A Three-Builder Approach

Ruiz Homes figured out what quality means to them. Read on to see how they implemented it.
By By Paul Cardis, Avid Ratings Co. | October 31, 2007
Ruiz Homes
Winning Strategies

A quality home is often the result of workers who take pride in a job well done. Getting employees to adopt high standards for their work, however, is easier said than done. Ruiz Homes, which builds houses along the Texas/Mexico border, has figured out a way that ensures quality workmanship along with a delightful home buying process, earning it a 2007 Avid Award for Best Customer Experience, 100—499 closings.

Painters Miguel Bravo and Jose Bravo do touchups for Ruiz Homes' customer service.
At the heart of Ruiz Homes' success is a three-builder system by which each company builder essentially "buys" a home from the previous builder. Here's how this innovative model works:

The structural builder oversees the house through the drywall stage and "sells" it to the finishing builder, who then completes the home, including floor coverings, trim and paint. The finishing builder then "sells" the home to the warranty builder, who also will not take ownership if there are any problems with the home. Although no one technically "buys" the home except for the home buyer, the concept of accepting the home at these three levels is quite powerful.

At each stage, the home goes through close inspection because the new builder is also buying any problems that remain with the home. In the end, the warranty builder is the one who delivers the home to the home buyer.

Some might argue that this is just a game of semantics — that other builders have just as much quality assurance by performing a pre-drywall walk-through and a pre-orientation inspection. However, Ruiz employees have increased accountability using their approach. When Ruiz employees take ownership of a home, it becomes the sole responsibility of one manager who must get it accepted by another manager before the buyer ever sees the house. Quality of workmanship is elevated at each level, hence delivering a very well-built home.

Saul Macias shows homeowners Fay and Hector Elizondo how to program their thermostat.
Topic Difference in Score Above Industry Average
Landscaping and Grading 17.9
Costs of Upgrades Reasonable 16.9
Quality of Walls 11.1
Quality of Workmanship 10.6
Recommend to a Friend 9.9


Ruiz Homes

Best Customer Experience 100-499 Closings

Headquarters: Laredo, Texas

Chief Executives: Jesus J. Ruiz, president; Eduardo Ruiz, vice president of sales; Mercedes Navarro, vice president of operations; and Jaime Garcia, builder manager

Number of Employees: 26

Product: Single-family detached

Average Square Footage: 1,400

Average Price: $139,600

2006 Closings: 212

2006 Revenue: $30 million

Avid Index: 277 points (out of 300)

Home Buyers Willing to Recommend: 97.2%

Home Buyers Making Actual Referrals: 93.3% (25.7% making 6 or more)

Winning Strategies

  • Personalize the experience. Ruiz Homes has two designers with different specialties, so the company matches home buyers to a specific designer based on the style and materials that appeal to each customer. For example, one designer is especially good with tile work, so she is assigned to home buyers who are thinking about custom tile designs in their home.
  • If you are a family business, use it as an advantage. At Ruiz Homes, a half dozen key employees are family members, including the two designers. By emphasizing family connections, the company appeals to customers who are drawn to the warmth and sincerity that is harder to achieve in a more corporate operation.
  • Haul out the top brass. Ruiz Homes always has one of the top executives at each closing, which makes home buyers feel special and instills a sense of customer caring that can't be achieved any other way.
  • Help with lending. Ruiz Homes caters to a lot of first-time home buyers, many who are confused by the whole process — especially the financing piece. The builder, which has its own mortgage division, offers a lot of education to first-time home buyers to help them qualify for the most affordable financing available. The company handles 70 percent of its customers' loans, but rather than profit from these loans, the company aims to offer clients a more affordable mortgage.

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