Q. Why did you want to become a custom home builder?
A. I’m a second-generation home builder — I took over the reins from my father about a year ago. He started Sequoia Homes in 1990, some years after he grew tired of the commercial building world. He started small. It was somewhat slow in the beginning, but he did a wonderful job in building a good reputation and a good name.
I’ve worked with him since I could push a broom. I would help my uncle — he was our painter for years. I’d putty nail holes, clean, just a little bit of everything. It was always enjoyable to me and a way to spend some time with him. It’s always something different. We’ve never built the same house twice. That’s part of the fun!
For several years before he retired, we would split things. He’d take a few houses; I’d take a few houses. We were always communicating with each other about how the projects were going. I would handle most of the estimating. My dad taught me about being open and transparent with people. We strive to build our client’s homes as if they are our own. Because building a home is one of the biggest investments people make, trust is No. 1. You have to build that trust with clients.
Q. What is the biggest misconception people have about building a custom home?
A. That it is going to be stressful and overwhelming. I’ve sat down with plenty of people who are worried about that, about being overwhelmed by how many selections they have to make. So, I’m upfront with them from day one. I tell them “I’m here. Anything you need, you can call, email or text. If I can’t help you, I will direct you to who can.”
I’ve worked with most of our subcontractors and suppliers for at least 10 years. Our tile man has been with us since Dad started. The fact that our relationships are so longstanding with these people eliminates some of the customers’ confusion and apprehension. Our subs and suppliers know the standards we uphold which in turn helps alleviate any concern our clients may have.
Q. Do you have a dedicated design center or in-house designer?
A. We do not have our own design center; we are a small company in that regard. But one of my favorite parts of the process is helping people make selections when I can. I stay up-to-date on trends and new products. I enjoy making recommendations or giving customers ideas. Ultimately design choices and selections are up to the client, but I always like to offer my input and knowledge.
We have several designers we like to work with, so customers can meet with a couple of them to see who they like best. They are also able to bring in their own designer.
Q. How many homes do you build a year?
A. That sometimes depends on size, where they’re located. The last several years, it’s been anywhere from 8 to 12. It’s not uncommon to have five to seven projects going at the same time. If I think we can handle more, we do. I don’t want to take on too many projects where I am unable to make it to each jobsite at least once to twice a week. Keeping the quality high, meeting client expectations, making the customer No. 1 — if you get too much going on, you can’t do that.
Q. Forgetting supply chain issues for the moment — on average, what is your timeframe from inception to closing.
A. If everything is normal, I typically tell people that for an average-sized house, 2,800 to 3,400 square feet, it takes six to eight months. Over the last year and a half, it has gotten drawn out a little bit, from 7 to 10 months — sometimes longer. And not just because of materials, but the labor shortage issue.
Q. What is your favorite part of the custom home building process?
A. The interaction. I’m a very people-oriented person. I love to talk with them, listen to their ideas. So, just working with people and experiencing the different styles people like. You begin to learn how to read people. I enjoy watching a project go from a two-dimensional piece of paper to a 3-D structure. I also enjoy seeing people’s faces as their home progresses, the fulfillment of seeing how happy they are when it’s completed.
I have a project manager that runs most of the day-to-day tasks, but we both attend client meetings to stay on the same page. I make it a point to still be the face of the company at the job sites. And I still enjoying installing drainpipe, gravel, some of the physical parts of a project. I learned from watching my dad that we’re working with our clients from Day One, and we will be there until the day we close.
Q. Do you have primary areas where you prefer to build?
A. Dad started on the West Side. It’s probably been close to 20 years since we moved to Lawrenceburg. A lot of our work moved out in that direction, Dearborn County and that area. I’ve built houses on Cincinnati’s East Side, West Side, and Northern Kentucky. I typically like to work within a 30- to 45-minute radius from my office.