If you’re a builder without an Internet presence, you may be at a distinct disadvantage during these hard times, considering 80 percent of prospective home buyers begin their searches online. Or let's say you have a web site, but it isn’t as sexy as you’d like it to be. Don’t fret. The creators of a new consumer web resource are serving up another way for 20 million potential buyers to find you and the houses you build.

Launched last month, NewHomeListings.com is powered by a massive database that already includes more than 1 million new homes in 11,000 communities, with another 3,000 communities soon to be added.  Potential home buyers can search the site for new homes – including photos, floor plans, renderings, and specs -- using many of the same criteria traditionally used by realtors. These include location, price range, housing type, square footage, architectural style, bedroom and bathroom count, fireplace count, number of parking spaces, school district, and community amenities. Searches can be further refined with preferences for cladding, countertop, cabinetry, and flooring materials, as well as HVAC systems. 

Site architects say visitors are usually able to pull up microsites for homes that match their preferences in three clicks.  Interactive maps (which include highway systems) help pinpoint the exact location of communities of interest, and consumers can easily drill down to obtain contact information and web links for builders they like. Alternately, prospective buyers can fill out a form if they wish to receive a brochure and/or be contacted by a builder sales representative.

A joint venture of the real estate research firm Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (a sister company to BUILDER) and the web technology company DataSphere, NewHomeListings.com is vying to be not just a helpful tool for consumers, but also a boon for builders with limited marketing budgets.

"The service we are providing is valuable to both consumers and builders alike," says Jonathan Smoke, senior VP of products and innovation for Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. "For consumers, we provide the most comprehensive database of new homes online. For builders, we provide a powerful lead generation platform. But perhaps the site's most unique virtue is that it allows the small- and medium-sized builder the opportunity to participate in a sophisticated and coordinated Internet marketing campaign at little to no cost."

Listings and leads generated by site traffic are free for participating builders. At present, the database is limited to production housing by builders that do a minimum of 10 homes per year (the start-up database was populated with data from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence). However, a “self-upload” tool that is set to launch this summer will level the playing field further, allowing smaller builders to add custom spec homes to the mix.  Another soon-to-be-added site feature will allow participating builders to upgrade their online profiles with extra bells and whistles for a small fee. 

Interested? Visit www.newhomelistings.com/participate for more information about how to get your homes in the database.

Jenny Sullivan is senior editor, design for BUILDER.