Marketing & Sales

How A Homebuilder Stands Out In Florida's Fierce Competitive Arena

"Investing in your brand doesn't give you a direct return on investment immediately. It takes a long time, but over time, branding successfully does increase financial value." -- Alex Akel, President, Akel Homes

Marketing & Sales

How A Homebuilder Stands Out In Florida's Fierce Competitive Arena

"Investing in your brand doesn't give you a direct return on investment immediately. It takes a long time, but over time, branding successfully does increase financial value." -- Alex Akel, President, Akel Homes

July 9th, 2024
How A Homebuilder Stands Out In Florida's Fierce Competitive Arena
SHARE:
SHARE:

A brand does two things: It offers a promise and then overdelivers on that promise. This is how a brand sets itself apart.

In a more challenging and chiseled overall market for homebuilders, standing apart – preferably out and above – from peers may be what it takes to weather this next stretch of indefinite volatility and uncertainty.

For Alex Akel, the 32-year-old president of South Florida semi-custom Akel Homes, standing apart hinges on his organization's promise and over-delivery of that promise of an "unmatched" customer experience.

We are amongst the Giants. Competing with them means our intangibles have to be extremely strong. We differentiate on quality and service," Akel tells us. "It's all about forging your own brand. That takes a lot of time, and it's not easy to do. Staying power is the great equalizer."

On pace to quantum-leap in growth from the 70-or-so deliveries the firm is working through at Solana Bay at Avenir in Palm Beach Gardens this year to 200-to-300 homes annually as it enters Sundance, a 2,500-acre community in Port St. Lucie, Alex Akel's resolve on both the promise and its overdelivery is neither fuzzy nor hypothetical. A substantial future land pipeline, including over 8,000 home sites in Port St. Lucie alone, supports an ever-more-ambitious growth plan.

This strategic expansion reflects Alex Akel's long-term vision for the company and his commitment to leveraging technology and customer-centric practices to enhance the homebuying experience and build a robust brand in the competitive market.

Standing apart means doing so not simply as a company identity or personality but as a felt and known experience in the minds of customers, team member associates, and trade partners. Proof that Akel's commitment is more than words comes through in the investments he's made to improve on third-party customer service tools and solutions.

myAkel is our proprietary homebuyer-facing communication platform that guides the buyer throughout their homebuilding experience from contract signing to well-beyond closing," Akel says. "We created myAkel to keep the homebuyer engaged throughout each and every step of their journey. Built from the ground up, exclusively for Akel Homes in line with our commitment to providing a white glove homebuilding experience, myAkel sets a new industry standard in homebuilding. I created something because I did not find anything that already existed in the market. It’s a new way to communicate with customers and keep them engaged,” Alex noted."

Through myAkel, homebuyers can do the following:

  • Design Studio: Access the Akel Online Design Studio and the entire options catalog to personalize home finishes such as flooring, cabinetry, countertops and other selections;
  • Home Progress Updates: Receive weekly home progress updates throughout each stage of construction with photography;
  • Communication: Communicate directly with our dedicated on-site Akel team;
  • Appointments: Keep track of upcoming color selection appointments, pre-start orientation, pre-drywall inspections, new home orientation and closing dates;
  • Important Documents: View important (non-sensitive) documents such as our Homebuying Journey Guide, Helpful Phone Numbers, guides on transitioning into your new home;
  • Home Warranty: Submit home warranty requests and communicate with the Akel Home Care Department and third-party contractors and access manufacturer product registration and warranty information.
  • myAkel also serves as a tool to streamline our internal communications and how we distribute relevant information to our contractors. We look forward to continuing to invest in this great platform.

That "unmatched" customer experience Akel shoots for, promises Akel Homes shoppers, and over-delivers on for buying customers, has its roots in hospitality.

We invest a lot of time and money into every aspect of the home buying journey and how we can bring it to the next level," Akel tells The Builder's Daily. I like to say we're operating at a five-star hotel service level in homebuilding. That's something that becomes very hard for your competition to replicate.”

Listening to Alex Akel clearly reveals a canny blend of Old School values and fire-in-the-belly entrepreneurialism powered by New School capabilities offered by data, machine learning, and platform technologies that integrate homebuilding's unique triple helix of manufacturing, real estate investment, and retail marketing and sales.

We wrote after an earlier conversation with Alex the following, which still holds:

... the Akel pedigree goes back a stretch, a full generation in the real estate development and home construction business. His current partner, mentor, primary friends-and-family capital source, and father in Akel Homes, Ramsey Akel, spent 32 years working for his father-in-law at Ansca Homes, building some 4,000 homes in South Florida going back to 1986.
You could say that young Akel is wiser than his years. Or you could say that his raw intelligence, his studies, which include an advanced degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and fully-licensed status as a Florida state contractor, and his passion for what he calls solving this "ginormous Rubik's Cube" that is home building, add up to an accelerated learning curve.
'It's a business that has a lot of barriers to entry," Alex Akel says when he's asked why he thinks so few like-minded, young, talented, data-oriented, people get drawn into the field of building people's homes and communities. 'You have to want to be a creator; this is not just about vertical construction--we get the property as a clean slate and we literally make value on it by taking it through planning, zoning, building codes, designing to market constraints, price for the lot, and a million other variables and moving parts where all these worlds [of subject matter expertise] collide. There are very few sectors of the economy where you get to directly impact people's life on so intimate a level for many important years of their lives.'"

Fast-forward five years to the present, where that hybrid of Old-and-New-School strategic and business cultural traits meets a tricky market where market share is an existential matter, especially for privately capitalized local and regional homebuilders.

The framework – with that "unmatched customer experience" as Priority #1 – maps out like this:

Quality and Customer Service as Cornerstones

  • Alex places a strong emphasis on quality and customer service, aiming to deliver not just homes, but exceptional experiences. He envisions Akel Homes operating at a level akin to a five-star hotel service in the homebuilding industry.

Commitment to Transparency and Communication

  • Transparency and consistent communication are key elements of the culture Alex is building. He believes in keeping customers informed and engaged throughout the homebuilding process, which not only builds trust but also enhances the overall experience.
Everyone wants a high-quality home with a low-cost price, and they want you to be as attentive and engaging with them every step of the way. Customers want to be involved in the process, and we strive to make that experience fun, exciting, and stress-free.”

Leveraging Technology for a Superior Experience

  • Alex has integrated advanced technology into Akel Homes’ operations to ensure a seamless and personalized customer journey. This includes real-time updates and automated communication tools that keep customers informed about their home’s progress.

A Focus on Long-term Relationships

  • Alex aims to turn homebuyers into advocates for Akel Homes by exceeding their expectations and delivering a delightful experience. He understands that referrals and repeat customers are crucial for sustained growth and success.
We are not just selling homes; we are in the customer service business. The goal is to create customer advocates who are thrilled with their entire experience. Over-delivering on expectations is the best form of marketing for our company.”

Training and Team Alignment

  • Ensuring that his team is aligned with the company’s customer-centric approach is critical for Alex. He emphasizes the importance of training and having dedicated team members who are committed to delivering the highest level of service.
It’s a lot of training and getting people on your team to buy into it. We’ve had some growing pains, but customer feedback has been phenomenal. Everyone wants to be communicated with, and when it comes to something as important as their home, they want to understand every step of the way.”

Very likely, brand Alex Akel is on track to overdeliver on his promise of a company with a big, bright future.

Investing in your brand doesn't give you a direct return on investment immediately. It takes a long time, but over time, branding successfully does increase financial value."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

MORE IN Marketing & Sales

These 5 Time-Tested Tips Will Jump Start 55+ Resident Referrals

When managing 55+ community homeowners associations, builders and developers need to meet and overdeliver on the high expectations of a particularly discretionary consumer group.


Builders Tangle To Keep Buyers In The Game, Off The Sideline

The contest now is all about who can outperform rivals with market strategies that adapt to the changing conditions and get larger slices of a shrinking pie.


Resiliency Test: A New Playbook For Weakening Consumer Mojo

What tends to prove out as new-home demand moves into an inflection, first- and fast-movers put themselves in a more resilient position than those who wait until a slowdown is clear to all.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

MORE IN Marketing & Sales

These 5 Time-Tested Tips Will Jump Start 55+ Resident Referrals

When managing 55+ community homeowners associations, builders and developers need to meet and overdeliver on the high expectations of a particularly discretionary consumer group.


Builders Tangle To Keep Buyers In The Game, Off The Sideline

The contest now is all about who can outperform rivals with market strategies that adapt to the changing conditions and get larger slices of a shrinking pie.


Resiliency Test: A New Playbook For Weakening Consumer Mojo

What tends to prove out as new-home demand moves into an inflection, first- and fast-movers put themselves in a more resilient position than those who wait until a slowdown is clear to all.