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3 Pillar Blog

Blog Category - Newsletter

What Is Customer Satisfaction?

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: May 6, 2015

Research shows that good processes are key to a great building experience.

The best builders know which experiences homeowners find most frustrating, and they work tirelessly to avoid them.

Industry studies show that homeowners’ biggest complaints are about their builder’s processes, especially around scheduling, budget, work habits and customer service. Smart builders use data from these studies to help them understand what their customers consider important. And smart home-buyers can glean lessons from them on how to evaluate a builder.

One interesting point is that few custom home-buyers complain about quality. By the time they have chosen a builder, they take quality for granted—because that’s what they focused on during the selection process. They vetted their builder by looking at past projects or project photos, reviewing testimonials, and perhaps talking with past customers about their new homes.

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Looking at finished work is crucial, but if the homeowners want to know how they will likely feel during and after the project, they need to ask questions about the builder’s process. The best pros deliver a finished home by the date expected and for the amount agreed on. They show up on time for meetings and communicate about changes. They keep a clean, organized job-site — a sign of safe and efficient work practices. And they stand behind their work long after the job is done.

Such builders stand out from the crowd, as was documented in a 2013 study by Woodland, O’Brien & Scott, a consulting firm that tracks home-buyer attitudes nationwide. The company surveyed 12,000 new-home buyers on their builders and their builders’ processes. The most cited complaints were:

-Homes that weren’t finished on schedule.
-Finished homes that weren’t as clean or complete as the customers expected.
-Poor follow-up by the builder’s staff on incomplete items.
-Poor communications regarding the schedule during the project.
-A big factor behind these problems, say the authors, was that as housing recovered from the downturn many builders couldn’t find enough qualified staff to keep up with the increased workload.

Skilled labor is in short supply. A lot of highly skilled workers left the industry during the housing slump, and those who stayed tended to look for work with established, professionally managed building companies. These companies’ ability to attract the best talent has helped them largely avoid the customer issues uncovered by the survey.

The survey also found that builders with the happiest customers were the most proactive communicators. It found that home-buyers are often forgiving about delays if the builder’s staff keeps them up-to-date about the schedule and the anticipated completion date. They rightly see good communication as a sign that the builder cares about them.

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A custom home is a complex project with a lot of potential ups and downs. Customers should evaluate builders by making sure they have processes in place that will make the ride an enjoyable one.

To learn more about the build process, subscribe to our 3 Pillar Newsletter!

 


 

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio.  For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035.  You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659

Friday’s FAQ | Markups

Categories: Build Process, Design, Newsletter | Posted: April 24, 2015

Q: What is the difference between markup and profit margin?

A: Markup is what a builder adds to the price of a given item, such as an appliance or lumber order, to cover his overhead costs and achieve a reasonable profit margin on the project. The profit margin is what he actually makes on that item after he pays his overhead, such as office space, cell phone bill, vehicles and labor.

Is the Least Expensive the Best Investment?

Categories: Build Process, Design, Newsletter | Posted: April 22, 2015

Choosing a builder based on the lowest cost per square foot or the lowest sales price may not get a buyer the best value. When it comes to your family’s future, the least expensive option may not be the best way to go.

Common sense tells us that there is a premium to be paid for a superior home. By that we mean a home that has more exacting standards, performs well over time, maintains its value as an investment and is built by a builder who stands by his work. Let’s take a closer look at these higher initial costs and why we believe it is worth paying a reasonable premium for such a home.

Better Materials. Professional builders who build to a high level of quality have higher standards for the materials that go into their homes. They cull lumber piles for the straightest studs and send the warped and knotted ones back to the lumberyard. They inspect and confirm deliveries, protect materials from weather, seek out the best warranties and track problems to weed out poor-performing materials.

Home Materials

When a company insists on that level of quality and provides that level of attention and care, one would expect to pay a bit more. Like cut-rate houses, substandard materials can deliver substandard results that often cost more to repair or replace than the premium you might pay upfront for a higher-quality option.

Better Construction. Builders who specify and only accept better-quality products do so to achieve a higher level of overall construction quality and long-term durability. They make sure products and materials are installed properly by the most competent subcontractors and adhere to performance standards that are far beyond what the local building code requires.

Why? Because professional builders know that their reputation is on the line with every home they deliver. When homeowners begin to see evidence of poor workmanship, it doesn’t take long for them to spread the word about how poorly the builder (and the house) performed. This is too high a price to pay for any company who is in business for the long-term and understands the value of a satisfied client.

As with better materials and products, a better-built home may (and should) cost more upfront, but cost less over time. As we’ve seen repeatedly over the years, it requires less repair, replacement and maintenance in the long run.

A Better Experience. Is it possible to put a price tag on peace of mind? Consider the value of a hassle-free new-home project. Less stress, no hurt feelings, no horror stories, no busted budgets, no lawsuits. What is it worth to have your new home built on schedule, for the agreed cost, with a builder who is there to answer your questions from groundbreaking through move-in and beyond?

Home Closing

And what do you get? A house that meets your expectations, that is solidly built, with superior fit and finish. It’s livable, comfortable, and meets your lifestyle needs. In other words, a “home.” Your home.

 


 

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio.  For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035.  You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Friday FAQ | Siding

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: April 17, 2015

Q: What’s the paper-like wrapping I see on new homes before the exterior siding goes on?

Woodford Siding

A: It is increasingly common for quality-conscious builders to add an extra layer of weather protection around the outside of the house. Called an air barrier or “house-wrap,” this layer is installed as a continuous material just behind the siding, stucco, or brick finish. The house-wrap provides a barrier blocking the exchange of air through the structure, thus reducing heating and cooling costs. House-wrap also blocks moisture from getting into the walls where it can damage the insulation and framing.

 


 

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio.  For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035.  You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Managing Chance

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: April 8, 2015

Building a new home is a dynamic and exciting process. As professional home builders, our goal is to make the process smooth and transparent for our clients. Once the job is underway, things happen quickly, so we work with clients to make decisions well ahead of time to help ensure they get their new home on schedule and on budget, as promised.

Most of the big design decisions are made before the first scoop of dirt is moved, but that is rarely the end of the decision-making process. Once construction is underway, owners often think of a few things they’d like to change. Adjustments may range from adding a room to a change in kitchen cabinets, choosing different flooring in the bathroom, or just adding an extra light switch or two.

We document such requests, called “change orders,” to make sure that all parties have a clear understanding of the scope and cost of the change. It is important for the homeowner to understand how change orders affect the building process. When homeowner and builder communicate well, the impact of change orders on the construction schedule and budget can be minimized.

A change order made after construction begins always has a cost. The cost may be the time and labor to make the change or it may be the price of additional materials or products required—sometimes both.

In addition, the timing of a change order affects the cost. Changes late in the building process typically cost more than earlier ones. Some changes may be cost-prohibitive, such as altering the foundation or adding a basement once we’ve started building a home’s structural frame.

We respect our clients’ desires to get exactly the house they want. And we know that some finishes (or even floor plans) may be hard to visualize until they’re actually installed or built. From long experience, we know that changes will happen and, consequently, we aim to be systematic about managing change orders. Our process ensures good communication and provides assurances between everyone involved. It also helps us stick to the schedule and minimize additional costs.

The change order process: The most effective change order processes follow a general pattern that creates a paper trail and provides reliable cost information up front, including:

  • Centralization. Change order requests are managed by one person to help ensure effective communication between everyone involved. This includes specialty trade contractors, suppliers, our job site managers, and, of course, our clients. We discourage homeowners from making special requests directly to a trade contractor, as this is a quick route to misunderstandings and disrupted schedules.
  • Documentation. Client requests are transferred to an electronic or paper-based change order form that initiates a paper trail and helps ensure greater accuracy and clearer communication.
  • Terms. We anticipate the types of changes our clients may make. We have a good idea of the cost and time most changes require. As a result, we can often communicate the terms quickly so that homeowners can make an informed decision in plenty of time to make the change or decide against it.
  • Confirmation. It’s important to everyone involved that no change occurs without a client signature. Clients must approve the cost and terms, as well as the style, finish, or other details about the change. This also ensures that clients are made aware of how the change may affect their move-in date or other aspects of the construction schedule.
  • Inspection. We may ask clients to visit the new home’s job site when the change is being made to make sure they are satisfied and don’t have any questions.
  • Payment. Costs for change orders may be billed separately, usually as soon as the change has been made and the work is completed to a client’s satisfaction. Sometimes we ask for a percentage of the cost or full payment up front before making a change, depending on the type of request.

By following this simple but thorough change order process, our clients can be sure that any changes they consider—whether minor or substantial—will be handled in a timely fashion without confusion, miscommunication, or unnecessary cost.

 

To learn more about the build process, subscribe to our 3 Pillar Newsletter!

 


 

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio.  For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035.  You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659

Friday’s FAQ | Safety

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: March 20, 2015

Q: What’s the most common job site safety hazard?

A: In residential construction, the most common hazards relate to falls, namely from roofs or areas that are more than six feet above the ground. OSHA reports that scaffolding, fall prevention, and ladders are among its top 5 most-frequently cited violations. They recently tightened standards to further mitigate those hazards.

 


 

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio.  For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035.  You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659

Keeping Projects on Track

Categories: Build Process, Design, Newsletter | Posted: March 4, 2015

Failure to make timely decisions is the number one culprit behind schedule and cost overruns. Homeowners play a key role in preventing these problems.

Some homeowners find it a challenge to make their final selection of products and materials. It’s easy to see why—with practically limitless choices in countertops, fixtures, tiles, windows, and other products, it can be difficult to settle on one model, style, or color.

Countertops Jerome Village

But decisions must be made at some point, and making those decisions in a timely manner is crucial to keeping the project on schedule and on budget. Indecision and delay can cause costs to rise dramatically.

Professional builders always include enough time in the schedule for homeowners to sort through these choices, but they also set firm deadlines for when each choice must be made. Those deadlines are based on how long it takes to obtain each item, and whether other work depends on the decision.

Take the example of windows and doors, where frame openings have to be sized to fit each particular model. If the homeowner chooses the windows after the framing is underway, that could mean going back and reframing openings. The same goes for decisions about plumbing fixture locations that would require the moving of pipes.

Foyer Tartan West

What about items that don’t affect infrastructure like framing or plumbing? The answer is that late selections anywhere can cause problems. Custom-made products like shower surrounds, cabinets, and counter-tops can have long lead times, so late selections can easily push the job past its original finish date. The same goes for decisions on flooring, paint colors, and landscaping.

The problem with extending the finish date is that time is money—every day the builder’s crew is on the job, expenses are adding up for labor and overhead (for example, items like the job-site office, the perimeter fence, the power pole, and so on).

During those extra weeks and months, homeowners run the risk of paying the costs for two separate homes: the expense for the home that’s being built, as well as the mortgage payment for their current residence.

Savvy homeowners reduce this risk by working closely with the design team, made up of the architect, interior designer, and landscape architect. Selection problems are minimized when the homeowners and designers work closely together. The design team helps the homeowners to narrow the choices in models, styles, and color, and guides them to selections they will be happy with.

The most effective thing homeowners can do to ensure a smooth project is to work with the builder and design team to make as many decisions as possible before work starts. Early selections eliminate a lot of stress and expense. The process of building a home requires a lot of decisions, and savvy homeowners help keep the project on track by meeting decision deadlines.

 

To see more articles like this, sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter here!

Friday’s FAQ | Windows

Categories: Design, Maintaining Home, Newsletter | Posted: February 20, 2015

This week’s Friday FAQ is related to the livability of a home.

Wall of Windows

Q: What is an “insulated” window?

A: Newer windows are often referred to as “insulated” because of technology that retards, blocks, or slows the transfer of air through the unit. Most people are familiar with fiberglass or other types of insulation material in a wall cavity. In a window, the “insulation” is a combination of several factors. Most common are windows with at least two panes of glass enclosing a ‘dead’ airspace between them. The airspace may also be sealed to contain a clear, odorless gas (commonly argon), which is heavier than air and thus an even more effective insulator. Better yet, one or both inside surfaces of the glass can be permanently laminated with a clear coating that further retards thermal transfer and protects the home interior against solar heat gain and damaging ultraviolet rays.

Study Windows

Capturing Natural Light

Categories: Design, Newsletter | Posted: February 18, 2015

Walk into most new homes and you’ll notice a big difference from many older homes: an abundance of natural light. In older homes, poor thermal performance forced builders to scale down the size of windows and glass doors.

Today’s builders, however, are able to maximize the capture of natural light by taking advantage of advanced technologies and materials, a wider range of sizes and styles, and a number of new products and creative applications.

For clients who prefer a modern look, glass walls can be used to maximize natural light. For those preferring traditional housing design, professional builders usually work within historic housing forms to increase interior natural light. Window manufacturers have helped this effort by providing a wide variety of products to match traditional house styles.

Wall of Windows

For example, a roof window (or series of these units) over the center of the kitchen can bring in a tremendous amount of natural light without having an adverse impact on a traditional façade. This is especially true if that room is on the back or side of the house and thus out of view from the street. Unlike skylights, roof windows can open to vent stagnant or hot air and odors. They have a flat design, only slightly raised above the roof finish, which further reduces any intrusive appearance.

For smaller interior rooms, such as a water closet, walk-in shower, or storage area, traditional approaches to bringing in natural light are almost impossible, or at least impractical. Tubular skylights offer a solution. From a small, unobtrusive opening in the roof, light enters a tube lined with mirrors and reflective material that magnify available light into the room below. These small devices pour large quantities of light into tight spaces, making them feel more spacious and comfortable.

Fixed or operable transom windows may also be used to bring natural light into interior rooms. Set above passage doors to bedrooms and bathrooms or even in interior walls, transom windows can carry natural light from rooms on the outside perimeter into otherwise dark, inner spaces.

JV Model Stairs

A kitchen backsplash can be used creatively to increase natural light. Glass block or fixed panes of glass may be installed in the space between the countertop and the wall cabinets. Light is brought onto the work surface without sacrificing kitchen cabinets for a large window expanse.

When homeowners prefer traditional architectural styles, experienced home builders will assist homeowners with design and product solutions, made easier with the wide array of technologically advanced windows now available. With new products to choose from and some creative design work, home owners are able to enjoy both their home style of choice and the aesthetic and cost-saving benefits of natural light.

 

To learn more about this and other helpful hint, sign up for our newsletter here!

The Hidden Build Process

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: February 4, 2015

Understanding the construction process will help owners manage their expectations and emotions.

Here’s a quick quiz…

It’s four or five months into a new custom build. The home is weather tight, plumbing and wiring have been roughed in, the insulation is in place, and drywall has been screwed to the walls and ceilings. The drywallers are sanding the seams in preparation for that first, shiny coat of paint. How do most homeowners feel?

The question illustrates a crucial issue. There are two things going on at each stage of a project: the actual construction and the homeowners’ perception and evolving feelings about it. Fortunately, most people react in predictable ways at predictable times, so an experienced builder will understand how to help their clients through the inevitable ups and downs. If the homeowners know what to expect, the emotional ride becomes easier and more enjoyable.

As construction begins, homeowners are typically very excited—and why shouldn’t they be? Preconstruction ups and downs involving plans, specs, and product choices are behind them. Their dream home is about to take shape!

Emotions tend to remain high as workers and machines dig the hole, form and pour the foundation, build the rough frame, and install windows, doors, siding, and roofing. How long this takes depends on the home but with some exceptions, such as weather delays, things moves fast with obvious progress nearly every day. Excitement and anticipation build as the home they have been imagining for years is finally rising from the ground!

Pinnacle Club

That visible progress slows dramatically during the next phase of construction.

Once the shell is complete, the electricians, plumbers, and heating technicians descend on the house to rough in their systems. This is when a homeowner’s emotions can be tested. This phase of the project is inherently time-consuming. Plus, it can be drawn out by complex scheduling requirements of different subcontractors. Progress seems to come to a halt and excitement can quickly morph into anxiety. Will the home be done on time? What’s taking so long?

At this point, it helps to remember the importance of good lighting, plumbing, and heating to a home’s livability. Investing the time to do them right will pay off big later on.

We understand how challenging this phase of the project is for homeowners. This is the time when, as professional builders, we step up communication about the progress that is being made behind the scenes. We find that educated homeowners can better manage their emotions through the whole process, but especially as we get ready to move into the home stretch.

The last phase includes installation of trim, flooring, cabinets, and fixtures. Here, excitement begins to rise again as the finish line pulls into sight. By the time the keys are handed over, emotions will be at a point nearly equal to where they were at groundbreaking.

Model at Jerome Village

How best to navigate this emotional journey? How does one enjoy the highs and take the dips in stride? Awareness about the process goes a long way. Study the schedule and know what is going to happen and when. Think of the project as a story, and the schedule as the plot outline. A good builder will work with the homeowners to fill that outline with details that will help make the project a great experience and ensure a happy ending.

 

To learn more about the custom-build process, sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter here!