Finding Your Way Home through Technology

MHMSM.com presents Factory Built Housing Industry News at Noon with Erin Patla.

Coming up – Finding Your Way Home through Technology

But first…these stories:

Arizona Startup Introduces $100-Per-Square-Foot ASUL Modular Housing Concept

Other construction options could push pricing as low as $25 per foot.

By Nigel F. Maynard, BuilderOnline.com

Architects, designers, and entrepreneurs who believe in the potential of modular housing to transform the home building industry continue to work on developing a viable model that’s affordable and good-looking, and now the latest iteration has arrived: ASUL, Adaptable System for Universal Living.

A Phoenix-based startup recently unveiled its ASUL modular housing system with the promise that homes will start at $100 per square foot. “It’s actually not a line of pre-designed homes,” says Tim Russell, founder and CEO of the company. “Instead, it’s a system allowing one to custom-design homes at a more affordable price point. In essence, it’s an entirely new paradigm in designing and constructing a home. As far as we know, it’s the first system of its kind.”

According to Russell, American consumers and design industry professionals are ready for a straightforward, modern prefab concept whose pricing is immediate and transparent. Each home is custom-designed via a collaborative design process between the client and ASUL architects, which means the final plan responds to the site and the region where the home is to be located.

“We believe the market wants customization, affordability, and predictability from a modern, prefab company,” Russell says. “Most companies offer static designs that are really expensive and built in a factory, which is hard for the stakeholders to accept.”

“We are able to hit these prices because we have created and engineered a system,” the company says. “The byproduct of any system is more affordability and predictability. An Adaptable System allows customization: Those are the three variables missing from every other pre-fab company and what we believe the market has been told was the promise of pre-fab.”

IN MARKET NEWS: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that pending home sales edged down with near-term sales expected to be notably lower in contrast to the spring surge when buyers rushed to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit. The organizations Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, declined 2.6 percent to 75.7 based on contracts signed in June from an upwardly revised level of 77.7 in May, and is 18.6 percent below June, 2009 when it was 93.0. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, said lower home sales are expected in the short term. The index fell in three of four regions compared to the prior month. Contracts rose 3.7 percent in the South, the country’s largest region, but dropped by 0.2 percent in the West, by 12.2 percent in the Northeast and by 9.5 percent in the Midwest.

How low can they go? Bankrate has been collecting mortgage rate data for nearly 25 years, and this is the lowest it has ever been. The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 3 points this week, to 4.71 percent, according to the Bankrate.com national survey of large lenders. Bankrate says one year ago, the mortgage index was 5.56 percent; four weeks ago, it was 4.75 percent. The previous record of 4.74 percent was set July 7 and again July 21.

The stock market took a breather on Tuesday following Monday’s big run up on disappointing earnings at Proctor and Gamble and Dow Chemical, plus negative news on consumer spending and incomes reminded investors of clouds still hanging over the economy. Manufactured home stocks performed better with the industry composite up more than three percent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 38, or 0.4 percent, to 10,636. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 5, or 0.5 percent, to 1,120.  The biggest movers were Nobility homes, which gained more than ten percent to close at $9.96 per share and Cavco, up more than four percent at $36.84 a share. Meritage Homes and Palm Harbor Homes both declined more than four percent.

Cavco announced the company will release earnings for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011 on Thursday, August 5 after the close of market. Senior Management will discuss the first quarter results in a live webcast the following day, Friday, August 6 at 12:00 noon Eastern Time. You can tune in on the internet at cavco.com.

Floor plan program attracts Auto, RV and Marine dealers,
Manufactured Housing Retail Flooring also available

As mentioned yesterday, a pilot floor plan financing program offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration is still available to the manufactured housing industry until September 30, 2010. Automobile dealers, along with marine and recreational vehicle businesses have already taken advantage of the program. Gain important information about what the program is, how to access it, and why this would be advantageous to your business as manufactured home retailers.

Grady Hedgespeth, director of financial assistance at the SBA, explains the program [insert audio clip]

Read the full story today at MHMSM.com/eric-miller/floor-plan

“Up next, Finding Your Way Home through Technology”

But first, this podcast of News at Noon is sponsored in part by: Tap into Excellence, your ONE-STOP Resource for the Manufactured Housing Industry, the Leader in Land Lease Communities information!

Tap into Excellence – on the Web at CommunityDASHinvestor.com or call 317-346-7156.

Finding Your Way Home through Technology

Residential builders are committed to the technology investment, despite tough economic conditions.

For residential builders today, one thing seems to be ringing clear—every step you take, every dollar you spend, all needs to result in saving the company either time or money.

Technology can be a great way to save money and improve processes.

The main crux of technology implementation today becomes finding how to do more with less and finding the right tools to supplement the current strategy in place.

The first step becomes looking at processes and identifying how they can be improved. Next is identifying the technology that can play an enabling role; and those applications being used by builders these days aren’t your conventional systems and solutions.

The Importance of Process

While new technologies can promise to save time by reducing the amount of administrative work in the back office or save money by providing more visibility into overhead numbers, one of the most important steps when implementing new technologies is supporting the process. Kathi Cruz of David Weekley Homes has been looking at building information modeling (BIM) in the past year with plans to truly evaluate these systems throughout the course of the next 12 months.

At its core, BIM is a change in process where project members can gather detailed data from intelligent models. While there are a number of enabling software packages that can help builders get a big-picture view of the project, as well as answer the detailed questions of design, documentation, and construction, builders need to recognize that a change in process needs to occur.

A number of other areas, from estimating to accounting, also need to be addressed. Solutions that can improve target processes, as well as address secondary areas are ideal.

Another primary area of focus is selling more homes. There has been a great focus in recent months on improving builder/client relationships through the use of technology.

Technology built for a homebuilding environment…. helps focus in on the items most important to the process including, automated management of leads, sales orders, and customer emails; analysis tools for customer feedback and marketing campaigns; and the ability to create custom reports.

The Next Big Technology

What new or emerging technology will have the greatest impact on the construction industry in the next five years? According to a (recent) survey, one of the biggest trends in the industry today is going mobile. Software providers in the construction space are creating mobile versions of their applications for builders in the field. Taking it a step further, providers are additionally creating apps that can run on Apple’s iPad and iPhone devices.

Also high on the list of hot/emerging technology … are social-networking technologies, which have garnered a lot of attention in the residential industry during in the past year. These technologies might be just the solution to help builders improve process efficiencies and sell more homes.

Another area is technology that has that ‘green appeal.’ Green homes have been the center of much of the news in the past year, with many builders working to make their homes more energy efficient.

The key to green, says the National Association of Home Builders, is to make sure the customer understands the value of green upgrades and how cost-effective a sustainable home can be for them in the long run.

How do you successfully position yourself in the down economy? While there is no easy answer, there are multiple avenues to explore. Without a doubt, technology continues to make a difference for builders in a numbers of areas.

The solutions aren’t always the most conventional, i.e., social networking and green technologies. But current economic conditions call for builders to think outside the box.

On behalf of Production and IT Manager Bob Stovall, Editor L.A. Tony Kovach, Associate Editor Catherine Frenzel, INdustry in Focus reporter Eric Miller, and the entire MHMSM.com writing and support team, this is Erin Patla. Gday!

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