At the beginning of the month, I was recognized by Professional Builder Magazine as being one of the “40 Under 40” in the country in the building industry. It was nice to be acknowledged, but then I started really thinking about how I got to this point. Ultimately, I came up with a list of my general musings of important things to me in the Building and Real Estate industries. Apparently, some of my involvement in these arenas is what landed me on the list, but to me, these are things that professionals in the industry should be striving for every day regardless of the attention it receives. In my opinion, striving for the topics in this write up, industry members can keep their industry thriving while providing their clients for the best product and service possible. Some of the following is a little wordy and is specific to my accomplishments. If you don’t have time to read all, just look at the heading in bold and you’ll get the idea of some of the items that I believe all industry professionals should continue to work towards.
Keeping Housing Affordable
This heading could have “legislative” in parentheses next to it. Depending on which studies you read, it turns out that a fair chunk of the cost of a house is due to regulation. Regulation has a reasonable purpose and can be a very good thing. The real issue that we need to look out for in the industry is “over regulation”. The goal is always to make homes safer, more energy efficient, more environmentally safe, more structurally sound, etc. Unfortunately, these “improvements” cost money and the end buyer ultimately pays the tab. Not to mention, as these tightening regulations come into play with new construction, the older homes become more and more outdated. As a result, new construction prices can go up to the point of eliminating buyers from the new construction market. These new home standard increases can affect older homes by unintended consequences such as increased insurance rates or higher utility bills. As a recent President of my county’s Home Builders Association and legislative committee member for the Realtors and Builders, I’ve spent time speaking to policy makers about these issues. We want to embrace good policy, while discouraging costly policies that may not add enough value to justify the price.
For an example of this effect in regulation, take a look at just one stage of construction such as wall framing. There is a product called ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) that can be used to build the exterior walls of a home. I’ve been involved with design/build of a many of these homes and it is a great construction style. This type of home is built with Foam forms with rebar throughout and concrete poured down the middle. By nature of the construction type, these walls are highly resistant to all levels of hurricane winds, they are fire resistant, they don’t warp like wood and their insulation is double or triple standard wall insulation. So, policy makers could go through the channels to install guidelines to require these types of walls for all new construction. Such a policy would make homes stronger, safer and more energy efficient; all good goals to have. The problem is that the price can be around 10% (or more) more expensive than a regular wood framed home. For demonstration purposes, a $200,000 home would become $220,000 in this example. It’s been shown that with each $1,000 added to the cost of a home that a significant portion of people are put out of affording the home. Just think about how many people that this one type of regulation would knock out of the market.
The above is an extreme example for a single cost item. Further, I’ve heard of no such regulation on the radar. The point remains, however, that these types of requirements are constantly discussed along with other cost factors such as impact fees and other regulatory increases. We should continue to embrace smart and affordable home building practices while incentivizing other optional improvements so that the end buyer can decide for themselves if they want to spend extra money on the item and reap the rewards of the improvement.
At the core of every great community is charitable giving by the members of the community. With this spirit of giving, the community stays tidy, the residents have a medium to stay unified, and the we keep each other uplifted in times of need. The past few years I’ve been committed to several projects and the only regret I have is that I cannot commit to more. I’ve had fun walking our beautiful beaches with other dedicated members and sweeping for debris. I’ve worked closely with our group in raising money, materials and labor for Habitat for Humanity. It’s also been my pleasure to work on obtaining donations and assembling items for a local animal rescue. There are several other specific projects I’ve worked on recently and they all have similar caring intentions.
In working with other outreach members, I am always comforted to know that there are people in the world that strive for helping their fellow citizens. From a community perspective, this dedication improves our areas while protecting our property values. In fact, I would say community outreach is an underrated way to aid in protecting home values. Something as simple as community cleanup makes an area more beautiful which in turn makes the area more desirable for home buyers and potential new businesses. For these reasons, community outreach is dear to my heart and I invite others to join me and get involved!
Excellence in A Craft
When looking to find a professional in whatever product you seek, a great first step is in looking at their commitment to their industry. Presumably, if a person is passionate about their profession, they want to be involved with learning about best practices, keeping up with industry trends, and they want to work with other industry members to help their industry provide quality product and service for their clients. A great step in obtaining excellence is to be involved with your trade organization.
I’ve known builders and Realtors that grew greatly when they became involved in their local associations. I, for example, am an active member of both my local Home Builder and Realtor Associations. Through the associations I’ve received valuable information, learned about legislative concerns, learned about new trends, and met many great construction contacts. As a buyer, it would bring me comfort to know that I was working with a company that is involved in their industry at this level and has the tools that their association provides. My responsibilities in the HBA over the years have included: Secretary, Vice President, two time President, State Director, National Director and several committee positions. Through these positions, it’s improved my experience across multiple realms and I truly believe made me a better professional. At the same time, I’ve been able to help my industry at a key level.
Another great way to show commitment to an industry is in obtaining certifications and designations. I’ve held or hold designations such as being a South Carolina Master Builder and being a National Association of Realtors Green designee. Designations and certifications represent that the holder has met important standards that home buyers should be interested in. A Master Builder, for example, must meet educational, customer satisfaction, and business operation standards that meet a predetermined high level of spec. The Green certification signifies an education in Green features and the corresponding uses. It is this type of education that brings true service to our clients. Obviously, designations are not everything. Some of the best education comes straight from the job site. Therefore, designations are not a prerequisite to being a great professional; they are just a great way for the prospective customer to identify a great professional.
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, these are just my musings as a person involved in the real estate and building industries. There are others that do less and there are others that do more. I encourage fellow industry members to always keep their hearts and minds open to the big world of opportunities out there. In the end, we all must do what we can to excel as professionals and to find ways to serve our clients, our communities and our industries.