After two years of collecting and compiling data on the Spokane and Kootenai county housing markets, New Home Trends Inc., a Bothell, Wash.-based research and consulting company, has launched an online database of residential home development information here.
New Home Trends tracks a variety of data on residential building projects, from details of initial plat applications through the sale of the houses, apartments, and condominiums in new developments, and stores the information in an online database, which its customers access through a Web site subscription.
We give the information to professionals to make better decisions in the marketplacewhere to build, when to build, and what to build, says Todd Britsch, the companys president.
In addition to Spokane, New Home Trends offers its online database and a monthly e-mail report service in Seattle, Portland, and Boise. It employs 31 people altogether, with two full-time staff members based in Spokane. In the last three years, the companys revenue has more than doubled, to $2.4 million from $900,000, Britsch says.
The minimum subscription contract for access to the online database is one year, Britsch says. After that, customers can continue on a month-to-month basis, he says. The subscription price ranges from $100 to $475 a month, depending on what type of information the customer wants to access, says Asher Ernst, the companys account executive for Spokane and Kootenai counties.
The company has sold five subscriptions so far in the Spokane area since its January launch, including one to Spokane-based Washington Trust Bank, Britsch says. He says subscriptions in a market area usually cover the companys costs between six months and a year after it launches a database. In New Home Trends other markets, its subscribers include lending institutions such as San-Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank and builders such as Fort Worth, Texas-based D.R. Horton Inc., he says. Its customers also include school districts and title companies, he says.
Ernst says he sees a potential for neighboring cities to use the data to work better on urban growth issues such as water use.
Britsch says the layout of the information on the Web site and in monthly e-mail reports is organized to be user-friendly.
They will want to know how many developments are selling, what is the median price point, what is the average price point, and how much inventory do they have, in lots and homes? he says. All that information is available within 30 seconds on the Web site.
Other points of interest to customers include the best-selling floor plans and home styles, quarterly sales trends, trend projections for lot sizes based on proposed projects, and the average length of time it takes for plat approval, he says.
Where weve just come out of a huge growing pattern, this is probably one of the most critical times that the builders, land developers, and lending institutions need to really understand whats happening, even by zip code, price point, make and model, and square footage. Its absolutely critical you know what the competitors doing, Britsch says.
Though the Spokane-Kootenai county database is new, New Home Trends is no stranger to this area, Britsch says. He says the company has been offering consulting services to clients here for some time, providing services such as market research, feasibility studies, and land-use planning. It counts Flagstone Development Group Inc.s Liberty Lake master plan among its largest consulting projects, he says.
Britsch says if there is demand for the companys services in the region beyond Spokane and Kootenai counties, it might add additional adjacent counties to its coverage area. He says it also might add a staff member here to do consulting. That work currently is handled by the staff at the companys Bothell headquarters.
Ernst, who also serves as the companys liaison to city and county offices, and its full-time Spokane data collector, Nicole Hilton, collect information on plat applications from the two counties and every municipal jurisdiction within them, going in person to county and city offices to review planning files.
Information the company gathers includes details such as how large each new proposed development is, whether its multiphase construction, the number and sizes of lots, zoning, parcel numbers, the actual file number of the application, the names of the property owner and applicant, information on the engineering company thats handling the plat, and any available environmental information, Ernst says. The company tracks such information for developments as small as five lots or five units, he says.
Once developments are approved, Hilton physically visits each development site once a month to track lot and home sales and to collect data such as floor plans, listing and sales prices, and amenities.
Shell drive the entire project looking for sold signs on lots or sold homes, talk with the site agent, get list price changes, sales prices, and date of sale, determine if new homes are under construction, and if so (note) what model and what lot it is being sold on, Britsch says.
Ernst and Hilton send all of the information to the Bothell office for data entry, and it is added to a database that clients can access anytime with a private user name and password. Activity on plat applications is updated monthly, and clients receive a monthly report, Ernst says.
We track every house being built on every lot in every formal subdivision, Britsch says.
Britsch says the companys clients in the geographical areas where it has established a presence include people and companies involved in all aspects of residential real estate, from lenders and developers to real estate agents and title companies.
Lending institutions can get a snapshot of a builder, including the builders average price per square foot, how long the builder takes to sell its homes, and what its inventory is, Britsch says.
Everyone has a general grasp on whats happening in the market, but its hard to get specific information, like which amenities each home is including at your competitors development, Ernst says.
New Home Trends organizes the data in a variety of tables, including one that shows the average cost of homes in a particular area compared with their sizes. Called a square foot regression chart, such a tool helps people to understand what other builders are doing, Ernst says.
It might be they are planning to build 1,200-square-foot houses for $160,000, but by looking at whats selling nearby, they might find out if they increase from 1,200 square feet to 1,300 square feet they could charge $180,000 and increase their bottom line by $10,000 per house, Ernst says.
He says the information also highlights what sizes or types of housing might not be available yet in an area.
We help people understand where there are gaps in the market, he says.
The company was founded by Britschs mother, Suzanne Britsch, who started the companys parent, a consulting company named Real Vision Research Inc., in Bothell in 1986 after leaving a job as a construction sales and marketing vice president. Britsch says that by age 18, he was running around gathering data for the consulting reports her company produced for developers.
In 1995, one of her employees said, You should store this data. We started putting database and analytical tools online for builders, lenders, Realtors, and even schools, which led to the creation of New Home Trends by his mother and father, Mike Britsch, Todd Britsch says. The two companies later were merged and now operate under the name New Home Trends Inc., he says.
Depending on what happens in Spokane, the company might expand to Salt Lake City and northern California, he says.
Expansion into Utah and additional Idaho markets might depend on the passage of laws in those states that would make home sales prices public, he says. Those plans are speculative for now, he says.
I think were going to wait and see how Spokane does, Britsch says.
Contact Jeanne Gustafson at (509) 344-1264 or via
e-mail at email@example.com.
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