Saturday, June 20, 2015

Eye of the Beholder...5 Tips to a more Beautiful Home!

Our friends, and client Cozy and Mark Palmer informed us the other day that DHome Magazine's editors selected their home as one of the 10 Most Beautiful homes in Dallas! A stunning accomplishment for Mark in particular who has been dreaming of building a Greek Revival Farmhouse for the last 25 years or so.

The old saying goes, ' man's trash is another man's treasure...' And so it is with homes. What keeps life interesting is producers who continue to make chocolate...and vanilla...and even tutti fruiti - something for everyone who declares their individual taste.

But on the other end of the spectrum from "Most Beautiful" is often "Ugliest!" While 'beauty really is in the eye of the beholder,' here are 5 ways to maximize the beauty of your home construction or remodel project:

  1. Go Pro - Just like Doctors are trained in how our bodies function, architects, landscape architects, and interior designers are classically trained in proportion, balance, harmony and variety. Who really studies da Vinci's Vitruvian Man or Le Corbusier's Modulor based on the Golden Mean? Architects do! It's all part of their training. As a result of their training, degreed architects or interior designers are more likely to help you create a thing of beauty. But don't always discount those who haven't studied Le Corbusier - some people just have a knack for designing beautiful things!
  2. Show and Tell
    Trapped deep within your brain are images and feelings that are satisfying. Experience suggests the easiest way to "untrap" those feeling and images is to research pictures and find things that feel good. Coffee table magazines like Veranda, House Beautiful, and Southern Living to name a few, are brimming with ideas. Recently a website named Houzz began collecting catagorized pictures from architects, builders, interior designers and landscape architects for the sole purpose of displaying professional's best ideas for building or renovating homes. With well over a million photos, surely you can find something that resonates with your soul!
  3. Point and Shoot  
    Once you have an inventory of ideas for your home project, and a professional(s) to help you with design, it's time to point to a captured picture and challenge the professionals with incorporating the idea into your home. Not surprisingly this will insure most of the ideas which have resonated with your soul will end up in the finished product. Remember, just because an architect or designer draws your idea on a piece of paper doesn't mean your builder will actually build it that way! Hang on to your photos for the next step...
  4. "Can You Hear Me Now?"
     Think of your builder as a "put'er-togetherer" of gigantic jigsaw puzzles. Just like any computer, you will need to program him/her with the right information so that your building puzzle turns out just the way you wanted. Enter, the communications process! Your ability to end up with what you want in a home is directly related to the quality of the communications between yourself, the design professionals, and your builder. Interview carefully to make sure your builder has a communications system that translates great ideas into beautiful construction.
  5. Flies Stick to Honey  The age old expression " can catch a lot more flies with honey than you can with vinegar..." reigns supreme in the design/build industry. Exhibiting an "attitude of gratitude" insures everyone associated with your project would rather work on your home instead of someone else's. Through the years I've witnessed extraordinary efforts on the part of professionals, builders, and trade subcontractors, all because the homeowner was being kind and gracious to everyone working on the project.

Highly talented people consistently turn out beautiful projects. Experience has taught them what looks good, and what doesn't. While you may think it expensive to hire talent, you haven't seen "expensive" until you have to tear out something that's either made wrong, or ugly!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Builder's Beauty Contest

Editors Note: My very talented friend and designer Courtney Price asked me to write this piece for her lifestyle blog, after hearing of "The Builder's Beauty Contest" from her client who had read my book, Un-HINGED - A Homebuilder's Secrets for Saving Time and Money. I asked if I could borrow it back for inclusion in Build Your Nest. 

The Builder’s Beauty Contest

Thinking about building or remodeling? Don't be fooled by the Builder's Beauty Contest, protect yourself with these tools on

Reality check: Beware of the lowest bid…

For many people, the home is the biggest investment. When building one’s dream home or remodeling an existing house, one can easily get caught in the snare of the numbers game with multiple bids.  Misleading contractors have been known to say or do whatever it takes to get the job, encumbering the homeowner with devastating financial consequences. To discuss this topic and offer guidance, I have invited a highly respected Dallas contractor with a strong moral compass and decades of experience to decode the bidding wars in this special guest post.  Bob Hoebeke is all about communication with his clients; his honesty and transparency have built a solid base of repeat clients with stunning homes. Please welcome Bob:
Do you hear that angry, snarling, gnashing of teeth behind you in the Starbuck’s line while you’re ordering your “quad Venti, no whip, cinnamon dulce latte?” It could very well be the sound of an angry homeowner who has invested inordinate amounts of time, energy and money in building or remodeling their home only to have their dreams shattered through financial mismanagement, deceit, gross incompetence, cover-up or just plain stupidity on the part of their builder. Unfortunately, even for the wealthiest of homeowners, there are no do-overs.
More often than not the scenario described above happens because of the “Builder’s Beauty Contest.” Well-intentioned architects, seeking the best pricing for your home, submit plans to multiple builders. The age-old myth embraced by many is, more bidders means more competition, and more competition means a lower project price. But the reality is substantially different.
planning to build or remodel? read about the  Builders Beauty Contest first on
With stiff competition and the desire to secure the work, each builder will competitively price what they see as the parts and pieces of the project and begin to shape a budget story they believe the architect and owner will want to hear. But there are thousands of pieces to a building or remodeling project. As the builder bids, some pieces will be missed, others will be substituted, many will be camouflaged in other cost centers (site work, landscaping, interior furnishings and after market finishes etc.), and still others will be allowanced with expense caps so low they become meaningless (you can’t buy much of a potty for $50). Builders have to win so many will lie, cheat and even steal for a signed contract. Herein lies the problem.
know what you are getting into before you build or remodel your dream home on
Since final results of a competitive bid bear little resemblance to what actual costs will be when the project is completed, more often than not the awarding of the contract goes to who can tell the best story. Usually the prettiest story wins – it’s The Builder’s Beauty Contest!

 Several ways to help you avoid The Builder’s Beauty Contest:

  • Interviewing multiple builders and hiring integrity and chemistry:
    • On a material to material, and labor to labor basis, there won’t be much difference between builders if they are bidding like quantity, so hire who you like and work together on price.
    • Evaluate a builder’s project administration plan and review cost control mechanisms as well as the builder’s communication skills.
  • Ask for, and check references:
    • Who were the builder’s last five clients and what are they saying about your candidate?
    • How long has the builder employed his trades or subcontractors? Frequent line-up changes often point to instability.
    • Ask for supplier references (lumber, concrete, plumbing, flooring, cabinets, etc.) and find out if he’s paying his bills on time.
  • See some of his work – both finished, and under construction:
    • Are all the parts and pieces there? Do joints fit tightly? Are things well thought out?
    • Do the finishes meet your expectations?
    • Is the job under construction neat, organized, and clean?
  • Smart builders will competitively bid only commodities (lumber,sheetrock, fixtures, etc.) :
    • New, and unfamiliar labor means training and mistakes. A smart builder will not want someone they don’t know “practicing” on your home.
    • Basic safety rules – why take a chance on putting unfamiliar labor in the same home with a client when unsure of the laborer’s past?
Don’t get sold a bill of goods. Let all the poising, primping, and posturing associated with the Builder’s Beauty Contest be saved for someone else’s project. Make a great decision and have yourself some fun as you build the home of your dreams-
-Bob Hoebeke
Unhinged, your manual for remodels or new builds - on www.CourtneyPrice.comOur guest contributor is a published author with a must-read book for anybody who is building or remodeling. The Builder’s Beauty Contest is included in this book but there is so much more. Unhinged is an organizational tool that places you in the center of the process along with your contractor and design team, rather than being managed by your contractor. See more about and order your copy of Unhinged here.
Hoebeke Builders Dallas TX on
For the tech savvy- Bob Hoebeke has also created an APP: BuildCHX – check it out if: 1) you plan to build or remodel 2) you are a designer 3) you want to make sense of the giant jigsaw puzzle of the custom construction process 4) you want to keep your new-build or remodel on time and within budget.  BuildCHX offers a linear chronological sequence that will prevent the common delays associated with selections. We all know how costly delays are – this app keeps you a step ahead at all times.
Want more? Bob has a blog… full of sage pointers, observations, advice, a link to project photos- great content.
If you found this article useful, please recommend it and share it with your friends.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hot Dogs and Houses

Courtesy FoodnessGracious!
Ordering a hot dog packed with all kinds of good stuff, and building or remodeling your home have at least one thing in common - they are both transactions. But the similarities end there. True, you start with a raw product (either the "dog" or an empty lot) and you add things as desired. But one takes literally seconds to produce, and the other months. Therein lies the difference. Production time raises some interesting issues.

If building a home were as simple as slapping a dog on a bun, squirtin' and spoonin' some great tasting condiments on it and calling it good, friction between parties involved in the transaction would be absolutely minimal. But time has a way of adding emotion, and emotion sometimes fractures relationships. Performance plays a much larger role in building/remodeling than it does at the hot dog stand. So does cost!

Understanding that it takes longer and costs more to build your home than it does to decorate your "dog," here are some tips for surviving the longer transaction period:

  • Building a home is like putting together a gigantic size jigsaw puzzle. It's not just dog, bun, mustard, ketsup etc., it thousands of parts which must be put together in a very specific order. Being highly organized helps! Hiring professionals that are highly organized and have a specific administrative plan for putting those pieces together, will cut down on mistakes and improve efficiency.
  • Do your part! Whether it's deciding if its as simple as ketsup, mustard and/or relish, make your housing selections decisively. Remember, construction is like a "big ball" - if it slows down or stops waiting for you to make a decision, it's very hard to get the ball rolling again.
  • You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. A positive, fun, engaging personality attracts a lot more attention than negativity. Basic human nature says that we would all rather work for someone who is nice and fun than for an 'ole sour puss!
  • "Hold things loosely, and people tightly." A house is a "thing," but the people putting it together have eternal significance. Focusing on the workers and realizing imperfect people make mistakes ensures that value is placed in areas having eternal significance.
We all want what we want. Sometimes getting it requires a little bit more time and effort. Next time you order a "dog" just the way you want it, be grateful it's a simple transaction, easily corrected if it falls on the floor!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Managing Expectations

A call came in recently from an interior designer who is interviewing for a position on the Project Team with a new client of ours. We're big on Project Teams! Matter of fact, I've written a whole book on the subject. Time and again the most successful projects in which we have ever been involved all have had a Project Team. There's no substitute for hiring your professionals early in the process, charging them with responsibility and parameters, and managing their creativity. Saves all kinds of time (read: you don't have to "re-do"), and money - promise!

Anyway... before giving our new client a proposal for her services the interior designer wanted to understand how we like to administrate our projects. In other words, what are our expectations. Huh...imagine that. Someone willing to invest some time in the project BEFORE getting hired to better understand what our needs, desires, and expectations might be! If I get a vote - she's hired!

Every client that walks through our office door comes with a full set of expectations. They may not realize it at the time, but sure enough, once we get down to brass tacks those expectations are right there. 'Building our home shouldn't take more than 6 months, should it?' 'What does it cost per square foot to build our home - you can do it for $125psf can't you?' 'I'm going to live upstairs while you remodel the downstairs.' Some of the expectations are just as obvious as these while some are much more subtle. 'Once the project is under roof we don't expect you will have any weather delays.' 'Surely you won't mind if we provide all of the ceramic tile for our home...' Or even 'you'll have someone on-site managing our project at all times, won't you?'  Hundreds, maybe even thousands of expectations come with every project. Everyone paints pictures in their mind of how situations will turn out. Without sitting down and hashing it out, a formula for disaster has just been defined!

Builders should all do what our wives want us to do more of anyway - COMMUNICATE! A healthy dose of ANTICIPATION doesn't hurt either. We need to be about the business of trying to understand what our clients expect.

Homeowners also share in the responsibilities of communicating and anticipating, yet because they are not seasoned building professionals they often don't know what questions to ask. Not knowing what questions to ask speaks to the heart of building a Project Team. Though unclear about what information may be necessary, most people "know people," and that's precisely what makes up the Project Team. By selecting your architect, builder, interior designer, and landscape architect based on natural chemistry, an advantage will be gained by hiring advocates who will guide you through the oftentimes scenic journey of building or remodeling. These professionals will also help you define your expectations. And not only "define," but shape those expectations into realistic goals for your Project Team. 

I know, I know....slowing down to take the time to build a Project Team is like ripping the wrapping paper off a highly anticipated gift only to find out that you must fully assemble it before you truly know what it can do! We don't live in a world that likes to wait on ANYTHING!! So add one more thing to your contrarian list in life - the less project planning you do upfront, the more time energy and money you will spend on your overall project! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The old saying goes, "you don't know what you don't know." So when you're building that home of your dreams, or remodeling the one you love, how do you know what you don't know? It's a fair question. In today's highly competitive housing market how do you know you're getting what you paid for when half the stuff you are paying for is covered up?

Substantiated rumors are floating around town that builders are using apartment grade plumbing on million dollar homes. But how is the consumer supposed to know about the quality of the pipes being installed behind the walls? When your water lines are decomposing or being eaten by bugs five years down the road its really too late to start questioning the integrity of what your builder is using on your job! And trust me, it happens everyday...

"Specifications don't mean anything in residential construction anymore," groaned one lumberyard vendor recently. Architects may draw it, and structural engineers may specify the materials necessary to make it strong, but some builders are changing lumber grades, product spacing and materials to cheapen costs and improve profit margins. No single construction item is more prone to homeowner deception than lumber. Why? Because ultimately everything is covered up! "Builder are wanting to get through their warranty period (with a homeowner) and that's it - period!" With the abundance of products available to a builder, changing the grading stamp on a ceiling joist, varying the distance between framing members, or even swapping out a specified plywood for OSB (oriented strand board) can make as much as a 10% cost difference in the cost of a framing package. And 10% of the cost of the single largest commodity going in your home can mean thousands of dollars in the builder's pocket!!

On a shorter leash you may not know that the $7,500 allowance your builder gave you for plumbing fixtures needed in your million dollar home will barely do the Master Bath. But you'll figure it out when you go to Ferguson Enterprises to select fixtures for the whole house and spend $25,000! By then the ink will be dry on the contract and it's too late to renegotiate. Can you spell "cost overrun?"

In tight economic times where way too many builders are competing for way too few projects, many believe the name of the game is 'get the contract signed, and make it up on change orders.' Builders feel they can deal with the fallout later. After all, who doesn't build a house understanding that there will be some cost overruns?!!

Recently we were hired to review the specifications for a couple's "dream home" after some problems arose between their builder and the bank. Budgets seemed low, and parts were definitely missing. To be safe we had our guys bid the work. Our estimate was 82% higher than the couple's builder, who, it turns out, had just declared bankruptcy! Forget the dream home, the couple purchased a nice pre-owned and have settled in comfortably.

Sensationalism you say...maybe until it's your project, but then it has a way of becoming all too real.

Disasters such as these can be avoided. Consider these tips before you build or remodel your next home:

  • Build a team of professionals (architect, builder, interior designer, and landscape architect) and empower them with the specific scope of work required. Part of that scope of work needs to be a realistic budget.
  • Challenge the team to not only work with the parameters you've outlined, but also "value engineer" where possible to produce the same product for less money.
  • Demand total accountability and absolute transparency by requiring weekly reports detailing each team member's progress. This type of communication ensures that everyone associated with your project is singing off the same sheet of music.
For more practical tips, pick  up a copy of my book, UnHinged - A Homebuilder's Secrets for Saving Time & Money (Amazon), and my app, BuildCHX (iTunes or Google Play).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"App-tly Named" BuildCHX(TM)

It's all my daughters' fault. Just about the time I finished publishing my homeowner's helpful hints book UnHINGED - A Homebuilder's Secrets for Saving Time and Money, the girls sat me down one day and said 'Dad, we sure are proud of you for writing a book, but our generation is never going to read it! You must produce an easy to use app which does the same thing.' You've got to be kidding me - after all that work somehow I have to condense the content of the book into a usable building tool for the phone?

SURPRISES are the enemy of all building projects. We wanted to create a transparency for the building process so that homeowners were never left with the two most common jobsite questions, "What happens next," and "What selections do I need to be making?" So we created an app that helps homeowners through the building process.

The new, one-of-a-kind app, BuildCHX allows the user to track the building process through a chronological roadmap of steps necessary to build or remodel a home. Suddenly, magazine clippings are now a thing of the past. The new app also links the building process with idea boards that allow the user to capture and catalog ideas and inspiration for their project.  

I had the idea that it is one thing to catalog ideas, and another to share them. So, I intentionally built the functionality in BuildCHX to share the idea boards with key members of the building team. I call it "TeamShare." Ideas and photos are also linked to Facebook and Twitter for ease of sharing with friends and family.

Ultimately I had the homeowner in mind when designing this app. However, designers, architects and builders, who all manage multiple projects at one time, have also expressed their interest in using the app to help keep their information straight.

As you can imagine, we are excited with the outcome. But what are others saying? Let's follow the early election returns:

 Just paid for the app and made some money! by Roxy Ryan
We are having our house built and are at the beginning of Step4. Upon reviewing previous steps found a tip we had overlooked. We just saved $275! A "must have" if you're building a house and want to stay on top of things.
BuildCHX Review by Cheryl Murff
What a great tool for building or remodeling! This is a must for anyone who wants to glean from a top notch builder!
Homeowner by Jmaddhill
This is a great app if you're building or remodeling a house. Tons of practical steps help you organize the building/remodeling process from A to Z. The ability to easily share product choices among a group (homeowner/decorator/builder) is fantastic part of this app! I highly recommend it! 
The app was published on October 17th and is available in the iTunes Store. An Android version is due out in late November.

Check it out, leave me a comment and/or write a review. We want to know what you think! Still yearning for more? Us too....stay tuned for future enhancements which will make BuildCHX even better!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Reviving the Greek

For twenty-eight years Cozy and Mark Palmer dreamed of having a Greek Revival Farmhouse - now they live in one! The Palmers entrusted Hoebeke Builders, Inc. with helping design and build their dreamhouse. Last week they moved in.

To say the process went well would be an understatement. Mark and Cozy were dream clients! Always ready with a picture, or a video, their desires were communicated very simply and clearly. Right down to the highly polished black handrail on the front stairs.

Before our book, UnHINGED - A Homebuilder's Secrets for Saving Time & Money was...well, UnHinged, the Palmers followed the premise of the book perfectly by building a project team that included: architect Paul Turney, interior designer Rebecca Low, landscape architect Daniel Houchard and his company From The Ground Up, and Hoebeke Builders. Each different discipline performed their work on time, and in concert with the rest of the team. The results are obvious.

It's always great to finish a project and walk away with a new set of best friends! Special thanks from my end to the best business partner a guy could ever have, Phillip McCloud, who dogged the details and made a wonderful home S U P E R B!