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I wrote my first article on the coming trade shortages last October about the perils and politics of immigration policy. I wrote the second one in December providing a 10-step immunization plan to protect a builder from the effects of trade shortages. I receive so much mail, pro and con, that for February I published two of the best letters and commented on them.
Michelle Jennings Wiebe is helping to spread the message that new homes are better than resales. Wiebe, president and principal designer of Studio M, an interior design firm in Tampa, Fla., offered tips for house hunters in a recent article. Some of the items on her “what’s in” list include:
Considering the millions of people wandering around with chins buried in their chests, thumbs ablaze on glass keyboards, few would suggest the smartphone is underutilized.
When I travel with my wife, or sometimes just run to the grocery, cleaners or hardware store, she frequently has to remind me, “Scott, remember, you are NOT in charge here.” Many of you fellow Leanistas know the drill. You hardly ever see a restaurant, a checkout, a meat counter at the supermarket, a parking lot or God help us a TSA line at the airport – in our out – that we could not spend 5 minutes rearranging and save folks a ton of time and money.
This pottery is the future.
When I was part of a growing home building company we learned to be on guard for the newest “technology” coming down the pike that promised to revolutionize our home building business. We called the condition of falling for these fantastic technology claims the “allure for the sexy lady of technology.”  Thirty years later, it is safe to say, some things never change.  Before I expand on the latest siren of technology, let me give you the results of a couple recent studies.
  Studies show that across industries Cost of Quality (Failure, Appraisal & Prevention) is: 2.6-4% of sales revenue. In the construction industry the Cost of Quality profile is: 70% spent on Failure Costs 25% on Appraisal Costs and only 5% spent on Prevention Costs. The cost of correcting deviations from construction specification is 12% of project cost whereas the cost of providing quality management is only 1-5% of project cost. A research study found rework costs on a study of 260 construction projects:
Did you know that Bronson Pinchot has a show on the DIY Network? That’s right, folks — Balki renovates houses!
Green building has touched nearly every new-home price point in urban areas as well as the suburbs. A recent Chicago Sun-Times article touted Avondale as “the hot new West Side neighborhood.” In Avondale, an architecturally diverse neighborhood of vintage homes, walkups and new residential construction, the single-family houses are the best value, according to the Sun-Times.
Why has high school Spanish failed so many students? 
It is not a secret to regular readers that increasing a home builder’s customer satisfaction increases referral sales.  Many home builders blow away the 15% national average of referral sales and achieve 40-50%, by virtue of meeting the customers’ hierarchy of needs and having in place a respectful referral sales strategy.
Today we have a ranch (or if you are on the East Coast, a rambler) to review. It is a Lean Design with a ton of amenities, and it is a beauty. I’m betting Brent Musburger would have a field day with this looker. Let’s explore further: A. Open kitchen plan is perfect for entertaining and allows a direct site line to the Great Room fireplace (and TV). B. A fan favorite -– the laundry room is accessible from the master suite. This is one of the most popular trends that I encounter throughout the country.
I subscribe to the print editions of several publications, including Architectural Digest. Go ahead and call me old school — I know I’m not the only one who prefers to flip through the pages of a glossy magazine when there’s a big story beckoning.
  A report last year by the NAHB Research Center found that “increasingly, today’s homebuyers want energy-efficient, low-maintenance, well-insulated and well-sealed homes. Survey data in the last few years has also shown that consumers are willing to pay a premium for these types of homes and that they are typically more satisfied with them than with their previous, less efficient homes.
The market bottom is clearly behind us, and this is validated by three very reliable indicators.  First, annualized home starts have more than doubled from the Spring of 2009.  Second, consumer confidence (and therefore builder confidence) continues an upward trend, and for regular readers, you know these are good predictors of sales activity for the next 6-9 months!  Third, and my favorite market turn around indicator, is that the Salesperson Auto Indicator (SAI) has turned positive.

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