While interactive marketing may no longer command the high-profile place it once did in big builder strategic planning sessions, home builders continue to find new and better ways to stay connected with customers online.

Big Builder magazine, together with creative group LJG Partners, of San Diego, Calif., took a look at which high production builders and developers were continuing to take innovative steps to engage customers online. Among those pushing the interactive envelope, based on submissions to a recent Big Builder survey, were the following builders and developers:

WEB SITES Builder/Developer: www.pultehomes.com

Pulte Homes' Web site provides a vast amount of information in an engaging and easy-to-navigate format.

Honorable Mention: www.pardeehomes.com

Pardee Homes' Web site achieves two important communication goals of the company. It presents a clear message that Pardee is a venerable and highly reputable home builder, and it offers visitors a rich and valuable experience to learn about new-home opportunities.

Master Planned Community: www.pinehills.com

Pine Hills, a national award-winning community in historic Plymouth, Mass., used a successful Boston region radio ad campaign to drive traffic to its expanded site. The Web site includes an interactive map and home finder tool to make accessing information on the community and builder choices easy for users.

Honorable Mention: www.summerlin.com

SummerLin is a 22,500-acre master planned community in Las Vegas. Although seemingly simple in design, the Web site is a clean, bold, and easy-to-use interface that strategically provides key information to potential residents, providing a powerful communication tool for this large and growing community.

Project/Neighborhood: www.thebillboardlofts.com

The Billboard Lofts, in downtown San Diego, provides useful project information to potential residents, is easy to navigate, and uses rich colors and layered 3D graphics consistent with the Billboard Lofts image, helping to further brand this unique project and appeal to its target audience.

Honorable Mention: www.veronaofportico.com

Verona of Portico is located in Vancouver, Canada. The Verona of Portico site exemplifies the elegant, rich look and feel of this special project, effectively communicating the brand identity of the lifestyle afforded by Bosa Development.

Community Portals/ Intranets: community.canyonhills.net

Canyon Hills, of Lake Elsinore, Calif., created a community intranet that brings a host of community-related resources to its residents' fingertips. This virtual online portal includes a community calendar, an interactive bulletin board, and a “build-your-own Web site” tool.

Honorable Mention: www.brambleton.com/intranet/

Brambleton's intranet provides local information to homeowners of this nationally recognized, technologically cutting-edge community in Virginia. This secure and easy-to-navigate resource provides current news and event information, with links to several valuable community resources

Email/Database Marketing: www.mbkhomes.com

MBK Homes developed a unique database approach to improve customer satisfaction. The Irvine, Calif., builder created its own VIB (Very Important Buyer) program, which is a registry that identifies serious buyers through a series of questions and then regularly contacts them. The program, which piggybacked on existing advertising, signage, and public relations efforts, has evolved into a customer management tool.

Honorable Mention: www.mihomes.com

MI Homes, based in Columbus, Ohio, began marketing to customers and prospects who had provided their e-mail addresses via MI's Web sites and sales offices with a new newsletter campaign in September and reports higher community opening rates and low unsubscribe rates since its launch.

Online Advertising Campaign: www.villagehomes.com

Village Homes in Littleton, Colo., launched its “Target Home of the Week” program in May 2003, promoting one home per week, per community on a special incentive list that promised to provide home buyers with significant savings. The promotion helped move more than 41 percent of its homes sold since May.

Online Home Finder Tools: www.kbhome.com

KB Home's informative site features an interactive home-finding map that loads quickly and is easy to use, taking prospective buyers from a world-view map to the front door of a new home in just a couple of clicks.

Honorable Mention: www.lyonhomes.com

Lyon Homes features homes in California and Arizona using a simply designed and visually appealing site that places information readily at the viewer's fingertips. The navigation bar lists homes by area and has a home-finding tool that leads home buyers directly to their dream home by selecting the options that they are looking for.

Broadband Applications: www.mbkhomes.com

MBK Homes again takes the prize with a site that loads quickly and effectively, using a highly innovative, dynamic interactive tool that allows visitors to tour and navigate various floor plans.

Honorable Mention: www.habitat.org

Habitat for Humanity's Web site features an innovative and informative “click-and-build” tool that gives visitors the opportunity to donate money online for materials (nails, shingles, etc.) to build homes.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.