Knowledge is Power

There's always that magic moment when a home buyer agrees to purchase a house, and at Charter Homes in Lancaster, Pa., President Rob Bowman says information is the key to bringing these moments to fruition.

“A lot of builders get back to their buyers in two, three, or four weeks with a price,” says Bowman. “We think having a customer show up and leave without a price and monthly payment to consider is not a good business model,” he explains.

By integrating Charter Homes' FAST back-office data with a Builder1440 sales system, Charter's salespeople can retrieve the latest pricing on materials and options and give home buyers a realistic view of what the home will cost.

FAST INFO: By moving FAST selections data into the Builder1440 sales system, Charter Homes' salespeople  make sure shoppers always leave with ballpark pricing information.
FAST INFO: By moving FAST selections data into the Builder1440 sales system, Charter Homes' salespeople make sure shoppers always leave with ballpark pricing information.

“We do this in about 30 minutes,” Bowman says. “The idea is to get them attached to a floor plan and give them a choice of the best two plans that suit their needs,” he says.

Bowman notes that prospects may leave and not return, but it should never be because they didn't have the proper information. Although he does not have any hard data on how the system improves sales closings, he did say he's able to grow the business without adding more people. Instead of filling out forms and responding to requests for information, all of his business people have fast access to information.

“Speed wins,” he says. “It's all about how fast we get back to the customer.”

A Welcome Return

Constellation's plan to revive BuildSoft is on a slow-but-steady course.

Daniel Zinman, General manager for Markham, Ontario–based Constellation HomeBuilder Systems' new BuildSoft group, is quite aware of what he's up against in reviving the old guard software brand.

“When we acquired the company from HomeSphere last December, we also acquired a group of unsatisfied customers,” he says.

Recognizing that BuildSoft customers had waited five years for some action, Constellation gained some good will in March by publishing a newsletter and releasing a patch that made BuildSoft run more efficiently on Windows XP and included enhanced job cost and accounts payable reports. Additional newsletters and patches will follow later this year.

“We also launched an online client care center where we published a list of FAQs—something so simple that was never available,” says Zinman, who explains that Constellation aims to position BuildSoft for companies building less than 75 homes a year.

Anne Lodes, an accountant and technical support person for The Meyer Co. in Chesterfield, Mo., says even the modest fixes are a welcome change.

“Within six weeks of acquiring BuildSoft, the new owners sent out a survey and I thought to myself, ‘here we go again,'” she says. “But I'm impressed. Not long after that, they sent out the newsletter and the first patch,” she explains, adding that even if the updates are small, it's far better than the past five years of little or no development and poor communication. “My hope is that we've weathered the storm and are ready to move forward now,” Lodes concludes.

Constellation is planning a BuildSoft user's conference in Las Vegas this October. Visit for more information.

Executive View Through a partnership with business analysis software company QlikTech, Mark Systems is now offering its users an Executive Dashboard—a system that gives builder owners a fast snapshot of their business. Mark offers the new service by integrating QlikTech's QlikView software into its Integrated Homebuilder Management System. Builders can customize the system to view their cash position, accounts payables and receivables, and purchase orders. The software costs $2,000 per user. Visit

Profitable Portal BuilderMT has spent a good part of this year rolling out its Trade Portal to home builders. The software vendor has more than 25 builders up and running on the system, which offers builders and trade partners a Web-based view of schedules, purchase orders, and payments, freeing builders from the need to e-mail or call when schedule changes are made. Later this year, the system will also have the ability to let trade partners update pricing online. Trade Portal costs $1 a month per trade. Visit for more information.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Lancaster, PA.