Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Online Marketing and Prospect Follow-up Best Practices

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
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Just a quick announcement to let everyone know that the recording from our online marketing prospect follow-up session with Mike Lyon is available for viewing.

In this presentation, Mike does a great job talking about the changing habits of new home buyers and explains some practical approaches builders can follow to increase the number of new home sales.

To summarize, it’s all about:

  1. providing quick, personal follow-up for all online prospects
  2. ongoing periodic communication (e-mail, phone calls)
  3. bringing online prospects into the sales office

Fortunately, Constellation has sales and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to help with this.  We can bring prospect information from your website into your sales system automatically, provide website redesign services, and even help builders go live with a new website very quickly. For example, Kaplan Companies and Stylecraft Builders have used our services to create some amazing websites that are optimized for search engine results.

We would like to thank Mike for conducting the webinar. He speaks with authority about the conversion rates a builder can expect and best practices that can be implemented to boost sales from internet leads. He is also the author of Browsers to Buyers:Proven Strategies for Selling New Homes Online, the home building industry’s authoritative guide on internet marketing, lead generation and leads management.

To learn more about Mike and how he can help your organization, you can visit www.doyouconvert.com.

Direct link: Online Marketing and Prospect Follow-up Best Practices

The Facts about HST

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
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With the HST announcement by the Ontario government in March the great unknown was how this would affect our clients?

I have attended the various seminars and workshops put on by the OHBA and BILD hoping to get definite answers to all my questions as to how the HST will be applicable to Homebuilders.  At these sessions there have had experts from both the private and public sectors.

I did get some information but all the rules have not been defined by Canada Revenue Agency or the Ontario Finance department.

Things You Should Know about HST – HST will be implemented on July 1, 2010

According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance the HST will be revenue neutral.  It will reduce the amount of tax paid by Ontario businesses.  That prior to the announcement there was a 2% o 3% RST (Retail Sales Tax) component already factored into the Home Sales price.

To take the Ontario New Housing Rebate the house must be the Primary residence.  The same rules and conditions as the GST rebate.  If the sale is “grand- parented” then there is no Ontario New Housing Rebate.  The Ontario New Housing Rebate can be claimed by the Home Buyer or can be assigned to the Builder.

For the HST rebate calculation the existing GST rebate remains unchanged.  For the Provincial portion of the HST the rebate will apply to the first $400,000 of the purchase price.

With the “Grand-parented” sale the Home Buyer does not pay the HST only GST.  But the Builder is able to claim the Input Tax Credits on all costs paid after July 1, 2010 related to the house construction.  The Builder will pay 2% of the selling price times a factor based on percentage of completion on July 1, 2010.

One of the changes with the HST implementation that the Builder must be aware of is Disclosure.  What I mean by this is that the Builder must disclose if the Agreement of Purchase and Sale was signed between July 19, 2009 and June 30, 2009, whether the 8% Provincial component of the HST applies and if the purchase price is net of the New Housing Rebate.  If this disclosure is not made then the Purchase Price is deemed to include the 8% Provincial component of the HST.

A builder is considered a large business (annual sales above $10 million) then the PST component for the Energy (i.e. Gas, Electrical), Telecommunications (excludes internet services), Vehicles and  Food, Beverage & Entertainment  will be restricted from applying for the Input Tax Credit on the PST portion only.

Ontario – New Harmonized Sales Tax

Friday, August 21st, 2009
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Have you ever asked a question and wish you had not?  That happened to me last week.  I asked one of our senior managers (a CA) “What do you know about GST/HST and the pending harmonization?”  His response — “It’s Complicated!”

Being an inquisitive type I started to do some research and — wow — was he right.  This new mandate for Ontario (and maybe some additional provinces) is going to have a significant and profound impact on our industry so I thought I would share some of what I have learned with you. 

First of all, it is a most interesting name – Harmonized Sales Tax – sounds pleasant… right?  Not exactly, based on what I could find out it brings harmony because in order to implement HST a builder is thrown into chaos bordering on pandemonium.  It is difficult to fathom how a builder, remodeler, or renovator can manage all of the requirements and continue to run their business.  For this reason, Constellation HomeBuilder Systems is making changes in our NEWSTAR Enterprise production and accounting system, to help the builder deal with the new tax rules and we’ll be ready when the rules come into effect.

Let’s cover a couple of the basics.  When? The new law goes into effect July 1, 2010, less than a year away.  Who is impacted?  All companies including builders, remodelers, and renovators are subject to the new regulations.  To further confuse you, some of the exemptions you had in the PST regulations no longer apply.  Not confused yet?  Well then, they will add some new exemptions for you to understand and keep track of.

You need to be planning for and understanding how you are going to comply with these new regulations.  One piece I read had some reassuring news… “The province acknowledges businesses will have to change their accounting systems”. 

With past regulatory changes Ontario builders have been able to rely on internal resources to address them.  This one is going to be a little tougher.  The transition rules for projects already under contract or under construction are likely to be more complex and require more information from your production system.  As an organization you can train your staff to learn the intimate details, or you can rely on your software partner to build these rules into their systems.  Constellation has a proven track record for doing this with Tarion requirements, GST calculations, payroll taxes, and other regulatory requirements in Canada and the United States.

HST is complex and I can show you how I came to this conclusion.  I “googled” HST and on the first page of search results I found some good information.  Here are a few of the links I found worthwhile.

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/menu-eng.html
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/cnstrctn/menu-eng.html
http://www.canadabusiness.ca/gol/bsa/site.nsf/en/su07017.html#a1

The reason I say complex… The first link I gave you above has no less that 17 additional links to find more information.    Are you equipped to deal with this?  To make matters worse these taxes add to the purchase price of your houses and construction projects.  So how are you going to do this?

It is time to rely on your software partner.  Let them (us) do the heavy lifting and make the changes to your accounting and production system.  It is your software company that should be responsible for these changes.  Constellation has been very involved with the local home building associations and we will continue to be involved to ensure that our systems will include the functionality our customers need. We have already made the necessary changes for GST/PST and TARION and as a Canadian company we have a better understanding of these changes than any other software provider.  So if you are managing these statutory changes outside your core software, it is time to make a change.  If you are sitting on the fence delaying a software purchase now is the time to decide.

It is not all bad news.  There could be a small buying frenzy created because of the new taxes.  A buyer will see savings should they purchase and close before Canada Day next year.  Leverage that information and create a sense of urgency in your buyers.  Show buyers how delaying their purchase will cost them more money.  If you have inventory homes or lots waiting for new homes your sales team can take advantage of this knowledge.  Sell a few more homes and ease the transition.  Now that is what I call harmony!

Constellation Web Solutions – A New Opportunity for Home Builders

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
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Recently, Constellation HomeBuilder Systems announced the asset purchase of The Enterprise from move.com and we wanted to take a minute to introduce this offering to home builders and especially our current Constellation customers.  The following is a Q&A summary of the acquisition and our plans for helping home builders better manage their websites.

How can Constellation Web Solutions help make the most of my marketing dollar?

As we come out of the downturn, the methods and means we use to communicate will change and in many cases change dramatically. We will all need to be able to do more with less and the best way to accomplish this is by leveraging the power of the internet.  This was a diving force in our decision to add Constellation Web Solutions to the family of products at Constellation HomeBuilder Systems. We can help you extend your financial, construction, scheduling, sales office, marketing automation and other software offerings from Constellation to the web and your homebuyers through a customized web site from Constellation Web Solutions.

Utilizing homebuilder industry specific services from Constellation Web Solutions can reduce the costs of your online marketing presence. Traditional outreach sources (newspapers, billboards, mailers, and flyers) are more expensive and less effective today than in the past.  Builders and realtor agents will need to jump to the head of the line and use the power of applications developed specifically to market to the “new” buyers.

It can be difficult to market to the needs of a broad group or demographic.  How do you leverage technology to provide what buyers are looking for?

The days of generic information are over!  The prospects and buyers of homes have become used to technology providing them with the information they want in the way the want it.  The builder can not afford to lag behind in providing prospects and buyers the exact information they want.  This means the builder’s web presence will need to have intelligence to go from general to specific information and Constellation Web Solutions is here to help the builder accomplish this complex task.  The ultimate in specificity allows the prospect/buyer to select models and assess build options for their home from the website.  Our interactive floor plans change the drawings the prospect sees based on the specific options selected from the website.  Imagine the competitive advantage the builder has when the buyer compares their home built their way with the help of the builder’s website to other properties.

Mobile web sites provide immediate, location independent access to interested buyers on the iPhone, Blackberry and other handheld devices. We are living in a time when we all expect “information now” that is being driven by the latest in communication technology.  The builder must be prepared to again, communicate with the buyer/prospect using the method preferred by the buyer.  The adoption rate of texting and using handheld devices (apps) to transmit and gather information is staggering.  Any builder that is not conveying information or preparing to convey information on mobile devices is at risk.  The builders that adopt the technology the buyers use and expect, will recover from the downturn faster and more profitable than those that stick to “conventional” technologies.  Constellation Web Solutions has a proven track record in leading builders to the newer technology.

Talking/Texting/SMS yard-signs provide information when you are away from your models and sales office. This is all part of information now.  We live in a 24/7 era where buyers and even browsers see something and want more information.  The beauty of using an application that communicates (texting or talking) is that you are providing instant access to your information.  The greatest benefit is that you are identifying who is asking for the information and you immediately have a way to follow-up with them.  This completely changes the approach you can take in your sales operation while at the same time being responsive to the needs and wants of the buyer.  I would hate to face talking houses of competitors if mine just sat there.

How will my Company, communities, models and plans get the most on-line exposure?

By syndicating your new home web content to new home destination websites such as Move.com, Zillow.com or Trulia.com or your local newspaper web site as well as integrating your information with social networking avenues, blogs, and new media such as YouTube.com.  The old adage in real estate is location, location, location.  It is equally important when it comes to getting your message out.  Let us help you get your message out to these new sources.

How do I begin working with Constellation Web Solutions?

Builders interested in our web sites and related products should call our sales team at (888) 723-2222, or send a quick e-mail to sales@constellationhb.com.

We are your technology in the homebuilding business.  We know the industry and we know technology, can you afford not to work with us?

About Constellation Home Builder Systems

As the largest home building software company in the industry, Constellation HomeBuilder Systems has helped more than 2,100 builders manage their information technology costs with integrated software solutions to run their business from dirt to warranty. From planning to homeowner services, we have land development software, new home sales and marketing software, production, purchasing, scheduling, accounting, warranty, electronic homeowner manuals, vendor portal solutions, and invoice workflow solutions designed exclusively for the home building industry. Constellation’s product suite includes Constellation CRM (CFT), FAST, NEWSTAR, BuildSoft, Builder 360, and Constellation Web Solutions.

Media Inquiries

Cathy Kotsopoulos
ckotsopoulos@constellationhb.com

Constellation FOCUS Dashboard Video Overview – Now Available

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
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The Constellation FOCUS Dashboard video overview is now available in the NEWSTAR client care center.

This recording summarizes recent enhancements in Constellation FOCUS and it is available anytime for Constellation customers.

Constellation FOCUS is business intelligence tool that helps home builders analyze data, distribute reports, and view business information graphically in the form of charts and graphs.

It’s easy to view. Simply login to the client care center at www.constellationhelpdesk.com, click on the NEWSTAR link at the top, and the event will be listed on the left in the NEWSTAR Video Library.

This session is recommended for General Managers, Sales Managers, Purchasing Staff, and Construction Managers.

To request a user account, or if you need to reset your password, click here.

NEWSTAR Enterprise 9.2.4 Service Release Overview – Now Available

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
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 The NEWSTAR Enterprise 9.2.4 video overview is now available in the NEWSTAR client care center.

This recording covers major enhancements in the latest NEWSTAR Enterprise service release and it is available anytime for Constellation customers.

It’s easy to view. Simply login to the client care center at www.constellationhelpdesk.com, click on the NEWSTAR link at the top, and the event will be listed on the left in the NEWSTAR Video Library.

This session is recommended for Sales Managers, Purchasing Staff, Construction Managers, and Warranty Coordinators.

To request a user account, or if you need to reset your password, click here.

E-mail versus Snail Mail Communication: Best Response Rates

Friday, June 5th, 2009
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UspsletterI am frequently asked about the effectiveness of e-mail/on-line media versus printed United States Postal Service (USPS) letters for communicating important information or for soliciting a response.

While I am not claiming to be an expert in print to draw out all the comparisons, one advantage of e-mail is that it gets past the “gate keeper” who opens, sorts and prioritizes mail, in contrast to e-mail which will often get to the actual intended recipient.  In the same home you could also have multiple recipients recieving the same e-mail message directly to their desktop.

EmailreadingwomanSeveral recent research studies have describe that higher response rates were achieved among certain audiences when using of e-mail/on-line versus paper surveys.  Although customer survey responses are not a perfect analogy for determining the most effective mode for customer interaction; the studies do show a significantly higher response rate for e-mail vs. USPS when recipients are already “on-line” and have been conditioned to use e-mail as the primary means of communication with a particular vendor or service provider.

Certainly more and more home buying customers fall into this “on-line” category….but the most effective way to get a high response rate from this kind of audience is to use a combination of media…e-mail/on-line, phone and perhaps a post card or two.

Here are some helpful blog links on the subject:

E-mail versus snail mail: which ever is better for you

E-mail vs. Snail Mail: Creative Criticism

Marketing – Snail Mail versus E-mail, MoneyBlog

Direct Marketing News, Views and Opinions: E-mail

Managing your Company Out of the Downturn – Shinn Consulting and Constellation HomeBuilder Systems

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008
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In conjunction with Shinn Consulting, we are pleased to invite you to our two-day seminar on Wednesday, November 5th and Thursday, November 6th at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa in Vail, Colorado.

In this seminar, you will learn proven techniques to increase your operational efficiency and get the most from your information management systems.

In addition, Constellation HomeBuilder Systems will hold a 1/2 day workshop on November 7th to provide prescriptive techniques to get the most out of your existing software investment.

Managing your Company Out of the Downturn Seminar and Workshop Agenda

Constellation HomeBuilder Systems – Coping with Financial Distress Audio Podcast

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
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The audio podcast for the Coping with Financial Distress online panel discussion has been posted.

In case you missed it previously, this session included a candid discussion about how home builders can work with bankers, lawyers, and restructuring specialists to ensure they make informed business and personal decisions.

Please feel free to post comments and questions after you view the event and we’ll get the panelists to respond.

You can listen the audio-only recording or view the complete session at the following link.

http://www.constellationhb.com/landing/chsbmitcoping.php

If you have any questions about home building software, please don’t hesitate to contact Constellation Home Builder Systems.

Constellation Virtual Online Showroom

Friday, August 15th, 2008
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Constellation Online Virtual Showroom is a web-based lead generation tool that helps educate your website visitors with interactive images of your homes.

Your potential homebuyers can see how your models and rooms look with different colors and finishes.

For more information and a demo, visit the Constellation Virtual Online Showroom.

 Here is my favourite picture.  What does your home look like?