Company's first release helps builders and buyers connect through Internet

Tech firm chases broader markets, goals

September 17, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

G1440 has been building for builders.

The Columbia-based Web engineering company, which makes custom applications for companies, launched its first commercial product last month.

The application, Builder 1440, helps homebuilders manage their internal processes and their processes with customers.

After agreements to link the application with a marketing company and a maker of software products for homebuilders were announced recently, Builder 1440 is poised for quick growth.

"I would think that it would be an alternative product for builders of a lot of different sizes," said John Kortecamp, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. "I've not heard of anything that blends these applications."

In the six weeks that Builder1440 has been on the market, six companies have bought it and a seventh builder - one of the top 10 in the country, G1440 officials said - is running a pilot program with it.

In the past few weeks, Mid-Atlantic home marketing and Builders 1st Choice sales company endorsed the application as their technology-based marketing tool for clients. Builder MT, a software applications-maker for homebuilders, agreed to incorporate the application into its product ProHome.

Bankers are interested in being added to the application so buyers can have an immediate link to mortgage financing, company President Larry Fiorino said. To him, it's an indication that G1440 is on the right track.

"We've invested a lot of money, the timing is right, and the market needs this product," he said. "We focus on providing services from the time you meet a prospect to the time the house is sold."

Builder1440 is a Web-based program that walks users through the homebuying process. It gathers sales and marketing information from prospective buyers; co- ordinates building instructions, special orders and prices; and keeps track of contracts and other documents.

If a potential buyer divulges a name and address when visiting a home, Builder1440 generates letters or e-mails and schedules dates for a sales agent to make follow-up calls, allowing builders to send direct-marketing materials to interested clients.

The program also collects an array of information for the buyer, such as what he or she can afford, the layout and design of the house, lot information, options chosen, and costs for the builder.

With that data, buyers can order a house and generate a contract almost as easily as shopping for a pair of slippers online. For builders, that means saving money and time by preventing costly building errors.

"It was able to deal with the complexities of a builder very well," said Todd Dagen, operations manager with Powers Homes of Owings Mills, a midsized company that builds about 100 homes a year. Powers will begin using the system within a few weeks.

"For a customer, seeing how nice it is to be able to do your contract right there, it's going to put us on the level of a larger builder," Dagen said.

G1440 has worked on Builder1440 during the past 18 months, and Fiorino said he expects it to break even by the first quarter of next year.

The service costs about $110 a month per "seat" or point of access.

"It seemed like the Web was perfect for providing a much greater level of service," Fiorino said.

Builder1440 is the first commercial product for the company that typically builds custom computer systems for many types of companies.

But Fiorino said the business community can expect more commercial developments from G1440.

"Our e-services [division] is growing and viable and profitable," he said. "This is only the first of many [products], and it will be successful."

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