The word “concierge” actually means “keeper of the keys” in French. When nobility traveled during the Middle Ages visiting fellow nobility, it was the concierge who kept the keys to castle rooms and ensured guests had everything they needed from start to finish. Later, European hotels and steamships adopted the concept to provide superior services to guests. Now, virtually every hotel has one.
Forget the keys and restaurant reservation, every consumer who hyperventilates about building needs a Building Concierge. Thankfully, the first one just popped up in Big D. Allen-based Page One Building Concierge Services is the first company in Dallas to manage the stress of home-building for consumers. The company minimizes building errors and acts as a quality assurance coach, even holds your hand as she makes sure all the visual elements of your home are what you ordered –and paid for– at closing.
Wait, you say, isn’t this the builder’s job? The truth is, building a home is a team process and you will hopefully have a Dream Team building your dream home. But in reality, as it is whenever more than one great mind is involved in a project, the process is not perfect and — hate to admit it– errors occur. There are estimates that fewer than 2% of people are satisfied with their production home builder & the home itself during the build, and but feel 100% overwhelmed and stressed in the process. They may be satisfied in the end, but will face frustration at some point because of the mistakes that are made.
This does NOT include, or refer to, custom home builders.
There is a already a dearth of homes in the D/FW area, and new ones are going up with another shortage: qualified construction workers. Which could mean, more mistakes. According to the research firm Residential Strategies, 20,778 new homes were started in 2013.
“The $300,000 to $500,000 category continues to see what we think is astounding growth,” said Residential Strategies’ Cassie Gibson. “Year-over-year growth was about 40 percent in this price range.”
As we know, busy north Texas homebuilders couldn’t keep up with buyers in the final months of 2013, as new home sales rose to the highest point in more than four years. Builders sold 5,218 new homes in the fourth quarter in D/FW.
Here’s another scary stat: local construction labor shortages have increased the average time it takes to build a house in North Texas by as much as a third. Typically, it takes 120 days to get a house built,” says Residential Strategies’ Ted Wilson said. “That’s up by 40 days.
What you need is one accountable person, a giant, all-knowing building brain, who visits the site daily, checks to make sure installations and products are what the specifications call for, coordinates and reports to you.
That building brain is Page One.
About 2 years ago, Natalie and her husband, Mason, built a 4,000 square foot home in Fall Creek in Allen.
The four bedroom, 3 and a half bath house was their dream home. Natalie, a former school teacher, selected what is known in the industry as a production builder, Standard Pacific. A perfectionist by nature with great drive and design sense, Natalie visited the building site as often as she could. During one visit, she noticed the stone delivered for the front façade of their main fireplace was the wrong stone.
“We chose the stone from a sample and picture at the design gallery – it should have been a grey stacked stone,” says Natalie. That was one day. She checked building progress another day, and caught another screw up.
“I noticed they delivered the stone for the fireplace,” says Natalie, “and it was the wrong stone and color –yellow.”
She called the project manager immediately.
“Nope that’s the right stone,” he said. Clearly it was not. Ah, but Natalie had taken photos and diligently documented her selections and was able to get the correct stone delivered.
Had she not been there to catch the error, the wrong stone would be on her fireplace to this day. That’s because building a home is very much an assembly-line process, except the entire house is one big assembly line. Once the wrong products are delivered and installed, it is too late, and too expensive, to rip out materials and re-do. It also costs the builder money in materials and labor, or sometimes his bottom line if he just makes adjustments for errors.
On another check-in, Natalie noticed that the tile in her kitchen was being laid in a regular rectangular pattern. She had specifically chosen an off-set pattern, to add some pizzazz to her style. Once again, she stopped the work before grout was mixed and floor tiled incorrectly, leaving her an ordinary floor that she had not specified for the next 30 years.
“Mistakes in building robs homeowners of the enjoyment of their house,” says Dallas homebuilder Bob Hoebeke, author of Unhinged: A Homebuilder’s Secrets for Saving Time & Money.
“Interiors and casings are the permanent jewelry of a home,” says Bob. “You don’t, you cannot switch those out like you can surfaces or paint color.”
Once their home was finished, and finished correctly, the Pages petitioned friends, family, anyone who had been through the building process to see if their experience of screw-ups being the norm in home building had been isolated, or unique.
They were not.
“We certainly are not out there to throw our builder under the bus,” Natalie told me one day last summer over lunch at Lark in the Park. “Our builder was a great builder, and we love him. But in our market, there is so much building that project managers can be overwhelmed.”
Project managers often oversee several homes going up in a subdivision, and are sometimes responsible for several subdivisions. For example, Hillwood is building a $600 million residential community northwest of Frisco, almost 800 acre Union Park that will have 2,400 new homes. Project managers depend on the subs to follow and execute plans, but that doesn’t always happen with this volume of homes. Project managers don’t accompany the home owner to the design centers to see what types of stone, tile, carpet or paint they have selected. They get a report — like orders — from the builder — but if the report is wrong, the finish out will be wrong.
Custom homebuilders often accompany clients to design centers and help them select products. If they don’t, they may have a designer on staff who does. Page One Homebuilding Concierge Service turns a production home experience into a custom build. Page One takes the place of the designer, the project manager and the owner all in one package.
“We are actually an asset to the builder, as we save them time, money, and help them turn out homes faster because we reduce errors,” says Natalie. “We remove the negative emotion from the home-building equation!”
The Pages –that’s really their name– spent about a year researching, conducting extensive interviews with builders, Realtors, and consumers, seeking a legitimate need for Concierge building services. Most of the building experts they spoke to — ranging from the Division Sales Manager at Standard Pacific, representatives at Ryland Homes, Barry Hensley of Hensley Premier builders (a custom home builder awarded the “Best of Houzz 2013” – check out their homes; they’re gorgeous), and Realtors who specialize in new construction agreed their services would be welcome by the builders as well as consumers. They spent hours with attorneys, scouting for any similar companies, only to find that in Texas, a state where home builders do not even have to be licensed, there was nothing like this. Nada. Until Page One was created in the summer of 2013, quality control was up to the client themselves. Clients with busy jobs and careers. I cannot imagine my daughter and son-in-law having the time, for example, to check on a homebuilder daily. Both are busy attorneys. My husband ran by our home when he could at the crack of dawn before making rounds at the hospital — but many times he simply couldn’t get there. Most people simply don’t have the time.
That’s why you really need a Building Concierge.
“Once you are into the last 2 months of building, you really need to visit the property daily,” says Natalie. “Or even twice daily.”
That’s the home stretch, when most interior materials are installed. It’s also home stretch, where homeowners are eager beavers to move into a home, and may feel more stressed. Page One eliminates many a frenzied temper or rising blood pressure: rather than an angry homeowner hollering at the home builder or super, Page One contacts the builder and client, and works out the problem in a professional, non emotional way.
Speaking of cost: Page One charges 1% of the cost of the house for their Home Building Concierge services. Whether this can be rolled into the mortgage depends on the lender.
“As their concierge, I spend between 75 to 100 hours inspecting the home during the entire 9 month build time,” says Natalie. “The peace of mind in knowing that your home will be visually perfect at closing is invaluable.”
Visual perfect, yes, but Natalie says her goal is to take a couple through the process of building their dream home, and maintain the excitement and anticipation that comes with building a home.
“We are here to change the industry,” says Natalie. “Once builders realize the benefits for them, we think Concierge Building Service will become the norm in home building.”
After all, it’s 2014: you can never be too thin, too rich, have too many homes OR too many Concierges!