PB March 2006

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Features

It only takes a moment for a hurricane or tornado to peel the roof off a house. And once the roof is incapacitated, the house is a sitting duck for further damage, if not total destruction. Your best defense: fasten the roof securely to the house and include multiple layers of moisture protection.

The D.R. Hortons, Centexes and Toll Brothers of the builder universe have advertising budgets several times the total revenue of many small builders. So how can the little guys get heard in the marketplace when big money talks — loudly? In terms of budgets, sometimes it's not what you have, but how you use it.

One of the components often overlooked in a builder's model, yet one that is vital to its success, is pre-planning a lighting design.

NAHB reported a record breaking 105,000 housing professionals gathered in Orlando, Fla., for the 2006 International Builders' Show. Professional Builder and its sister publication Professional Remodeler had a cadre of reporters on the exhibit floor and at education sessions, press conferences and other special events to find out what's new and useful for builders.

Customer service is the cornerstone upon which successful businesses are built — including those in the home building industry. Exemplary service, however, isn't always enough to ward off the bane of many businesses, commonly known as customers from hell.

Vision Homes, Sarasota, Fla., teamed up with the Home Builders Association of Sarasota County to built its futuristic "Tech House," which has been certified by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) to educate the public on the benefits of green building to ones health and overall lifestyle.

In November 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission approved 22 closures, recommended realignment for seven and left five bases open. What does this mean for builders? Those 22 closed bases will eventually appear on the market for sale. In a time of decreasing availability of developable real estate, bases closings can provide some of the largest expanses of undeveloped and valuable land in the country.

These days, there are many more job opportunities in home building than quality candidates. The best ones are being courted and wooed on an almost daily basis. What keeps employees attracted and loyal to their company?

With the coastal counties of California approaching build out, there's been increased growth in the Inland Empire. Located east of Los Angeles and known for its dairy farms, orange groves and vineyards, the Inland Empire has become the place to go for a large, move-up home. Lake Elsinore-based Castle & Cooke took a different approach.

Pardee Homes gets a lot of mileage marketing its environmental and energy conservation image to home buyers in Southern California and Nevada. Now, the company will get even better mileage as it replaces leased vehicles with hybrid gas-electric cars. As leases come due on company cars, Pardee will phase in 10 Ford Escape Hybrids as its couriers' leases expire.

Much news has been made in recent years of mold and other toxic substances getting into homes and making residents sick. As a result, home builders need to be keenly aware of how the construction process can affect the indoor air quality in the homes they build. If builders use good construction techniques, pay attention to detail and plan ahead, they are more likely to build homes where the air is healthy, safe and comfortable for its inhabitants.

Experts consider housing affordability a primary driver of housing demand. If a buyer's income rises and mortgage rates and/or house prices decline, chances are homes are going to sell like hotcakes...right? Maybe not. The National Association of Realtors' Housing Affordability Index estimates the percentage of a house that a household earning median income can afford.

Larry Conley, Director of Purchasing for Anastasi Development Co. tells us what products he won't build without.

For many home builders, wood framing is standard protocol when framing a house. It's durable, it's easily available and it has history in the residential building industry. Enter steel framing. Although used in construction for more than 50 years, steel framing is new to many sectors and regions in the residential construction market.

Fifteen years after Hurricane Andrew, the temporary FEMA trailers that were put in place are still being used for housing. No matter how we strive, no matter how much we tear down and replace, no matter how we Americans fall passionately in love with the new and updated, we still end up with a built environment pockmarked by ugly temporary housing.

It's always challenging for a production builder to swap longtime house plans for new, untried ones. In Denver, competing in a market dominated by national, public builders, Village Homes of Colorado was ready to change with the times, and keep on changing.

To hear architect Andrés Duany of Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk tell it, Coastal Mississippi is about to enter a reconstruction renaissance. At the same time, he says, New Orleans has been hamstrung by indecision and conflict. "Every time they make a final plan in New Orleans, they retreat," Duany says.

Touchpoints, commonly defined as any direct employee interface with the customer, have become the latest topic for builders who have grabbed a seat at the customer delight cafe.

BASF has constructed a new Better Homes, Better Planet: Near Zero Energy home in Paterson, N.J., that not only utilizes energy efficient and sustainable building practices, but also incorporates elements of universal design — features that make a home functional for its inhabitants regardless of age, physical mobility or other individual concerns.

Builders need to serve two masters: their customers and their financial needs. Most people in the industry agree that too much effort goes into selling options, and too many builders give them away for prices below what the market will bear. Builders can make money on upgrades, though. But it takes a good understanding of how to control the selection of options.

All customers want a good value when purchasing a home. Yet some customers are overly fixated with negotiating a price. It is not unusual for these customers spend more time working on a special deal than in choosing the floor plan or homesite. How do you deal with a customer who wants to over-negotiate price? Is it possible keep control of the process and still keep control of the process and still keep a positive attitude with your customer?

Builders can obtain demographics and other economic data from various government and private sources. However, some builders have their own ideas for getting a better read of their marketplace. In addition to tracking real estate deals to uncover emerging trends, builders in some markets have shown the local Multiple Listing Service can be a powerful tool for demand analysis.

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