In the market for a new home? Hoodle wants your clicks
CHAMPAIGN — If you want to build a new home but don't know precisely where, you may want to huddle with Hoodle.
Hoodle (rhymes with "noodle") is a new website that provides all kinds of information about subdivisions under development in the Champaign-Urbana area, as well as other parts of Illinois.
It can give you the price range of homes, the size of lots and homes, the proximity to parks and whether lakefront sites are available.
The database is the idea of Ron Williams, a former real estate agent who incorporated Hoodle in 2010.
Working with 2013 Illinois State University graduate Blake Porter, Williams launched the website last year and expanded from Champaign-Urbana to other areas of the state this year. He plans to open Hoodle to the rest of the U.S. in eight weeks.
Williams said that when he was in the real estate business, he specialized in new construction.
"Every time I had a buyer who wanted to build ... it took four or five days to collect all the information," he said. "I kept wondering, why is this so hard? If I can't find it, buyers aren't going to try."
Williams said his initial approach was to keep a notebook of neighborhoods under development, which lots were available and how they compared in size and price range.
"It was impossible to keep it updated," he said. "This needs to be on the Web."
Using Hoodle, you can search by categories such as price range for homes and lots, distance from a city and amenities, such as mature trees or walking paths. The website covers about 35 subdivisions in the Champaign-Urbana region and has information on 17 other regions in Illinois.
Williams said he has gotten good feedback and support from Realtors groups and home builders chapters throughout the state. He has also heard from people in Canada, India, China and Norway who came across the website and told him they too need a similar platform.
This spring, Matt Wavering, the former director of commercial brokerage for Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty, joined Hoodle as director of new market development. He moved to Texas to build the brand in the fast-growing areas of Dallas and Houston.
Depending on the year, anywhere from 6 percent to 15 percent of home buyers are looking for new construction, Williams said, so there's a lot of potential for Hoodle usage.
Plus, many businesses are interested in having a presence at the website — among them, home builders, land developers, cabinet and flooring suppliers, mortgage companies, real estate agents and home inspection services, he added.
Porter, the cofounder of Hoodle and its product development manager, said the site carries free listings that show basic information on price range, lot size and the school district in which a subdivision is located, as well as other data.
But the website expects to derive some of its revenue from "premium" listings that include photo and video galleries of the houses, floor plans and event calendars. A premium listing runs $125 a month, he said, with members of the National Association of Home Builders getting a 20 percent discount.
Builders and developers pay by the month and by the market, and Porter said the site has potential for other revenue streams, including data analytics, featured advertising and mobile apps.
Although Hoodle takes its name from the "hood" in "neighborhood," the brand is pronounced like "noodle," partly in hopes people will think of the search qualities of Google, Williams said.
Hoodle is hosting the webpage for the 2014 Showcase of Homes, to be held June 20-29 in the Prairie Meadows subdivision in Savoy. This year's Showcase, presented by the Home Builders Association of East Central Illinois, will feature homes from seven builders.
The Showcase homepage is: hoodle.net/champaign/showcase.
Hoodle took a bow in Chicago recently when it was one of several start-ups featured at a Tech Cocktail gathering downtown. Porter said Hoodle had the distinction of being the only featured company with a Web-based platform. Most of the others had mobile apps, he said.
A WHO'S WHO OF HOODLE
What it is: Website that helps people wanting to build homes to search for neighborhoods that fit their criteria
Co-founders: Ron Williams, former real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Devonshire Realty, and Blake Porter, 2013 graduate of Illinois State University in business management.
Other key staff includes: Matt Wavering, director of new market development, and Cynthia Rhinehart, content management and marketing specialist. A team of six Web developers has been working for Hoodle, and several interns recently came on board.
Address: 301 N. Neil St., Suite 400, C, on the fourth floor of M2 on Neil.