Five Better Building Practices

As the national housing market improves, it’s more important than ever for homebuilders to evaluate the way they do business. This will help them meet the increasing housing demand and remain competitive.

Update Plans

To fine-tune his or her business practice, a homebuilder must establish a schedule to update each product line. This schedule should include regularly scheduled meetings to re-evaluate the product and identify which areas need improvement. Be sure to adhere to the three C’s: communicate, collaborate and coordinate.

Bring in the designer, architect, sales counselors, purchasing director and head of construction. Because they come from all areas of the business, these key players bring unique perspectives that help homebuilders pinpoint and address problems more quickly and work together to develop more effective, long-term solutions.

Avoid the temptation to constantly review and change each product line, because this is inefficient. When grouped together, the full effect of each change cannot be analyzed adequately. Besides, how can one move forward when “forward” keeps changing direction?

Many homebuilders conduct a full evaluation of their product lines annually with a quarterly review of smaller details. However, each homebuilder is different and should schedule evaluation meetings accordingly.

Set Higher Standards

When a builder creates any home, that work is on display for decades. Higher quality design and construction usually produces a home with a better sale and resale value that is more likely to satisfy the customer and is a good reflection on the homebuilder itself.

Higher quality homes may take more time to construct, but in the long-term they can reduce maintenance costs, boost efficiency, increase profits and improve a homebuilder’s brand. To enhance quality, hire skilled craftsmen. Bricklayers, stonemasons, carpenters, cabinet makers and painters are critical to building well-made, beautiful homes on a consistent basis.

Create a template for the craftsmen to follow using the model home as the standard, so that each home retains that same level of quality. Otherwise, customers will not be satisfied with the end product. This affects customer loyalty, sales and branding, as well as productivity and profits, since customers often expect homebuilders to go back and redo anything that is not quality work, and rightfully so.

Train craftsmen with repetition and communicate clearly what is needed and expected. Treat them with respect and pay them well for their expertise – they are worth the investment.

Focus on the Customer

All product sales hinge on the needs, desires and expectations of the customer. To be more successful, homebuilders should go well beyond meeting the average standard and provide the absolute best level of customer service they can. This can be done in a variety of ways from small gestures to full customer relations programs, but the bottom line is to care about and focus on the customers’ needs. When the customers’ needs are met, the homebuilder’s needs – sales, profits, recommendations, repeat business, brand reputation, etc. – will take care of themselves.

To meet a customer’s needs, homebuilders must first understand them. Ask customers for feedback throughout the building process to fix small problems before they escalate. In conjunction with fixing problems, this process allows homebuilders to test new options and offer upgrades when needed. Sometimes this means a change in the configuration of the home itself, but more often these are finishing touches:  upgrades to the plumbing, electrical or HVAC systems, cabinetry, landscaping and painting.

Consider hiring a homebuyer experience coordinator to manage this process. Think of this person as the quarterback of the sales counselor team. Together, they lead customers from start to finish through what could otherwise be an extremely stressful experience. This team directs customers to financing and housing specialists who help them sell their old homes and close on the new one. The team also provides insight on whatever the customer may have questions about: local school districts, property value, neighborhood amenities, lawn maintenance and the closest grocery store.

In addition, the team should limit the number of decisions the customer has to make and involve them without overwhelming them. This is particularly important during a custom or semi-custom build, because choices can be endless.

Include Vendors and Trades

To determine which finishing products to offer, ask vendor partners for their feedback. Have them pick a few options that they feel are desired in the market, review them together and then create a new look using that data.

Vendors and trades can provide a wealth of information and expertise. Homebuilders should survey them periodically and ask for improvement suggestions and best practices. Listening to vendor and trade partners helps homebuilders improve processes and has the added benefit of strengthening their relationships.

Certify the Home

Before a house can be sold, the foundation, framing and electrical work have to be inspected and approved by local officials, but those inspections don’t cover everything. Consider hiring a third-party to do a “green features” certification of the home to ensure energy and utility efficiency.

When trades know their work is going to be inspected by a third-party, they are more organized and less likely to cut corners. They know what is expected of them and are motivated to do it right the first time.

John Egnatis is the co-founder of Grenadier Homes, which designs and builds semi-custom, custom, patio and town homes in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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