We were talking recently with a home building company executive about the way that people in the community look at home buying customers. He says, "I don't know whether it's demographics, or a cultural or social shift or not, but people aren't buying what we're selling in new homes. We have to learn to do it differently. Trap fences have got to go!"

Trap fences are a fairly common mechanism home builders use at their neighborhoods' new-model parks that prevent home buyer prospects from leaving the models before they come back into the sales center. It creates a captive audience, literally. Too literally, perhaps.

Home builders need to understand people better than they do, and to understand what's going to motivate them to make the biggest purchase of their lifetimes. It's a different set of motivators than it might have been even a decade ago. The links below get at that, and should be part of the off-season's strategic mapping for how to open 2014 on an improved footing.

JOBS DATA COMING: The November employment report due Friday will cap off a busy week from an economic reports standpoint. Clearly, healing and progress are occurring.


Steady growth in payrolls has not put much of a dent in concerns that both labor participation rates and household income declines belie the narrative that the economy's creating new ways to make a living.

HIRING IS THE NEW RISK: Profits and an outlook for continued profitability is not enough of a trigger to hire. Adding headcount has become a leadership liability, suggesting that one is not running a tight ship.

HOW SMART ARE WE WORKING? Not very, when we use our intuitive judgment rather than look at evidence and analytics.

SPEAKING OF BIG DATA: How can you tell whether a prospective customer, or land seller, or materials supplier is excited to hear about your proposition?

BABY BOOM KABOOM? Great expectations gone awry? P.J. O'Rourke thinks that the baby boom may be a bust after all.

FLY SOLAR: A start-up purports to be the Expedia or Orbitz of solar energy systems and options for homeowners.

EAST IS EAST: And Stephen East is one of the smarter housing company analysts. Here's his wrap on the recently concluded third quarter earnings of the public home builders in his coverage group.

FASTER IS MORE PROFITABLE: If you haven't had the pleasure of wending through Fletcher Groves' "Escape from Averageness" allegories, now's your chance to understand how working with velocity and efficiency tie to profound economic laws.

DOING THE LIMBO: It's 62 days to Super Bowl Sunday XLVIII. Real Estate Consulting's John Burns says there's enough angst around when you combine the head winds with the tail winds to leave us "holding our breath" about what 2014 holds for us. Does that mean sit and wait?