Small builders used to be overlooked by builder software companies, but that's changed as Constellation HomeBuilder Systems seeks to revive BuildSoft; BuildLinks and Corecon keep making improvements; and products such as the Web-based cost-estimating system 6x6 Builder, by 6x6-Builder.com, hit the market.
Joining those offerings is BuilderTREND by BuilderTREND Solutions of Omaha, Neb., the latest software to target small builders. The product, developed by a trio of high school buddies who reunited after college, now boasts about 100 builder customers.
Dan Houghton, one of the company's founders, says that by improving communications through the use of a Web portal, the software makes builders more efficient in at least three ways: Supers spend less time on the telephone answering routine scheduling or change-order questions; change orders are processed with fewer errors; and warranty claims are processed and executed more quickly.
“I wrote a database in Microsoft Access for our change orders, but it became very difficult to keep track of everyone's information ... plus I had to do everything manually,” says Mary Coonce, vice president at Porchfront Homes in Boulder, Colo., a custom builder that does about 20 to 30 homes a year.
A BuilderTREND user for the past several months, Coonce says that what's great about the software is that all the important business functions, such as scheduling, purchase orders, and change orders, are integrated in one system.
BuilderTREND costs $2,000 for a one-time setup; additional pricing starts at $415 per home for six houses.
Doing a 360
A noted IT consultant agrees to head up Constellation's Builder 360 software group.
Information Technology (IT) consultant Craig Schweikart surprised some people earlier this year when he left Shinn Consulting to take a position with Constellation HomeBuilder Systems, a niche software company that now owns FAST, NewStar, and Computers For Tracts.
A well-known figure with more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Schweikart became the dean of home building ITconsultants during his five-year stint at Shinn. He was widely sought out by builders wanting to learn about process management and choosing the right construction software. In his new role, Schweikart will serve as Constellation's vice president of Builder 360.
Constellation acquired Builder 360 from HomeSphere late last year in the deal that brought both BuildSoft and Builder 360 under the Constellation umbrella. Developed by industry technology pioneer Ed Clark, Builder 360—formerly BuildSoft Enterprise—is geared to companies building 50 to 300 homes annually. (BuildSoft remains mainly for small, custom builders.)
“Our sweet spot is a company that builds between 125 and 200 semi-custom or production-oriented homes,” says Schweikart, who became very familiar with Builder 360 in his work at Shinn Consulting with the Technology Enhancement Project, a group of home builders formed a few years ago who invested in Builder 360's ongoing product development.
Schweikart says he is looking forward to bringing enhancements to Builder 360 out to the market.
Web Portal Builders Co-Pilot, software originally developed by Reston, Va.–based iConnect Group for big builder Comstock Homebuilding Cos., offers an entry-level product for small home builders. The new system is a Web portal that lets home buyers view contracts and change orders, plus make online service requests. Vendors, too, can view change orders, as well as schedules and purchase orders. iConnect Group charges a one-time $6,000 setup fee. Visit www.iconnectgroup.com for more information.
Vista Patch Nemetschek North America, maker of the architectural CAD program VectorWorks, recently released a patch that makes VectorWorks 12.0 and 12.5 more stable, plus it's compatible with Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system. Many companies have a hard time migrating important business applications to Windows Vista when they look to make the move or buy new hardware, but VectorWorks users can download the patch for free at www.nemetschek.net.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Omaha, NE.