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Technology's impact on how we work and what customers want

On April 13th we conducted an E-mail survey of our readers. We used 100 replies to tabulate the results. Of them, 58% were builders and 42% were renovators. The breakdown by province was: from Ontario - 42%, British Columbia - 27%, Alberta - 17%, Quebec - 7% and all others provinces - 7%.
Company size in terms of employees was as follows. For builders, 71% had fewer than 5 employees, 19% had from 6 to 15 employees and 10% had from 25 to over 100 employees. The average was at 8 employees. For renovators, 52% had fewer than 5 employees, 38% had from 6 to 15 employees and 9% had from 25 to over 100 employees. The average number of employees for renovators in the survey was 9.1.
More interestingly, as to business experience and longevity, 76% of the builders and 86% of the renovators have been in business from 11 to over 20 years.
Websites are becoming an important tool for the industry, with 72% of builders and 62% of renovators having one. Of those who don't have websites yet, about half are planning one for the near future.

Of builders responding, 50% said they build fewer than 5 homes per year, 13% build 6 to 10 homes, 20% build 11 to 30, 16% build 31 to 100 and one builder builds over 100 homes. The average for the 58 builders was 19.5 homes built last year.
For renovators, the average number of jobs last year was 43. We did not ask, however, the size of the jobs. Of the respondents, 44% did fewer than 10 jobs, 32% did between 11 and 30 jobs, 14% did between 31 and 100 jobs and 12% said they did more than 100 jobs last year.
When conducting an e-mail survey, obviously there is a lack of response from those who do not use email yet. But, if you are one who uses e-mail and fit the above profile, we hope these findings from your peers will be of use to you.

Extent of computer use and skills
With no surprise, e-mail and internet are used by almost everyone (96%), while staff use is only at 65%. Computers are used for management by 64% and for accounting by 60%. Computers are used by most to communicate with clients (78%) and for estimating (64%). Other uses are: buying products (57%), communicating with staff (57%), project management (54%), placing orders (41%) and selling (39%). See chart on top.
Readers rated the cell phone as the most useful high-tech tool followed by the desktop computer in the office, a digital camera and the good old calculator. Other tools of importance were: electronic levelling tools, notebook computers, PDA organizers, jobsite surveillance equipment, electronic measuring tapes, GPS and finally, pagers. Results were almost identical for builders and renovators. See chart on left.
The two most important tech items to customers were thermostats and security. Both builders and renovators agreed. Builders placed LAN wiring and the smart house wiring concepts next. For renovators, it was lighting systems and LAN wiring. While thermostats were the leading concern in most of the country, security ranked most important in British Columbia. See chart below.

Overall, after those 4 most important products to customers came: smart house wiring, home theatres, house audio, house video, intercom and intercom video.

Source: Home Builder Magazine Reader Survey, April 2006

Home Builder Magazine will continue to conduct timely surveys about issues of concern. If you'd like to participate, please register (click here) to be counted and to let us know what you think.

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