighting, video doorbells, tv/stereos, robot vacuums and alarm systems.
Five years ago, this was a new feature that many buyers were not familiar with. Brands like “Nest” thermostat were toys or upgrades for people that have a technical background. Today, “Smart Home” features are affordable and user-friendly. On your way home? Lower the temperature before you arrive. Sunday Night Football? Tell your tv to turn it on.
Buffington Homes is adding selected smart home technology to our “EcoSmart” homes. These include Nest Video doorbell, Nest Yale Door lock, and Google Home Hub.
Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?
Most people know about robotic vacuum cleaners — this concept is starting to catch-on for lawn mowing. There are multiple brands including WORX, Husqvarna and MowRo that have these available for the market.
In addition, just like smart plugs in your home that control lights and electronics, there is now similar technology that controls irrigation with your smartphone, even If you are away from home.
Finally, for the Texan that has everything, there is now an electric smoker that will monitor internal meat and chamber temperature — all from your smartphone. Go ahead, smoke brisket from your phone… just don’t tell your Texan neighbors you didn’t use a traditional wood burning smoker.
Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?
Smart home technology now offers smart pet feeders, water bowls, and smart pet doors. All these things can help you take care of your pet from your tablet or phone.
How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?
Ideas that were space-age technology ten years ago are becoming increasingly tangible with today’s modernism. New technology in construction material includes, “self-healing concrete.” This concrete is made with water activated bacteria that will “heal” cracks in the surface of sidewalks and driveways.
“Nanocrystal,” is also a new, tangible concept used for windows that allow light to pass through but blocks energy or heat transfer. This will allow “walls of windows” for natural light, while keeping A/C and electric bills down.
For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?
As the population ages and baby boomers get older, the need for multi-generational homes, or houses with multiple owner’s suites, is growing. Families are looking for a way to bring Grandma home and have her live in her own suite with the rest of the family. Builders that do not currently offer these types of homes, may want to start looking at new home designs.
Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States.But it seems that it has gotten worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?
You cannot point to one thing that brought us to where we are with homelessness. There has always been a percentage of people that want to live “off the grid” or “camping.” You cannot make 100% of the people in the world bend to one style of living.
I believe the difference between now and 40 years ago is that homelessness is not as taboo as it was. In Austin, the city council has removed the “Camping Ordinance” that bans sleeping in public. In one summer, this made it look like the homelessness has tripled, however the homeless rate hasn’t grown, it’s just out in the open now.
Single family homes are very expensive inside the city limits. A potential solution is going on now with “Community First.” This is a 27-acre homeless subdivision that has micro homes and RVs/Homes. It allows people to live, work, and make money for affordable housing while maintaining order and taking care of the needs of an aging population.
It works so well that it has changed the way the community feels about homelessness. It has helped take care of fellow community members in getting them back on their feet so they can return to society.
Affordable housing is crucial. Minimum sizes are fine for developments, but you cannot have one home size fits all in Austin. A single homeless person does not need or can afford an 1800 sq.ft. home. They can afford a 110 sq. ft. micro-home with a community laundry and kitchen. The “Community First” concept has shown that this is a possible solution for the homeless.
Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?
Homebuilders are business owners. We build a product and sell it for what the market will bear. If there is an increase of 150% yearly demand for homes, the prices, material, land, and labor go up. Not just for new homes, but old homes as well.
HGTV has several successful shows on how to buy a home and flip it with new decor, appliances, and upgraded structural options. Every time a home is flipped in your community, one affordable home has been taken off the market and turned into a higher priced home.
You cannot stop that unless you mandate price controls which do not work. The government cannot artificially control supply and demand. The only thing that brings prices down is when supply is greater than demand. More production of homes will level off price increases.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The golden rule works almost every time you use it: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” This applies to every relationship: your employees, your waitress, the employee at the DMV. We are here to serve others, not to be served.
Do not hinder your neighbor because you do not know what troubles they are going through. Always help your neighbor and be a better person today than you were yesterday.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!