Enter “new homes” into a Google search and you’ll see a list of Web sites that range from newspapers that showcase new properties online, to individual builders’ sites, to sites specializing in new-home listings in the United Kingdom. You’ll also see Web sites that focus exclusively on new homes across a wide spectrum of U.S. locations.
Inman News conducted a search for new homes in Charlotte, N.C., to test a handful of new-homes Web sites. The visited sites include: Homebuilder.com, JustNewHomes.com, iNest.com, NewHomeGuide.com and NewHomes.com.
It’s difficult to compare the number of listings each site contained because each structured its searches differently. Some simply searched for all home types, from single-family to condos, while others enable users to specify which type, but did not allow a search for more than one type at a time. Others simply didn’t list how many results a search netted.
Homebuilder.com allows viewers to first search new homes or manufactured homes. You can then select your state and area within that state as well as specify a price range. A search for Charlotte with no price range specified returned 161 new communities.
While Inman News searched solely in Charlotte, some of the communities returned were in surrounding counties. The site doesn’t tell you that, however, and you’d have to know the area to be aware of it. After the search results are displayed, you can sort them by city so that those within a particular city, Charlotte proper, for example, are grouped together.
Once you click through to a particular community, you can see pictures of the different types of houses available in each community along with details of each, such as square footage, number of stories, minimum price and number of bedrooms and baths. Links to virtual tours are available on some of the houses. The descriptions also list a sampling of community amenities, such as pools and community centers.
Floor plans and elevation drawings are also available, along with estimated move-in dates. You can request free brochures, click through to the builder’s Web sites and save that community’s information for further reference.
Overall it’s a fairly easy site to use with lots of information about the houses and subdivisions. The Web pages are streamlined and don’t have a lot of ads cluttering them.
The JustNewHomes.com homepage is streamlined and easy-to-use. Not all states are available, but North Carolina was listed. After selecting the state, a map of regions within the state appeared, and that was further broken down into counties. While it’s nice to be able to see developments in counties near Charlotte, it would be frustrating if you didn’t know the name of the county where the city you wanted to search is located.
You can also search by entering a city name and asking for developments within a specified distance of that city. The site also gives the option of selecting different price ranges and types of homes.
After selecting all homes in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), the site requires consumers to register before going further. The site states real estate licensing laws do not allow the company to provide real estate information to the general public, only clients of the Web site. You can become a “client” easily enough by registering on the next page.
After registering, you are directed to a search results page that includes basic information such as price range. After clicking through this page, you’ll find price range, background on the builder, driving directions, pictures and links to other nearby new home communities.
INest.com boasts its featured builder program, which offers a 1 percent cash back coupon. The site overall is straightforward and easy to use. It offers many different ways of searching and provides helpful information along the way.
After selecting the state you’re interested in, you have the option of searching by a particular metropolitan area, city or county. A map at the bottom of the page points out the counties in each major metro area, a useful feature for those not familiar with that particular area.
You can also narrow your search by including other criteria, such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, types of housing, price range and particular builders. It’s also possible to do a search for communities within a certain distance from an address you enter, such as your work office. You can also search by homes that offer a quick move-in, though the site warns that information is constantly changing.
A search for new homes in the Charlotte metro area brought back 341 new-home communities. The ones listed first are all iNest-featured builders and it takes many, many clicks to get to builders who aren’t featured.
That aside, the information about each community is detailed and easy to read. It offers the price range, home type, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and links to the builder and community Web sites.
The site offers a brief description of the community, along with directions so that people can visit. At the bottom of the page is demographic information about the area, including sales tax and median age and income.
Details on models available and floor plans, elevations, etc., are only available by clicking through to the Web sites of the builders or the communities themselves.
The homepage of NewHomeGuide.com is easy enough to use and input information, though the various ads and links surrounding the search function tend to clutter up the site. The search functions are useful, enabling searches by various categories including state, city, type of home, price range and number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
A search will pull up a page that offers basic information about different communities. Not all communities have photos, but most have contact numbers, the builder name and the names of elementary, middle and high schools children in the area attend. The specific school names were a nice touch.
You can also e-mail the community, request a brochure with more information and even make an appointment to visit the community.
The top listing on each page changes with different pictures of the houses featured on that page. It’s a nice idea, but adds to the page feeling cluttered. It’s also somewhat confusing because it’s difficult to initially determine whether it’s a separate listing.
On the results page, you can easily modify your search using the tools on the left side. There are also links to home finance and moving and relocation information on that side, which might be useful, but also clutters up the page.
NewHomes.com‘s homepage features a color-coded map of the Untied States showing which states have model home tours “Currently Available,” “Available in 2004” and “Available in 2005.” Considering that we’re halfway through 2004, the 2004 category seems a bit outdated.
You can select the state you’re interested in by clicking on it or by choosing one of the links below that list the different states. A rail on the left side also features links to new homes in major cities. Overall, the home page was confusing with a lot of text listed on it. There are no additional search terms available, such as price range or house size.
A click on North Carolina led to another page where site users could choose different cities or metro areas. The metro Charlotte page included a long list of text on the left side that listed the model home, base price and numbers that correspond with number of bedrooms, bathrooms and size of garage. Users must scroll to the bottom of the page to find out the details of what those numbers mean.
The right side of the metro Charlotte page featured information about the city, including industry and climate. The city information is a nice touch, but the lack of information on the model homes was disappointing. There were no pictures or other information readily available on the first page, which made it difficult to determine which one you’d like to click on.
When you click on a model home, the site provides a picture of the home and basic information such as square footage and number of bedrooms. It also offers a link to the home’s floor plan, price and sometimes a sentence or two about the community.
It does not offer any clues as to where the development is located in the Charlotte area.
Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to email@example.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.