For most firms, the philosophy behind new is to develop proprietary tools and systems to better run their businesses and differentiate themselves from the competition. While most builders have access to standard technology applications, not all get the same value from them. A few recent announcements may help some builders enhance their business and earn larger market share.

Schumacher Homes, an on-your-lot Custom Home Builder based in Canton, Ohio, recently launched its 'Real Time Design' technology. The service, offered exclusively in Schumacher Homes' design centers, allows customers who are interested in building a new custom home, to work in real time with Schumacher CAD professionals to design and make any number of changes to their home plan during their visit for free -- with no commitment to buy required.

"Customers love the ability to see their vision come to life on the large screens with Real Time Design, our professional home designers work with each customer to produce a true custom home building experience," said Ron Kerensky, Schumacher Homes' CIO, who added that once complete, the customer receives a copy of their revised plan along with a very detailed quote.

"We understand that building a custom home is a big decision. At Schumacher Homes, we encourage our customers to customize each and every detail to fit their family's tastes and lifestyle. 'Real Time Design' is a natural step forward in our commitment to providing all of the information upfront and making the building process an easy and enjoyable experience."

The Real Time Design service is already in use and applies to all of the markets that Schumacher Homes builds in including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Other free technological services, like Real Time Design, recently released by Schumacher Homes include their Quote My Home Now service as well as the "We'll Make Your Payments for a Year" service.

"We're not a small, local builder with only a handful of projects. Because of that, we can leverage our national purchasing power, state-of-the-art processes and technology, and other breakthrough ideas. We get the best prices, the best crews, and the best results - and we deliver quality construction and award-winning design at an exceptional value and price per square foot that no one else can match," added Kerensky.

In related technological news, Zillow.com, one of the Web's leading online real estate resources, has collaborated with NewHomeSource.com, the most complete new home marketplace, to provide consumers with the ability to search new homes across the country. is the flagship product of Builder Homesite, Inc. (BHI) and is the largest detailed collection of new home communities available in the United States. By joining forces with BHI, Zillow's more than 5 million users now have access to detailed listings from more than 9,000 new home communities across the U.S.

"Zillow is the perfect partner to help NewHomeSource.com expand its reach -- we'll be able to showcase builder listings to a wide range of U.S. home buyers," said Tim Costello, CEO of Builder Homesite, Inc. "Our builders want to be where consumers go to find homes, and Zillow is a top choice for many buyers."

"We're thrilled to be adding new construction to our growing database of nearly 3 million homes for sale," said Jorrit Van der Meulen, Zillow's vice president of partner relations. "BHI's ongoing relationship with the country's leading builders gives our users access to the largest selection of new home communities on the Web."

Builders are already reaping the benefits of extending their reach via the Internet -- and innovative partnerships like the one between Zillow and BHI are driving today's competitive homebuilding industry.

"Having my new home listings on such respected sites as Zillow, NewHomeSource, Yahoo and others is a huge advantage in this industry," said Laura VanVelthoven, Corporate Vice President - Marketing and Sales, K. Hovnanian Homes, a leading builder based in Red Bank, N.J. "It's enabled us to list once and be everywhere, so more consumers can see what we have to offer."

Technology affords many benefits, as long as firms are capable of taking advantage of them. For builders, taking advantage of technology means understanding what their customers want. These two new offerings listed here appear to be doing just that.

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