Taylor Woodrow Homes Inc. has launched an Internet experiment that could change the way the company sells houses. The Laguna Hills home builder has put 17 model units up for competitive bidding on an Internet Web site, http://www.buildermodelsales.com.
Those homes, prized because they are upgraded and fully furnished, are usually the last ones that builders put up for sale. But Taylor Woodrow is selling them much earlier than usual, hoping to raise cash that can be plowed back into acquiring new land parcels.
"We feel it's the wave of the future," said Barbara Stowers, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.
With a click of the mouse, interested consumers can get pre-qualified for a loan and take a virtual tour of the model homes offered at the Amberly Lane development in south Orange County's Ladera Ranch area and the Woodlands in Valencia. The homes range from $625,000 to $1.16 million.
But it will be 18 months before the winning bidders get into their new homes because the company wants to continue using the houses as models. The company, though, will pay rent to the buyers.
Taylor Woodrow has found that about 8% to 10% of its buyers first contacted the company through its Web site. So far, Stowers said, 15 people have registered to bid. The auction remains open until June 25.
"Ultimately, sales will determine the success of the program," she said.