Builder Blog from Integrity Windows and Doors

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How to manage a dream home project

December 5th, 2014 by Berit Griffin
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The absolute pinnacle of residential building is bringing to life a dream house for a client. In this situation, clients have saved typically saved a considerable amount of money, cultivated a vision and created an ideal outcome. And while clients may have built new in the past, every process is completely new.
So, how do you set expectations and help realize a client’s dream home?
Communication, communication, communication. Oh, and some more communication.
Take this bit of advice from one building pro recently published on CustomBuilder.com by editor Mike Beirne:
Getting to the end of a project and staying in the client’s good graces requires lots of communication before ground breaking and throughout the process. [Glenn Carter, president of Advanced Building Consultants (ABC), Renton, Wash, says his company “overwhelms” the client with websites, links, descriptions, and meetings to explain what their house will look like and how it will get there (This fall, he’ll break ground on what will be a certified Passive House in Issaquah, Wash). Carter quips that he spends as much time emailing clients and vendors as he does on the jobsite. He actually prefers email to a phone call and got rid of his fax machine because he doesn’t use it anymore. Email is documentable, savable, searchable and, if the message is unclear, he can just make a phone call for clarification.
“They’re newbies. Even if they built a house before, it’s 2014, and we build homes differently today. It all needs to be explained to them,” he says. “So I spend an enormous amount of time explaining how things are going to be built, what they’re going to look like and, of course, we have to be ready for them to say, ‘I didn’t know it was going to look like that, I don’t like that.’ We have to offer, not at our cost, but at their cost, to make a change. And we will be ready to tell them how the change will affect performance, and how it will affect price and schedule.”
What tactics have you used in the past to ensure a dream-home project ran smoothly?


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Trick space to make small rooms appear larger

December 3rd, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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Ever heard a homeowner complain about a living room that’s too spacious? Neither have we.

Whereas homeowners with sprawling living rooms must labor to adequately furnish them, those stuck with a smaller living room must learn to trick the space. This goes beyond smaller furniture, light colors and creative use of mirrors. Here are some surefire tips from ApartmentTherapy.com, a site that’s well-versed in beautifying tight quarters:

 If you have room, pulling your furniture away from the wall can make conversational groupings seem cozier, and the room seem a lot more spacious.

Balance heavier pieces with lighter ones to keep a space from feeling too clunky. The lighter pieces in this room — the coffee and side tables — provide a nice counterpoint the sofa and dresser.

Keeping everything low (including the art) is a great trick to make a room look bigger.

Paired chairs don’t have to match — try mixing two pieces from a similar era with different shapes.

As a building professional, what kind of tricks do you recommend for making small rooms appear larger?



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Happy Thanksgiving from Integrity!

November 26th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

turkeys

Thanksgiving holds a special meaning for Integrity Windows and Doors from Marvin, and not only because we’re thankful for our many employees, partners and those who choose our products. It’s this time of year we like to talk about turkeys and sustainability.

You read that correctly — turkeys and sustainability.

The Marvin factory in Warroad, Minn., generates several truckloads of wood shavings each day. No surprise there, but here’s the fun part: Most of those shavings go to turkeys.

Shavings from Marvin’s wood processing operations are sold to turkey farmers because they’re dry, fluffy and perfect for turkey bedding. White and ponderosa pines in particular perform very well in the barns. One truckload of shavings can successfully bed 8,000 turkeys, from little poults to full-grown. Once the shavings are no longer useful as bedding they are incorporated into farm fields, where they provide an excellent source of nutrients for the soil. Putting wood shavings to good use is just one example of Marvin’s sustainable business practices, for the environment and our communities. We also burn waste sawdust and wood scraps to heat our Warroad plant.

Of course, we wish all of you a restful and indulgent Thanksgiving this year. Whether literally or figuratively, thank you for bringing Integrity and Marvin into your home.

Learn more about Marvin’s sustainability.



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The 2015 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas is just two months away. With record cold temperatures and biblical snow in some parts of the country, we thought a look forward to January’s big gathering might be good for morale!

Each year, the New American Home provides building professionals with a glimpse into the future by showcasing the latest products, technologies and design trends. The next edition is no exception, and it’s well on its way to being a showstopper!

According to BuilderOnline.com:

Under construction in the ritzy Sky Terrace development outside of Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., the four-bedroom, 5,891-square-foot desert contemporary is designed to exude a comfortable, clean aesthetic, says Tyler Jones, owner of Blue Heron, the Las Vegas–based design/build firm overseeing the project. The efficiently designed floor plan—one of the most compact in the show home’s 32-year history—makes use of every square foot, with a large, open kitchen that flows into the dining area, multiple seating and entertainment spaces, and a rooftop deck.

Check out this slideshow for a preview of the 2015 New American Home. Which feature are you most looking forward to seeing?



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New-home sizes shrinking to attract entry-level buyers

November 19th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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According to new data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, the median size of a single-family home built during Q3 2014 shrank 2.3% to 2,414 square feet from 2,472. The shift to relatively smaller homes means entry-level buyers may finally have options within their price range.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Median new-home sizes had been on a general upward swing since 2012 as builders focused on building increasingly larger, more expensive homes to cater to the better-heeled buyers with the income and credit to buy homes. Entry-level buyers, meanwhile, remained largely sidelined by tepid wage growth, mounting student debt and stringent mortgage-qualification standards.

“Now, early signs are emerging that entry-level buyers are coming back. National home builder D.R. Horton Inc. last week posted a 38% gain in sales orders for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, fueled partly by hefty gains from its new Express brand of homes priced at less than $200,000.”

While in the throes of the housing recession, many experts predicted buyers would seek more practical home sizes to avoid financial peril, including foreclosure or a home underwater. It may have taken a while to become reality — and for an entirely different set of reasons — but all signs point to the shrinking American home gaining serious ground in 2015.



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Consumers of all ages demand smart home tech

November 14th, 2014 by Berit Griffin
Smart technology isn’t just for millennials. In fact, according to a survey of 2,437 consumers conducted by ERA Real Estate and HGTV, smart home technology is the most in-demand home feature across all ages.
“While still a growing trend, smart home enhancements have the potential to increase savings, safety and re-sale value,” explained Charlie Young, president and CEO of ERA Real Estate. “As we have seen through this survey and our one-on-one interactions with buyers and sellers, a smart home is one that is well-positioned for the future and aligns with a growing reliance on mobile technology.”
To get a better understanding of what consumers are looking for in smart home tech, check out the infographic above. Seems like this once-thought trend is fast becoming an expectation.


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The cost of free estimates

November 12th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

remodeling

“Free estimate” sure has a nice ring to it.

From the client’s point of view, it means getting the diagnosis without necessarily committing the dollars. For a building professional, it means time out of your day, gas mileage, close inspection and application of one’s expertise. Free? For the the client, sure, but that’s rarely the case for building pros.

Take Joe Corlett, who explored the topic of free estimates with a personal experience published earlier this year on counteropiq.com. After a particularly bad experience, Corlett wrote:

“When I pay the internet lead service for your call, calculate the cost of the gasoline, truck wear and tear, other overhead, and the hour and a half I’ve spent on this, your “free estimate” cost me about $200. I can live with that; it’s a cost of doing business just like the $4,000 I spent getting my builders license, but what is really hard to swallow is my ruined morning.”

Of course, not all free estimates go awry. The practice can work, but it’s on building professionals to keep their conversion rate at a level they can tolerate.

Do you offer free estimates? What’s your reason for doing so? If you’ve stopped offering free estimates, what was the turning point?



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How roommates have hampered the housing recovery

November 7th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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Blaming roommates is a reflex for anyone who has ever cohabited.  But roommates could truly be to blame for their role in the housing recovery.

The logic goes that more Americans are relying on roommates to help cover mortgage and rent, and recent data suggests the trend may be responsible for up to five million households lost in the past decade.

The number of households comprised of adults living with someone other than a spouse or partner reached 32 percent in 2012, up from 26 percent in 2000, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data.

The trend has been partially fueled by steadily increasing rent, which is up 6.5% on average nationally over the 12 months ended in September according to Trulia.



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Hands Pointing at Blueprint

Are you really a salesperson if you email a proposal to your client rather than present it in person?

This was the topic of an outstanding and unplanned point/counterpoint on shawnmccadden.com, a blog focusing on building and designing. McCadden broached the topic with an initial post back in August, in which he wrote,

If as a contractor you take the time to go out and meeting with a prospect, then you simply email or snail mail your proposal to the prospect, I don’t think you are really a sales person.  If you do this I think you are an order taker.   Now there may be a few exceptions to this.  But, before you rationalize why your situation is an exception, ask yourself this question first.  Is your justification for emailing your proposals really a “reason” or, is it an “excuse”?

McCadden makes the point salespersons are just that — people — and the personal touch can make all the difference when addressing questions and concerns. Email may be more convenient, but the convenience is more often an excuse than a solid reason.

Then, in September, a fellow contractor by the name of Milt Rye responded to McCadden’s assertion emailing proposals is a poor practice. Rye wrote,

That said, I am afraid I can’t totally agree with your premise that a contractor who emails proposals is just an “order taker”.  I think the approach must be governed by many factors that are geared toward that particular customer’s needs and personality. A true salesperson, in my view, is someone who can relate best to their customer, instill confidence in them, and communicate in the manner and frequency in which their customer is most comfortable.

As with most practices in the industry, the best way will vary from job to job. But we’re curious: What’s your stance on emailing proposals? Is it a common practice for you, or do you insist on meeting with clients in person? Which method has been most successful?



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10 reasons why renters aren’t buying homes

October 31st, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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Homeownership has long been the cornerstone of “the American dream,” but a considerable swath of Americans have other plans. In a survey published on the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ Housing Perspectives blog, 20 percent of renters claim homeownership isn’t in their plans, immediate or future.

Why the hangup? It’s not lifestyle decision — it’s financial. More than half of those surveyed claimed inability to afford a mortgage and basic upkeep were major barriers. The top 10 reasons why renters were not planning to own a home go as follows:

  1. Cannot afford the purchase or upkeep of a home
  2. Not good enough credit for a mortgage
  3. Not a good time economically to buy a home
  4. Cheaper per month to rent than to buy
  5. Don’t want to be concerned with doing the upkeep
  6. Don’t plan to be in a certain area for an extended period of time
  7. Rather use the money for other investments than a home
  8. Process of buying a home seems too complicated
  9. Purchasing a home limits flexibility in future choices
  10. Can live in better neighborhood by renting

 

“These results suggest that about a third of renters, or 10 percent of all households, rent because of lifestyle and personal preferences,” writes Rachel Bogardus Drew, a post-doctoral fellow conducting the research for JCHS. “That their reasons appear to be largely idiosyncratic, rather than systematically related to their personal characteristics, further indicates that those who rent by choice do so in spite of strong social biases towards ownership that encourage the remaining 90 percent of households to view owning favorably. More than half of lifetime renters, however, see their tenure options as constrained, either by their own financial circumstances or by macroeconomic conditions.”



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