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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, 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


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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Will smart home technology go mainstream in 2015?

October 29th, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Will 2015 be the year smart home technology finally goes mainstream? All signs point to yes, according to GigaOM senior writer Stacy Higginbotham:

“The future of the connected home is continuing to evolve, and with more startups pitching products, the ship date of older crowdfunding campaigns hitting customer homes and big name companies warming to the space, I’m starting to see a few trends come together for 2015.”

In other words, now is the perfect time to get sharp on the most promising of smart home technologies, which can offer improved home safety, security and remote control. Higginbotham shares fives predictions in this must-read piece from GigaOM, but here are two that have us particularly interested. You should mention them to any prospective clients planning to build soon.

Bluetooth makes lighting a snap: At long last, products are coming on the market that will let you use Bluetooth to control light bulbs, outlets and more. These products are using mesh networking to make installing a connected light switch as easy as sticking a new plate to the wall using double-sided tape. Products from Avi-on (which is building bluetooth switches for GE’s Jasco brand), Oort, and Seed will change the way we use lighting in the home and at work. Even Peep, a company showing off a camera that snaps a picture when someone knocks on your door is looking at using Bluetooth as a faster way to get an image to people inside the home, since using Wi-Fi means it would go from the connected camera to the cloud and then to people’s phones.”

You won’t need a home hub to automate your house: This year’s hot device, the home hub that combines a bunch of radios with a software platform to let people control multiple connected devices is going away. Even SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson is ready to build software that is independent of the company’s hub, although he admits it may take some time and won’t include all the devices out there. I also saw a startup, showing off an Android-based controller called the Reach app that lets people pause videos, play songs over their Sonos and control a few other devices like Hue lights. The app is in alpha right now, but I’m eager to see it once it hits beta.

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Housing Starts

A lukewarm end of the summer for new home construction was offset by a much better September, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

For the third month this year, housing starts rose above the million-mark nationwide for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.017 million units — a 6.3 percent increase from the month before.

“These numbers show starts returning to levels we saw earlier this summer, where they hovered around one million units,” NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del., said in a press release. “We are hopeful this pattern of modest growth will continue as we close out the year.”

Single-family housing accounted for 646,000 units in September while multifamily production increased by 16.7 percent to 371,000 units. Regionally, the Northeast, Midwest and West registered overall permit increases of 12.3 percent, 8.2 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. The South posted a 4.7 percent loss.

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Strict lending practices, cost of materials and labor shortages have caused constant headaches for building professionals, but one of the greatest burdens hampering the housing recovery is a bit more academic.

According to a new study from John Burns Consulting, student debt among 20-to-40-year-olds will cost the housing industry $83 billion this year. We repeat — $83 billion in 2014.

We’ll give you a moment to bring your pulse down.

USA Today laid out the methodology used by the consulting firm to arrive at that mind-boggling number:

“How did the adviser arrive at $83 billion? Well, we start with the 5.9 million households under the age of 40 that are paying at least $250 in student loan debt, nearly triple the 2.2 million leveraged college grads in the same predicament back in 2005. We then get to the assumption that $250 earmarked for student loan debt every month reduces the buying power of a potential home buyer by $44,000. That’s bad, and it’s naturally worse depending on how much more than $250 a month some of these indebted students have taken on to pay back. That’s less money they can commit to a mortgage. John Burns Consulting offers up that most households paying at least $750 a month in student loan have priced themselves out of the housing market entirely.”

Does this making the housing industry a nemesis of higher education? Hardly.

“The housing industry would be better off if colleges were cheaper or if student debt levels were lower, but the same can be said about purchasing power in general,” writes Rick Munarriz of The Motley Fool. “At the end of the day, debt-saddled or not, the housing industry needs its college graduates.”

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Landscaping offers instant ROI

October 15th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

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When new-home construction budgets are tight and sacrifices must be made, landscaping all too often gets neglected. That might be a mistake according to a new study from Virginia Tech. Landscaping offers much more than curb appeal — it can significantly improve a home’s value.

Researcher Alex X. Niemiera with the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech found excellent home landscaping can boost a home’s value by 10-12 percent on average. Design sophistication, plant size and diversity of plants were the most important factors by which excellence is judged.

“Survey results showed that relatively large landscape expenditures significantly increase perceived home value and will result in a higher selling price than homes with a minimal landscape,” Niemiera writes in the paper. “Design sophistication and plant size were the landscape factors that most affected value. The resulting increase in ‘curb appeal’ of the property may also help differentiate a home in a subdivision where house styles are similar and thereby attract potential buyers into a home. This advantage is especially important in a competitive housing market.”

Translation: Encourage clients to reconsider before putting professional landscaping on the chopping block.

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Lessons every building professional should learn

October 10th, 2014 by Berit Griffin

Any building professional who claims to know everything there is to know is simply lying. Truth is, this is a crazy, ever-evolving industry, and if one’s eyes and ears aren’t open to the many lessons to be learned on the job, the game may pass them by.

While no one knows everything, everyone knows something. Professional Builder recently polled its readers on the most important lessons they’ve learned over the course of their career. Here are some of the highlights:

“Don’t get emotionally attached to what you build—instead be emotionally attached to the experience your customer has.”

“Remember, there’s always another deal. Buy land smart. Margin comes first.”

“Everyone in the organization, from the guy on the shovel to the president is a sales manager. Do they all understand that the customer provides their pay?”

“Adopt the mantra, ‘Help, don’t sell.’ We don’t sell homes; we help people improve their lives by investing in a home. It has become part of our culture to motivate all of our team to do the right things at every level. Do that and the results come.”

“Expect what you don’t inspect. Stay involved in all aspects of the business or don’t be surprised when what you stopped paying attention to becomes a problem.”

“Even with the best strategy (and I worked for a builder famous for great strategy), a mediocre or bad culture always holds back top performers. Culture trumps strategy all day long.”

What’s the best lesson you have learned while working in the home industry? To see more of these fantastic little nuggets, be sure to check out the full story on

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Condominium market inches toward recovery

October 8th, 2014 by Berit Griffin


The recession was particularly brutal to condominiums, but new data suggests the sector may be catching up with the rest of the housing industry on the long, winding path to recovery.

According to data from CoreLogic, in June 2013, 22 of the 25 top condo markets in the U.S. reported rises in sales compared to prior years. In June 2014, 14 of those same markets were still showing increases year-over-year.

The 20-to-24-year-old demographic is particularly important to the condo market and its rebound.

“This specific age cohort might currently be driving today’s rental market, but they will likely be driving the first-time home buyer and condo markets over the next five to 10 years, driving demand for newly built condos,” CoreLogic Deputy Chief Economist Sam Khater. “That demand is heavily needed in the market now, given that newly built condos were hit harder in the last housing downturn than newly constructed homes overall.”

Denver is currently the hottest condo market in the country, where levels are up 16.9 percent year-over-year, followed by Houston (15.5 percent) and Naples (10.8 percent). Meanwhile, Las Vegas has lost 16.5 percent since last year.


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contest 2


Bryan Jones of Jones Pierce Architecture (Atlanta, Ga.) was named a winner in the 2014 Red Diamond Achiever Award program for Lake Arrowhead Residence, a gorgeous modern home set among Georgia’s charming natural beauty. Integrity windows were used throughout the project to let in the neighboring views while dark exterior colors were used to make the home blend amidst its breathtaking surroundings.

According to Jones’ contest entry,

This home in Waleska, Georgia feels like a tree house with building projections hanging in space high over the steep lot below. The use of large fixed windows makes the interior spaces feel as if they are part of the outside, and puts the focus on the view. We used a language of materials on the exterior with different finishes on the foundation, house body, and the room projections, and wanted the windows to stand out while fitting into the natural setting. The warm, dark bronze clad color chosen fit into the surrounding wooded setting, while at the same time provided a clean modern look similar to metal windows without looking excessively commercial.

Congratulations, Bryan!

To see more of Lake Arrowhead Residence along with the rest of the 2014 Red Diamond Achiever Award winners, visit

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Mobile marketing is critical to generating leads

October 1st, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Builder, remodeler, architect, designer…mobile marketer?

No matter how you identify yourself professionally, the ability to market your trade via mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) is paramount. But what exactly does mobile marketing mean?

Does your business have a website? Great. In all likelihood, it was built to be experienced by users operating a desktop or laptop computer. And until a few years ago, a great website was efficient. Consider, though, that in 2014, a considerable amount of consumers rely on mobile devices as their primary device. Instead of plopping down at a desk or firing up a laptop, they’re browsing with their iPhones and iPads. This matters.

Back to your website. How does it look on a smartphone or tablet? If it appears as a micro-version of what one might see on a desktop or laptop computer, that’s not good enough. In fact, you might be losing leads because your mobile experience is so dismal.

So, what to do? has two suggestions:

1. Build a separate mobile site. “One option for creating a mobile optimized site is to create a separate mobile website. This was common a few years ago. The idea is that you build a site that has different content, different menu structure and looks much more simplistic. When someone visits your website ( from a mobile device, they are automatically re-directed to your mobile site (usually something like”

2. Build a response site. “Responsive design means that you have one website, one set of pages and they all dynamically adjust sizing and layout based on the device someone is on.”

So, what now? Pull up your website on a mobile device. You might have some work to do.

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