Premier Tools

Quickbooks is the software of choice for the vast majority of small builders—roughly 54 percent, according to a 2006 BUILDER magazine IT survey—and with the way Intuit keeps adding useful new features, it's easy to see why.

One new tool in QuickBooks Premier Contractor Edition 2007 is the ability to track a subcontractor's general liability insurance information. In the past, the software offered no easy way to keep tabs on a sub's general liability insurance. Now, the program lets builders key in the date on which an individual sub's insurance expires. QuickBooks then reminds the builder of this information right before he creates a purchase order or writes a check.

Change orders are also much easier to execute and understand with the 2007 edition. Builders can make a change to the original estimate, and a note on the document will spell out for the home buyer what's changed and how much it will cost. Builders can use this feature when the buyer makes selections or throughout the course of the job.

STREAMLINED VIEWS: The latest version of QuickBooks lets users point and click an interface that  hones down the options to the most common accounts used by builders and  contractors.
STREAMLINED VIEWS: The latest version of QuickBooks lets users point and click an interface that hones down the options to the most common accounts used by builders and contractors.

Other new features: Builders can create professional-looking business forms by pulling up a template that lets them select the corporate logo, color, and fonts, and a streamlined tab lets builders easily add accounts.

QuickBooks Premier Contractor Edition 2007 costs $399; the more basic QuickBooks Pro is $199. Visit for more information.

Big Idea

HomeFront's new software brings production-style automation to small builders.

Most of the home building industry's management software is geared to production builders. Systems such as BuildTopia, BuilderMT, FAST, and NewStar do a great job for midsized builders and some of the big guys, but they're often overkill and cost in excess of $50,000—far too expensive for many small builders.

As an alternative, HomeFront Software has been shipping PrecisionBuilder for the past few months. The software module, aimed at builders doing 25 to 300 units a year, does estimating, sales pricing, and purchasing and lets builders integrate with HomeFront's Sales, the software maker's sales product, and Sage Timberline's back-office accounting system.

Daryl Shenner, HomeFront's president, says builders looking to get started with his company's software should buy PrecisionBuilder, HomeFront Sales, and access to HomeFront's vendor portal.

“For well under $10,000, builders can have a system that in the past was only available to production builders,” says Shenner.

Here's how the costs break down: PrecisionBuilder is about $3,500; HomeFront Sales is another $3,000, and access to HomeFront's vendor portal costs $30 per home.

With PrecisionBuilder's estimating feature, builders can take the estimates and apply retail markups that they can publish for their salespeople in HomeFront Sales. PrecisionBuilder's purchasing feature, meanwhile, lets builders create purchase orders for their subcontractors. Right now, most builders manually e-mail the purchase orders or simply drop them in the mail, but Shenner says future versions of PrecisionBuilder will have an automated e-mail feature.

Visit for more information.

Express Lane Software maker Hyphen Solutions is offering a streamlined version of its proven, Web-based BuildPro scheduling tool. The new software, BuildPro Express, comes with three standard templates, one for one-story single-family homes, a second for two-story homes, and a third for multifamily projects. The cost to builders is just under $10,000 for five internal users, and Hyphen Solutions claims it can have you up and running inside of a week or two. Visit for more information.

Next Dimension Chief Architect, one of the leading CAD programs used by builders, is now shipping X1, the company's latest design product. X1 goes beyond mere 3-D visualization, enabling builders to conduct, not just see, the design process in three dimensions. The new software allows for full-screen 3-D views and edits of walls and roofs. Another new feature is that all the software's CAD components are integrated into X1, making it much easier for designers to pull up CAD design tools such as deck framing and foundation details. X1 is priced at $2,195.