Nothing beats human contact. National homebuilder PulteGroup Inc., www.pultegroup.com, Bloomfield, Mich., is beginning to find this to be the case and is adopting technology that ensures every homebuyer that wishes to get in human contact with it has that option.

The builder has placed live chat on the Websites of its brands Pulte Homes, Centex Homes, Del Webb, and Divosta Homes. The technology, from a company called Contact At Once!, www.chatforrealestate.com, Atlanta, Ga., makes it a simple process for buyers shopping online to connect and schedule appointments to see a home.

Coming off a trial on its Pulte.com Website where the technology increased contacts by 25%, the builder made the move to deploy across the other aforementioned Websites. The technology allows builders to capture more leads form the Web by connecting with serious buyers early on in the sales cycle. Part of the appeal is the ability to build a special low-pressure rapport with buyers, while providing them with unique videos, pictures, and other special content designed to pique their interest.

For PulteGroup, the backend management will be consolidated as the online chat tool will provide a single view for all leads and reports across the entire family of community Websites.

As Julie Mynster, director of consumer engagement, PulteGroup, points out, the technology is certainly paying dividends, saying it has allowed it to generate additional leads by giving homebuyers the option to chat. It is just another proactive option for the builder, meaning it no longer needs to sit back and wait for buyers to make the initial contact via phone or email. The program is managed by a company called Shift Digital, which offers a team of trained real estate chat consultants.

The days of selling the value of the Web to buyers is long past, with many realizing the powerful tool they have at their disposal in reaching buyers. The next step for many involves taking such Web efforts to the next level. We have seen builders turn to technology for marketing, sales, and customer-relationship management, and tie such applications to Web efforts. This could mark yet another technology tool in an arsenal of applications for reaching new buyers.

Throughout the past few years the technology trend in homebuilding has been investing in tools that can demonstrate a rapid ROI (return on investment). A tool such as this could do just that, but of course it will still take some investigating to ensure it fits in with the business plan and customer-outreach strategy established by the homebuilder.