By BUILDER Magazine Staff. Customer relationship management, or CRM, is a hot topic among home builders. Given big builders' financial resources, it's no surprise that they lead the way. Two of them, Shea and Beazer, recently added CRM functionality to their Internet presence.

Shea has concluded that since people often start looking for a home a year or so before buying, it was worth the effort to keep them returning. It hopes to accomplish this with its "Notify Me" e-mail service. The service keeps potential buyers updated on the status of future communities, tells them when new home sites are released in existing communities, and alerts them to special incentives for existing and closeout communities. It also provides more general updates such as mortgage rates and changes in the local housing market.

Beazer's aim is to close sales more quickly with a new CRM enhancement to its online "Home Finder" feature. Home Finder lets online shoppers rate their priorities in a home (price, number of bedrooms, lot size, commuting distance, etc.). The new software, provided by Online Insight in Atlanta, gathers these preferences and presents them to individual sales reps. The information helps them identify qualified buyers, decide which homes to show them, and customize sales discussions. For example, if school district and price are a customer's top two criteria reps can zero in on homes that best meet them.