Last month in this space, I reviewed a series of market projections for 2014 from Harvard University as well as the industry’s leading associations.
Four months after showcasing a whole-house remodel in a local home parade, Bob Peterson, CGR, could point to a dozen projects that had come in as a direct result.
Four months after showcasing a whole-house remodel in a local home parade, Bob Peterson, CGR, could point to a dozen projects that had come in as a direct result. That gives his firm, Associates in Building & Design Ltd., a close ratio of more than 60% on the calls from prospects who saw the house during the parade, held Aug. 4-12, 2001. Better yet, those projects translate into $1.5 million in sales, and Peterson estimates the calls will keep coming for another four to five years.
In fact, Vicki and Steve Wehmeyer, owners of the 2001 entry, called ABD because they had seen the design/build firmÆs work on a parade of homes entry three years earlier. That year, Remodelors Council members entered a spec remodel theyÆd just sold, donating more than $27,000 of the profit to the United Way.
ôI volunteered to lead on that project knowing the visibility would pay off,ö says Peterson, who is president of Fort Collins, Colo.-based ABD and co-owner with his wife, Rita.
Home parades are a time-consuming and labor-intensive form of marketing, but theyÆre also extraordinarily high-impact: Bob Peterson estimates that 2,500 visitors passed through the WehmeyersÆ home. Working with the Home Builders Association of Northern Colorado, ABD also used the project to benefit Wingshadow, a local nonprofit agency that provides shelter, food and education to homeless teenagers.
To promote the project, the Petersons implemented basic marketing tactics: advertising in the parade of homes magazine, putting an 8-foot banner on the lawn during construction, and placing brochures and business cards throughout the home during the parade.
ABD unified the existing first-floor rooms by knocking down a wall, moving the fireplace, adding open archways and using similar colors and finishes throughout. Faux paint gives the powder room a leather look.
They also had marketing help from their clients, who wanted to educate other homeowners about remodeling and about Wing-shadow. The Wehmeyers helped create a Web site about the project (www.fortcollinsremodel.com) that went up well before the parade and still operates. Vicki Wehmeyer helped give house tours every day of the parade.
ôThere was good feedback,ö she says. ôPeople are sick of new construction.ö
Selling the job
With their children off to college, the Wehmeyers wanted a home that would meet their needs as they aged and their children came to visit with spouses and grandkids. Remodeling their own home would have meant overbuilding for the neighborhood, and buying a new home with immature landscaping didnÆt appeal to them.
When the Wehmeyers called ABD in July 2000, theyÆd just bought a 1950s Cape Cod that had been rented out for several years. Located on .72 acre on the north side of town, the 2,200-square-foot house cost about $350,000 but lacked the family room and first-floor master suite they wanted. They planned to get rid of the DIY porch and sun room in the rear, and to put plenty of windows on the back of the house to capture the view of the nearby lake and the distant Rockies.
Though Steve, a mortgage company owner, and Vicki, a part-time office worker, werenÆt a perfect fit for ABDÆs target market of upper-middle-class, double-income, high-tech professionals with children, they did want to spend about $200,000. Home to Colorado State University as well as a number of high-tech companies, Fort Collins has a highly educated and highly compensated population of 118,652. Bob Peterson says ABDÆs clients have household incomes close to $100,000.
After a 15- to 20-minute qualification session over the phone, Peterson, who sells all of ABDÆs remodel projects, set up an on-site meeting with Vicki Wehmeyer. ôIt was one of those jobs I had a good feeling about from day one,ö he says. ôThey wanted to do a large, exciting project that would allow us some creativity.ö
They walked around the house together for an hour and a half, discussing possibilities. ôI could tell that he wasnÆt just into doing a lot of things, that he was practical and down to earth,ö Wehmeyer says. ôI wanted to go that way, too.ö Even so, Peterson says he already knew that the budget and the scope of work would have to expand for her to be satisfied with the result. That meant bringing in Rita Peterson, ASID, and having the Wehmeyers sign a design agreement before even looking at a construction contract.
Scope of work
Rita Peterson asked the clients to bring in magazine pictures of homes they liked and then presented three plans. After choosing a concept worth about $250,000, they worked with her to refine it. Besides building a family room and a master bedroom, bath and office, the Wehmeyers decided to bump out the kitchen and the foyer and add a second story above the garage for storage and a study. Ultimately, the house more than doubled in size to 4,875 square feet, with the addition going on the back to preserve the homeÆs original look.
|Rita Peterson put the curb appeal on the back of the house, with the new family room replacing a DIY sun room at left and the new master suite added behind the garage. ABD replaced all the siding, windows and doors in the home. Rick Blumenshine suggested the colored, stamped concrete patio as a cheaper alternative to brick. Photo: Rod Pentico.|
Work planned for the existing parts of the home included rebuilding the breezeway and making it a laundry room, moving the fireplace from the south to the north side of the living room, and knocking out the wall between the living and dining rooms. The Wehmeyers also wanted to replace the countertops and cabinet doors in the kitchen, remove the kitchenette from one of the bedrooms, and update the interior.
The project also incorporated installing central air, putting in new plumbing and electrical throughout the house, and replacing all the siding, all the windows, and all interior and exterior doors. ôRita captured our vision from the beginning,ö Vicki Wehmeyer says. ôBob was straightforward on two things: new doors and all new windows.ö
Doing a project of this size in less than six months required careful scheduling by production manager Eric Dengler and job manager Rick Blumenshine, who was handed the Wehmeyer remodel as his first ABD project.
ôEight months would have been ideal,ö says Blumenshine. Having clients who didnÆt plan to move into their home until the projectÆs completion helped, but other challenges awaited.
Other than stringent energy codes, probably the biggest environmental challenge to Fort Collins contractors is bentonite, a swelling soil found in pockets along the Front Range of the Rockies. This clay can double in size when water is added, playing havoc with foundations. As a result, ABD worked with a structural engineer to design the homeÆs foundation. Although soil tests didnÆt show bentonite, the proctor recommended overexcavating by 3 feet, adding water and repacking the dirt in 1-foot lifts.
ôFor peace of mind for us and the homeowner, itÆs money well-spent,ö Blumenshine says. He knew that the siding contained asbestos, but then asbestos turned up in the ductwork as well, causing a weeklong delay. Rain and snow caused another a week-and-a-half delay in the spring. Probably the toughest part was coordinating the efforts of staff and subcontractors. One day, Blumenshine recalls, he had 35 workers on the site. ôThe house was big enough where I could stage three different areas,ö he explains. That ability came in handy, allowing work to progress even with 11 change orders, which Blumenshine and the Petersons consider normal for a project of this size.
ôRick was fantastic,ö Vicki Wehmeyer says. ôHe really held the project together.ö
Only the time frame for the interior design got crunched, with the designers having just a few days to implement the decisions that had been made and prep the house for the parade. They finished with 15 minutes to spare.
The HBA sold almost 3,200 parade tickets at $5 each, with $800 going to Wingshadow. ABD wrote a check for $10,000 to Wingshadow, the Wehmeyers contributed another $4,000, and several vendors brought the total donation to $15,800.
ABD continues to push its marketing efforts to the next level, working with a local firm on a marketing plan that includes updating the logo, developing a branding strategy, expanding the pure interior design portion of the business and targeting old neighborhoods of Denver.
The plan also includes another parade of homes. The Petersons are already scouring Fort Collins for a prospective spec remodel ù but theyÆre giving themselves until 2003.