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Last week, we talked about HousingZone project and development manager Todd Shraiberg’s idea that the new home builder will be capturing e-commerce through the use of community intranets. These communication infrastructures would be incorporated into new housing developments, tying each house into a centralized system, whereby homeowners could order products through a preferred list of retailers.
Remodelers are logical partners in such an intranet, as they will eventually become sought after by the homeowners for repair and renovation work. Whether a remodeler wants to target such a partnership is open for discussion.
One remodeler, though, is on the cutting edge of this idea. Home Finishes, headed by Ned Seawell, CGR, has partnered with several new home builders in Northern California to provide warranty services in new homes. That in itself is a savvy marketing strategy, but Home Finishes has gone far beyond that with its internet approach.
Home Finishes, through these partnerships, is keeping itself in the minds of new homeowners as a maintenance and remodeling service. But it’s using its website to market to other homeowners, as well. Those who are already in the system have access to password-protected areas: the intranet. Here, maintenance techs, homeowners and builders communicate.
"We’re positioning ourselves in communities as we wrap around development after development," Seawell says of the company’s long-term strategy. "We want to be the provider when they decide to remodel. We’re going to be the ones in the homes because we’ve established rapport through the warranty service."
Seawell’s success has been widely reported (see Satisfaction Guaranteed or Home Finishes Redefines Custom Service for Builders ), so we wanted to know Seawell’s advice for other remodelers who were intriqued and perhaps curious about a similar venture.
"We hear more and more about builders doing this," Seawell says. Any remodeler interested, he says, has to be internet savvy. "I would be actively involved in developing a website that wasn’t just a static website with a bunch of text," he says. "I’d be investing resources, making it maintenance-oriented."
Seawell goes as far as to say that remodelers who are not online are out of touch with today’s--and tomorrow’s--marketplace.
The best target for a remodeler interested in the online community concept, Seawell says, is the communication provider, not the builder. "Who’s running the intranet, the builder or a communication company?" Seawell asks. "The builder’s there with the development, the communication company comes in with the plan.
"Target the provider of that intranet," he says. "Builders aren’t doing that, they’re just building sticks and bricks. There’s big money in the communication side, laying cable, etc., and I don’t think the builders can do it. They have to partner with the professionals in this realm. Builders are going to open the door, but it’s going to be [the communications companies’] deal."
In Seawell’s vision, the electronic communities will not be single, stand-alone builder developments. The intranets will be managed by a communication company who will link several communities. The remodeler who wants to become the online maintenance and renovation source should look at these companies in addition to searching out intranet-oriented new home builders.
Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodler. Please email him with any comments or questions regarding his column.