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VOL. 124 | NO. 118 | Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home Builders Association Launches Revamped Web Site

By Eric Smith

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The Memphis Area Home Builders Association has unveiled its latest initiative to combat the stagnant housing market.

Tennessee’s second-largest homebuilders trade organization last week launched a redesigned Web site, www.mahba.com, in hopes of helping member companies sell products as well as giving consumers a new tool in their home searches.

Stephen Hodgkins, MAHBA president and owner of Oaktree Homes LLC, said the new site lets homebuyers search specifically for new homes, something they can’t do when using the Multiple Listing Service, a home-finding method administered by the National Association of Realtors.

“The Realtors do a great job and they do a great service for us, but for someone who is looking for a new home in MLS, there’s no separation of new homes versus existing homes,” Hodgkins said. “If someone is looking for a new home with a warranty and with all the benefits of a new home or thinking about having one built, we thought this would be not a replacement but a supplement to the MLS.”

‘Equal footing’

The home search function falls under the tab “Your New Home,” giving browsers a chance to find a home by a number of different criteria, whether it’s number of bedrooms, amenities or location.

Whatever homes match will pop up on a map, and searchers can click a link to find out more details, including the builder’s name and contact information. Builders must pay $15 per home to list it on the site.

MAHBA executive director Don Glays said the search function is the most exciting feature of the new site, but it’s hardly the only one. Visitors can find everything from a builder to a remodeler to a plumber to an electrician.

Glays said the new site also has a tool that allows member builders to build a profile page and also their own three-page Web sites. For a nominal fee – $10 per year – the builder gets access to the site, which has its own unique address so visitors don’t need to surf to the MAHBA site first.

“It will give them an individual URL that they can put on their business cards so people can get to them, to their Web site, without coming to our Web site,” Glays said. “We really like the fact that our smaller members are going to be able to do a Web site for themselves.”

Hodgkins agreed that the new feature will provide a huge benefit to the association’s smaller builders.

“You have national companies and big companies that come in and have the money to spend for the search engines and all the things that are necessary to promote their Web sites and their products,” Hodgkins said. “(The new site) gives everybody an equal footing to compete.”

Housing and the economy

MAHBA’s new Web site was designed by Ultimate-Builder.com, a company that specializes in Web platforms for homebuilder associations. The company created a site based on a similar template for the Tulsa, Okla., association.

MAHBA is spending $35,000 for a marketing campaign to drive traffic to the site, including a host of banner ads on targeted Web sites. Glays said the association didn’t spend any money to develop and build the site. Instead, Ultimate-Builder.com handled that end and will retain a portion of the revenue from the banner ads and the listings at www.mahba.com.

Ultimate-Builder.com receives 60 percent of the revenue and MAHBA receives 40 percent, Glays said, which the organization will use for marketing the site.

This effort by the homebuilders to increase sales shouldn’t have the same hurdles as its last one. MAHBA in May created a program through its nonprofit arm to monetize the down payments for first-time homebuyers, but the federal government squashed the idea.

At a time when sales by homebuilders are down 72.7 percent and when starts are down 49.3 percent, the organization – which adopted the new motto “New Homes. Your Home. Our Commitment!” – continues to look for ways to drum up business.

MAHBA leaders said they hope the new Web site will help accomplish that goal.

“We’re trying to get our message out, and the message now is, ‘If we don’t fix housing, the rest of the economy is not going to be straightened out,’” Hodgkins said. “We have to let everyone know how many jobs have been lost in housing and how much housing means to the economy in general.”

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 72 368 16,413
MORTGAGES 66 422 21,432
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 15 76 4,266
BUILDING PERMITS 176 877 39,378
BANKRUPTCIES 60 294 15,542
BUSINESS LICENSES 20 98 5,491
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 69 423 23,573
MARRIAGE LICENSES 17 95 5,035

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