Happy Homeowners Graduate From Shea

The classroom is a construction site, the instructor is a former superintendent and the students are homebuyers.

By Susan Bady | October 31, 1999

The classroom is a construction site, the instructor is a former superintendent and the students are home buyers. It’s Shea University--a new program from Shea Homes San Diego that marks the builder’s latest effort to delight its customers.


Thieme gives a presentation on job-safety, the differences between production and custom housing, inspections and other topics.

Developed by Jess Thieme, customer communications manager, and members of Shea’s Strategic Planning Committee, "Shea U," which was launched in July, endeavors to build customer satisfaction through education and participation. Buyers who enroll in the program participate in two, two-hour group presentations at one of the homes under construction in their neighborhood. The first session is held prior to drywall and the second takes place at the finishing stage. The program is open to all buyers but strictly voluntary.

"We’ve had anywhere from 40% to 70% of [buyers] participate in each phase," says Thieme. The size of each group ranges from five to 15 people, depending on the number of homes sold in that particular phase. Thieme, whose former positions at Shea include assistant superintendent and options manager, sets up a training center in the garage, where he conducts an educational program before walking buyers through the house.


Jess Thieme, director for Shea University, walks buyers through a framed house, demonstrating such features as the tilt-out window.

"Not only is Shea U an opportunity to get to know future neighbors, but also to ask questions and discuss such concerns as safety, construction features, options, production and quality processes and home care and maintenance-all in a fun and informative setting with refreshments, drawings and prizes," he says.

For convenience, the sessions are scheduled from 4 to 6p.m. on weekdays and 10a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Buyers who can’t make the sessions for their phase can attend those for a future phase, or visit a sister community.

"Production housing is a lot different than custom housing," says Thieme. "We want to manage buyers’ expectations by helping them understand the way tasks are scheduled, and why they can’t make changes or upgrades at certain points in the process."

Thieme uses "The Forbidden Zone," an expression from the film "Planet Of The Apes," as an analogy for the housing business 10 years ago, when buyers weren’t allowed on construction sites. By encouraging customers to visit during the pre-drywall stage, he says, "Shea U builds up their confidence and their perception of the value of their new home."


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