Housing industry executives have adopted a new mindset, one that increases demand for data and analysis.
Stakeholders are looking for insight beyond last year's sales, said Jonathan Smoke, senior VP-products and innovation at Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.
They have become more interested in understanding the underlying economic conditions that impact housing markets, he said, more interested in identifying trends and far more interested in the shopping habits of homebuyers.
The shift creates a dynamic environment for Smoke, who in February stepped into the newly created position in the research arm of media company Hanley Wood.
The industry veteran can now place the resources of the media giant behind topics he had been researching at BlueSmoke, a housing market research and consulting company he founded in 2006 and shuttered in February when he joined Hanley Wood.
He will be working to better integrate market intelligence products across the Hanley Wood portfolio of housing events and publications, while also helping to develop new offerings.
Smoke joined Hanley Wood as the company prepared to launch newhomelistings.com, a consumer Web site that went live last month, leveraging existing data to reach a market that Hanley Wood had not tapped before.
“People are waking up to the need to understand consumers,” he said.
The new site will do more than connect homebuyers with builders and provide marketing opportunities for product manufacturers, Smoke said. It will also allow the company to generate a new set of data in high demand.
“All of our clients are interested in understanding home buyer preferences better,” he said. “Over time we intend to leverage the platform to create richer, deeper and more current information about consumer trends.”
The site offers a broader set of new home listings than other services currently available online, he said. Content also will be syndicated to additional channels, including traditional aggregators like Vast and Oodle, as well as such lifestyle sites as golf.com.
The site's optional online surveys will give researchers the opportunity to sample some opinions of the more than 500,000 consumers searching for homes every month, Smoke said.
“If you can capture enough of that audience, you can get representative samples of those shoppers and their opinions; and you have information that can help builders and product manufacturers develop better insights into what consumers really want,” Smoke said.
In addition to the new site, Smoke will be looking for opportunities to improve data architecture and delivery.
This summer, the division will provide resources for new pages on the Web site of the company's flagship publication, Builder, giving users access to local housing market data, he said. “We think that's going to be step one of a lot of opportunities to make the most out of the intelligence content that we have.”
Smoke also plans to continue providing analysis and blogging about the industry. Hanley Wood has absorbed BlueSmoke and is interested in incorporating pieces of BlueSmoke research and its Housing Intelligence blog, he said.
“We're converting a lot of the reports and intellectual property that I was doing on my own into products that we can offer,” he said. “We haven't finalized the road map on how that fits into all the [Hanley Wood] sites and other products.”
In the meantime, Smoke has been contributing bits of insight through such existing Hanley Wood channels as bigbuilderonline.com. “I can't stay out of it,” he said. “I enjoy it too much.” M