The Internet & Its Uses

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Much has been written of the Internet and its impact on the residential construction industry. There are a lot more predications than hard information, but a recent survey by NAHB gives one of the first statistical looks at how new home builders are us...

September 25, 2000
Heather McCune's Editorial Archives

Much has been written of the Internet and its impact on the residential construction industry. There are a lot more predications than hard information, but a recent survey by NAHB gives one of the first statistical looks at how new home builders are using the Internet. The most significant finding: while computers are common in the industry today, use of the Internet for business purposes isn't.

Ninety-six percent of builders have a personal computer in their firm and of that group 88% have Internet access. One out of two respondents report using the Internet daily and another 24 percent use it two or three times per week. The remainder are nearly evenly divided between once a week or once or twice a month.

Of the choices offered, the most common professional reason for using the Internet among builders is to find out about building materials and supplies. Interestingly, builders with fewer than 10 employees are the most likely to use the Internet for product research. The other options offered and percentage of builders who responded they access the Internet for this reason are:

Monitor investments online-43%

Obtain financial or economic data-42%

Look for construction-related services-35%

Purchase construction equipment/tools-18%

Other-16%

Purchase building materials/supplies-11%

Search for employeees/subcontractors-6%

    There is little variation in this list by size of firm. Builders with fewer than 10 employees, 10 to 24 employees, 25 to 49 employees or those with more than 50 all say they are using the Internet for the same information at similar frequencies.

    Surprisingly, what wasn't included on the list of professional uses of the Internet was e-mail. Broader studies of the business in general and the construction industry specifically have shown e-mail to be the single biggest use of the Internet by nearly two to one margins.

    A standard dial-up telephone line is the most common method of accessing the Internet in the residential industry today. This one area of the survey that showed some differences based on the size of the firm. Among builders with fewer than 10 employees, 88 percent used standard dial-up lines. This declined to 87 percent for companies with 10 to 24 workers, 78% for those organizations with 25 to 49 employees and 63% for the biggest firms with 50 or more employees. ISDN and DSL telephone lines are only other methods of Internet access to receive a double-digit response, though each lag far behind standard dial-up.

    Among the builder respondents, 29 percent have a company web site today and another 27 percent plan to launch their own web site within the next six months. The largest percentage, 44 percent, do not have a web site and have no plans to create one in the next six months. There are significant differences in the percentage of small, medium and large firms with their own web sites. Just 17% of the companies with 10 employees or less have their own web site, in contrast to 37 percent of the firms with 50 or more employees.

    Heather McCune is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Builder and Luxury Home Builder. Please email her with any comments or questions regarding her column.

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