4 Lessons Learned from Tackling a Green Building Project

Although green building is a trending topic in the construction industry, it hasn’t really evolved from an industry niche to a widely-accepted best practice. Education —both on the industry and consumer side— continues to bring green building into the light, yet there is still a wealth of mystery around the subject.

Shannon Bloemker, Founder of Glasshouse, recently sat down with Builder and Developer Magazine to chat about her experience transforming her mid-century modern Piedmont, California home into a LEED Platinum certified green home (the first in Piedmont and only the third in the San Francisco’s East Bay).

Whether you’re a consumer thinking about tackling a green building project or a contractor or builder who wants to segway into green building, here are four lessons that she learned from tackling that project.

1.) Get Your Squad Together

Tackling a green building project is no small feat. There is the environmental impact to consider, but also the cost, user experience, maintenance, design and more —and you’ll be hard pressed to find an expert that specializes in each of these areas. To make any green building project come to life, be sure to enlist the support and collaborative effort of a team of experts.  

From the onset —even during the research and planning stages— start building a team. Choices that are made for a certain design aesthetic could create high installation costs, for example, or a decision on building materials could impact design. When the homeowner, architect, builder, and subs are working toward the same end goal (your awesome home!), the result is a terrific design with a reasonable scope at a cost that everyone understands.  

2.) Brush Up On City Codes

Code restrictions, homeowners association CC&Rs and LEED certification requirements (among others) will have a huge impact on your green building project. During Shannon’s project, she found that the city had an array of ordinances (viewsheds, lot coverage, garage requirements, and design restrictions) that impacted the project. Her team needed to develop plans to make the vast majority of changes fit within the home’s existing footprint to maximize the existing space, including converting the garage and carport areas into living space.

As you begin your green building project, make sure to brush up on any codes, ordinances and restrictions that might impact the project. It might not be easy to design with these items in mind, but the alternative can be unforgiving.

3.) Be Patient When Sourcing Materials

The difficult and time consuming process of sourcing green materials can be a surprise for those tackling green building projects. In her interview with Builder and Developer Magazine, Shannon reflected on the material-sourcing process.

“The LEED Certification team I worked with was excellent at making sure materials used in the project contained no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and wouldn’t off-gas any detrimental materials into the home’s interior. This is more challenging than it sounds considering “green materials” extend into multitudinous categories from the glue used to adhere various surfaces to types of plywood, paint, carpet, shelving —everything you can think of inside a home’s interior.”

The lesson here is to remember to be patient, to think outside the box and to work with a team that shares your vision so you can effectively source quality green materials that bring the project to life.

4.) Don’t Forget the Interior

One of Shannon’s professors used to say a building is only green until it’s occupied. Meaning, what you bring into the building and the behavior of the inhabitants (cooking, showering, etc.) can change a healthy building into a sick one.

As you begin any green building project, don’t forget the interior components. From furniture and bedding, to plants and interior design features —sourcing eco-friendly materials in these areas will ensure that your home is not only built with sustainable principles in mind, but is also healthy to live in.

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Making Green Building Work For You

If there’s one key takeaway to learn from Shannon’s experience, it’s perseverance. Because green building is still a relatively new concept, it’s takes perseverance and persistence to get to the finish line. Having a team on your side, understanding the parameters of what’s possible, sourcing materials effectively and looking at the project holistically can help you get there.
Have you recently tackled a green building project? We’d love to hear from you! Whether you’re a builder or homeowner, share your green building experience with us on Facebook. Together we can help bring green building further into the mainstream.

Money in the Gutter

Gutters are often an afterthought for homeowners on roofing or siding projects

While scrolling through his company’s Yelp reviews a few years back, a San Francisco roofer came across a one-star entry bristling with irritation and complaint. The homeowner claimed to have water entering the house from a roof that the company had installed less than five years prior. The roofing company owner tracked down the customer and offered to come out to the house to inspect. Sure enough, water entered every time it rained. The reason? Gutters and downspouts, never cleaned, were plugged full of leaves and debris. “I told him it was a maintenance issue,” the company owner says. The review was upgraded to five stars.

Don’t Walk Away

Maintenance is a must when it comes to gutters, which is something some homeowners only discover when water is dripping from their drywall ceiling. Beyond that, homes with failing roofs often have gutter issues as well. No surprise there. Metal gutters have about the same lifespan as a shingle roof. They just fail in different ways.

Even gutters that are regularly cleaned of plant matter and debris will rust, leak, sag, or pull away to the point where they can’t do what they’re designed to do, which is shed water and direct it away from the house. Gutter issues are easier to spot than problems with a roof, contractors point out. “You don’t really know the exact roofing issues until you get up at eye level,” says Ron Hall, sales manager at Russell Roofing, in Oreland, Pa. With gutters, you can see installation errors from the ground, he says, and they often have to do with skimping on hangers, which causes sag. And when they’re a problem, they’re a problem that even a brand new roof isn’t going to make go away. Which is why, at both Russell Roofing and All County Exteriors, in Lakewood, N.J., roofing salespeople routinely include an estimate for gutter replacement in re-roofing proposals. “We’ve elected to make gutters part of our mix,” says All County’s sales manager Russ Dorrycott. The company has its own gutter crews and its own machine for forming seamless gutters on site (see a gutter machine in action here).

When it comes to gutters, roofing companies have choices. Since gutter replacement may add as much as 30 percent to the cost of the total job, one option is to simply ignore gutter problems. Another is to address gutter issues, recommend replacement, and include the cost as a separate number. Hall notes that many customers, seeing what they’d pay to replace gutters and downspouts and being aware that that cost will be more later and if done separately, quickly change their minds. Kelly Roofing, in Naples, Fla., similarly includes gutter replacement in its scope of work and generates enough gutter replacement to sustain its own installation crews. “I don’t want to sell something to someone who doesn’t need it,” president Ken Kelly says, “but if I go to the house and see that the foundation is eroding and they need gutters on one side, why should I walk away from solving their problem?”

Photo: Flickr user Eric Schmuttenmaer (CC by-SA 2.0)

In-House Crews

New gutters can add anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to the cost of a roofing job, depending on the size of the house and complexity of the roof, and it takes, says Tania Goodman, president of Majestic Exteriors, in New Jersey, three or four hours to form and install gutters, a process she insists is as necessary for her company’s re-siding jobs as it is for a re-roof. Majestic also uses its own gutter crews, operating a gutter-forming machine the company bought five years ago for $11,000.

Having your own gutter crews takes a certain volume of work for roofing and siding companies. It also takes some management assertiveness. For instance, Kelly Roofing partnered with its gutter supplier to send some of its roofing installers to South Carolina for gutter installation training. Bringing gutter work in-house was a commitment, and Kelly says there is a basic principle underlying any such decision. “I will not take on a product line if I can’t pay off the investment in two years,” Ken Kelly says. Kelly Roofing paid off its investment in the gutter machine in less than a year. But he has another reason for making gutters part of a job whenever called for. “It costs a certain amount to acquire a client,” Kelly notes. And when you acquire a roofing client who also needs new gutters, you’re not paying that cost.

Subs Who Specialize

Many roofing companies prefer to sub out gutters to contractors specializing in just that, which is fine with specialty gutter companies. “Here’s what we tell roofing companies,” says Tim Brown, president of Rain Gutter Specialties & Exteriors, in Salt Lake City, which specializes in gutters. “Here is what we’d charge the customer. You charge the same thing and we will give you a discounted rate. So they don’t have to do anything and they still make 20 or 30 percent.”

Rain Gutter Specialties doesn’t do roofing, so that if its estimator arrives at the house on a gutter appointment and determines the roof is shot, standard practice is to recommend replacing the roof first. “We probably hand 50-plus leads a year to roofing contractors,” Brown says. That’s because if the roof is compromised, new gutters won’t solve the problem, though homeowners don’t actually know that. “Seventy to 80 percent of our callbacks have nothing to do with the work we did,” Brown says. “They’re problems we didn’t know about. The homeowner will call and say: ‘There’s water dripping behind the gutter. It never did this before.’” At which point, the company dispatches a service tech to perform a water test to trace the leak, which almost always is found to originate in the roof, often from faulty flashing.

Referral Relationship

Gutter specialty companies typically split their energies between subcontracted installations for roofers and builders and gutter jobs they sell to individual homeowners. But experience teaches them to choose clients wisely. “We still work for roofing companies,” says Ryan Parsons, of The Brothers That Just Do Gutters, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., “but only the ones whose values align with ours—the ones that are organized, show up on time, return calls, and care about the client experience.”

Still, The Brothers far prefer working for homeowners rather than roofers. Payment is one reason. Parsons estimates that “one in 300” homeowners might stiff The Brothers at the end of a job; something that would happen far more frequently with roofers. So although The Brothers do subcontracting as well as get referrals, it’s the referrals that are most prized, since the company can sell and install the job on its own terms. Since The Brothers—which also franchises its operation—mounts its own formidable marketing effort, it’s in anywhere from 75 to 100 homes per week, and is in a position to recommend roofing contractors to homeowners who obviously need more than just new gutters.

Dedicated Subs

A roof keeps rain from entering the house. Gutters carry the rain off. But not every roofing company wants, needs, or can afford to be in the gutter business. “We look at the holding cost of the machinery,” says Mark Watson, owner of Exterior Medics, a $10 million roofing company in Northern Virginia. “There’s the cost of the machine, the coils you have to stock, the maintenance, and, frankly, if we manage and maintain a good, healthy relationship with a subcontractor, then there’s no need to do it internally.”

Exterior Medics salespeople look at both roofs and gutters, since often enough even if gutters aren’t failing they may have other problems. For instance, being undersized (4-inch gutters on a big roof), or not properly pitched (say a vertical 1/2 inch for every 10 feet of horizontal gutter). Gutters—today usually 5-inch or 6-inch—may all look alike, but estimating the right size and the corresponding number of downspouts comes from calculating square footage and roof pitch, that is, how much water running how fast. “You want to see how much of a run you have, what’s the distribution, and what are the allocation of downspouts,” Watson says.

Often homeowners looking for a new roof have never even thought about gutters, which is why All County Exteriors reps have a five-minute, 10-slide presentation for the iPad that reviews common problems and solutions for gutters. “We’re there to discover the issues,” Dorrycott says. “That includes gutter issues. And when our estimators talk about roofing options, we will also talk about gutter options.”

About the Author

Philadelphia-based writer Jim Cory is a senior contributing editor to Professional Remodeler who specializes in covering the remodeling and home improvement industry. Reach him at coryjim@earthlink.net(link sends e-mail).

(This article originally posted on Professional Remodeler


If you’d like to learn more about roofing and gutter maintenance, check out these posts:

5 Home Improvement Trends for 2017

Spring is in the air and that means DIY and home improvement projects are on the mind. Whether you’re a homeowner, builder or contractor, it’s always fun (and important) to keep up with the latest trends in home improvement. As a homeowner, this will help you get cued-in to what improvements will keep your home up-to-date and desirable, and for contractors and builders, it will enable you to stay in-tune with the desires of your clients.

We’ve put together the top 5 home improvement trends for 2017 to help you stay in-the-loop. Which trends are you most excited about?

1. Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle

It might not sound like a home improvement trend, but it is. A recent Houzz study found that ⅓ of homeowners report leading a healthier lifestyle after a kitchen renovation. And, the push for a healthier lifestyle is creating an entirely new market in the home improvement and products industry.

Indoor gardening, for example, was quite popular at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. Tower Garden, edn, and others have been growing in popularity —and homeowners are looking for new ways to incorporate indoor gardening in their homes. This home improvement trend doesn’t stop here. We’re also seeing things like food recyclers and compactors being added to high-end kitchens.

2. Incorporating Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology has come a long way over the last few years. Companies like Ring have broadened their product offerings, as homeowners continue to show interest in ways to protect and automate their homes. Ring not only offers video doorbells, they’ve added the world’s only motion-activated HD security camera with built-in flood lights, a siren alarm and two-way talk.

Some smart technology is worth the investment, but do your research to make sure the products live up to their promises. For example,  all of GE Appliances’ WiFi-ready models feature a digital assistant called Geneva that communicates with Amazon’s Alexa, making hands free communication a breeze. However when we tested WallyHome, the home sensing solution failed to detect a leak even though the sensor was sitting in pool of water.

If you’re taking on a home renovation, it’s a smart idea to include smart technology!

3. Smaller, But Fancier

According to a recent Consumer Reports article and US Census Bureau data, for the first time since 2009, the average size of new homes built in 2016 went down from the prior year, to 2,634 square feet. But, with all the smart home technology they’re getting more modern.

Because they’re not splurging on McMansions, homeowners are able to splurge in other areas like kitchen appliances, high-end design finishes and other upgrades that may have previously been considered unnecessary.

4. Keeping Easy Cleaning in Mind

Homeowners are also keeping the ease of cleaning in mind when remodeling or upgrading their homes. From surfaces like tile and granite that are relatively easy to keep in good condition to high-tech appliances like this self-cleaning toilet (yes, you read that right), we’re looking for upgrades that will help make life a bit easier.

Touchless faucets and smudge-free stainless steel appliances are other examples of this trend coming to life.  

5. Color, Color Everywhere

Another easy-to-do yet popular home improvement trend for 2017 is color. We’re seeing everything from jewel-toned kitchens and bathrooms to color used as an accent to increase the depth and visual appeal of big, open spaces.

Painting is perhaps the easiest way to DIY your home improvement, and can easily be modified as trends change.

Making Home Improvements That Count

These home improvement trends offer insight into the many ways homeowners are advancing their living spaces this year. As a homeowner or construction professional, achieving any of these trends will bring your home into the 21st century —keeping it up-to-date and appealing should you decide to sell.

Whether you’re aching for the latest smart home gadgets or are planning a big remodel, 2017 is the year to modernize and live better. Spring is a great time to get your home life on track, and, if you’re still a bit behind the times, consult the smart home gift guide to see what you’ve been missing.

3 Accounting Tips for Contractors

Construction accounting differs greatly from general accounting. Your projects involve a lot of moving parts. As such, accounting for the costs and expenses associated with projects that may go through change-order after change-order, stretching over several months or even years, takes special skills. Whether you’re a general contractor or specialize in a certain area of construction, these accounting tips will help you gain a clear understanding of your business finances.

1. Choosing the Best Projects

The lure of the mighty dollar can be hard to resist. You are thinking about submitting a bid for the biggest project you’ve ever tackled for the most money you’ve ever made. Before you say yes, are you sure this is the best project for you?

Weighing the Costs

Can you cover the costs of the proposed project? What about the risk factors associated with the project? Will you need to rent equipment, hire more workers, and front more expenses? Before you choose a project, create a simple profit-loss spreadsheet and calculate the additional costs and risks associated —especially with bigger projects— to make sure you’ll come out ahead.

2. Making More Effective Quotes

If you take them time to calculate the feasibility of taking on a project, you will be able to provide better, more effective quotes. Here are several cost comparison methods contractors use to provide effective quotes.

Methods of Cost Comparison

Cost Comparison: The cost of materials, permitting, licensing, and general expenditures is going to vary from job to job. When calculating costs to include in a quote, be sure to include cost comparisons with previous or similar jobs for an accurate picture of the costs.

Work Comparison: How long and how many workers it will take to complete the job should factor into your quotes to make them more effective. Consider if hiring more people will change those numbers at all and be as transparent as possible.

Cost Accrual: You may eat the costs up front and bill the customer on the backend for additional labor and materials instead of charging those up front; a good method for winning bids. You will still be reimbursed but you must be sure to accrue your costs so that you don’t shortchange yourself at the close of the project.

Methods of Calculating Billing Milestones

Completion Percentage: Your method of billing should also be spelled out in your quotes to make them more effective. One method is to set up milestones where you are paid a percentage of the total for a certain percentage of work that has been completed to-date. You can set these up for weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly milestone payments.

Contract Completion: Another, more risky method, is to do all of the work, eat all of the expense, and then bill your client at the completion of the contract. If you choose this method, it’s wise to insist on a deposit so that you aren’t completely shafted after the work is completed.

Cash Payment: It’s not exactly legal but some contractors pay their workers under the table in cash. This is a shady way to run your contracting business so just avoid it. On the other hand, if you are taking on small projects that allow your customers to pay a couple hundred bucks in cash for their convenience, that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure to give and keep receipts and to record it as income on your balance sheet.

3. Utilizing the Best Resources

Few contractors have the expertise to handle their own accounting from beginning to end and why should you? Your job is to get the job done, so one way to make sure that your contracting business is doing it the right way is to do like most; hire a CPA and tax consultant.

From closing your accounting periods to filing your taxes with the IRS, having an accounting professional’s help with your books is a no-brainer for most contractors. Whether you hire a CPA on your payroll or you contract their services throughout the year, it’s just smart business to utilize the best resources available to you.

Accounting for General Home Services Contractors

General home service contractors often get paid on the fly, carry around wads of expense receipts, and hire people on a moment’s notice. Plumbers, electricians, roofers, HVAC installers, all have to take special care to track and record expenses for proper accounting.

Recording Expenses Properly

Simply spending money does not an expense create. Expenses have to be used specifically toward a paid job. That includes any money you spend on travel, licensing, hiring, materials, etc. Those are project expenses which must be kept separate from G&A (General and Administrative) expenses which include:

  •      Marketing Costs
  •      Health Insurance
  •      Payroll Expenses
  •      Business Licenses
  •      Certifications
  •      Insurance

There are instances where general expenses can be deducted for instance, expenses for your work vehicle. The IRS also allows businesses to deduct 50% from meals and entertainment expenses with proper documentation.

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What have you found to be your most effective accounting practices? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts with our community on Facebook.

4 Ways to Gain and Retain Business from High-End Clients

For contractors and builders, gaining (and retaining) high-end clients can make or break your business. However, there are specific ways you can appeal to high-end clients to ensure that you’re not only staying in contact after the job is completed —but that you’re also fostering a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

Whether you’re just starting out or already have a bank of high-end business, here are four important ways that you can gain and retain business from high-end clients:

#1. Remember the First (and Ongoing) Impression

We’ve all heard that first impressions are vital in business —and the contracting and building fields are no exception. But, when you’re appealing to high-end clientele, there’s more to it than just a friendly handshake.

Make sure that you and your team sport professional attire, are well groomed and represent your brand —always. A well-branded team will showcase the professionalism and credibility that high-end clients look for.

The same is true about punctuality. If you are running late from another project, don’t wait until the appointment time to notify your next client. Give them a heads up as soon as you are aware that your schedule has changed and offer to reschedule if your tardiness will become an inconvenience. Being punctual and respectful of the client’s personal time throughout the project will speak volumes about your dedication to the client and their business.

#2. Keep Constant Communication

By informing the client every step of the way, you’ll demonstrate how tuned-in you are to clients’ needs and will keep the communication lines open. From the initial consultation and bid to after-the-sale follow-up, don’t give your high-end clients the opportunity to wonder what’s going on. A client that feels they can openly communicate with their contractor anytime is a happy client —and those are the ones who bring repeat and referral business.

#3. Pay Attention to the Details

By maintaining a well designed and organized worksite from the start, your attention to detail will further illustrate your expertise. Your high profile clients expect you to protect the worksite from damage, respect their property and clean up after yourself when it’s time to go.

Spend extra time at the start of each day preparing the worksite with protective sheeting and tarps over flooring and sensitive surfaces. If the jobsite requires a porta-potty, make sure to cover the exterior with a decorative lattice so as not to offend the homeowner or their neighbors. And place trash receptacles or dumpsters in discreet locations.

Make sure your team is on top of the physical worksite throughout the build. Your top-notch clients expect your team to be professional and polite, so make sure everyone wears protective clothing (i.e. shoe covers), keeps tools and equipment away from delicate finishes, and behaves professionally at all times.

#4. Give Service After the Sale

While going your separate ways after completing a job used to be the nature of the business, luxury homeowners expect a higher level of service from their contractors.

Start by sending out monthly e-newsletters with maintenance tips, smart home & conservation news, and upgrade ideas, you’ll illustrate how deeply you care about their home —even after a job is completed. Given that you’ve already worked hard to earn their respect, lock in future business and referrals by staying in touch.

Word of mouth is the key to success when it comes to high-end clients, so it pays to consider ways to cultivate their business. Start earning additional clients and securing former ones by partnering with Glasshouse. Our modern home care platform and done-for-you newsletters enable you to continue to serve these valued clients and grow your business. Connect with us today to learn more!

Decoding a Home Inspection Report: What Buyers Need to Know

The home inspection is a critical step in the home buying process. It generally confirms the buyer’s favorable impression and perhaps identifies a few issues that should be part of negotiations. In some cases, however, the home inspection can uncover real problems that can throw the entire deal into question.

For the typical home buyer, it can be difficult to interpret a home inspection report, know which points are especially significant —possible deal breakers— and which are common and easily addressed. It’s a good idea to get familiar with some of the components of a home inspection report and to know what sorts of questions to ask along the way.

The Big Red Flags

The purpose of a home inspection is to verify that the home’s structure and systems are in good shape and working order. It protects the buyer from inheriting problems that weren’t obvious in touring the home, and is absolutely a necessary step, no matter how pristine the property appears. Generally, a few minor issues won’t derail a deal, but there are some things that should give the buyer pause, and definitely indicate some re-negotiating, at least.

Forbes recommends watching for these home inspection red flags:

foundation-cracks

1. Problems with drainage or grading

This can cause a multitude of problems ranging from rotting wood frame to the shifting and/or cracking a home’s foundation over time. A good inspector will notice possible signs of foundation movement. If this is noted on a home inspection, understand that repairs will be costly.

tiles-1707623_1920

2. Worn out roofing

Watch for any mention of signs of aging such as cupping, curling, blistering, lifting, splitting, insect damage, cracking, rotting and missing granular/sections. These symptoms of an aging roof may be warning signs of future water intrusion unless a new roof is installed; and once again there is a hefty price tag to this sort of project.

Wondering how to maintain a roof? Here are some tips.

Broken electric cable.

3. Unsafe wiring

Defective electrical wiring is a common cause of residential fires. Also, be aware that the number of electrical outlets in the home is significant. Too few outlets can lead to the overuse of extension cords, which places too much stress on the electrical system. You should also be mindful of any exposed wires. Remedying any of these problems will require a professional and the associated costs.

Plumbing

4. Faulty plumbing

This can indicate substantial problems that may even necessitate replacing the entire system. Pay attention to the smallest leak, since the potential for damage is considerable.

Other signs of trouble include mold, water damage, foundation damage, or insect infestations. All of these can be the result of poor maintenance, which has a negative effect on the property as a whole.

What to Do With the Report

Once you’ve received an inspection report, what’s the next step? Be sure to reach out to the inspector if you have questions or if you feel that information is missing. How you handle the report has a big impact on your actual purchase price and on the condition of your new home.  Here are some tips for how to proceed:

  • Discuss it with your real estate agent

Share the report with your agent. They see dozens of reports, and will be able to quickly identify any areas for concern.  They can also recommend contractors to handle needed repairs.

  • Get an estimate for repairs

Have the contractor come to the house and share the inspection report. Make sure that the estimate you’re given covers the specific repairs called for in the inspection. Get a firm timeline for when the work could be accomplished.

  • Negotiate with the seller

Based on your meeting with the contractor, decide which repairs are most important to you, and what issues you may not be interested in addressing. Discuss the inspection report and required repairs with the seller. Negotiate how those will be covered: the seller may make the repairs or may provide compensation for repairs that you arrange.

The ideal scenario is a clean inspection, although it’s rare that a home has no issues at all. A favorable inspection boosts buyer confidence, as it should. It indicates a home that has been well cared for, and helps deals move forward more quickly.

Improving Value with Glasshouse

If you’re selling your home, being able to demonstrate meticulous maintenance is a big plus. Our Glasshouse customers have 24/7 access to detailed maintenance reports on their property, and can document that their home has been on a comprehensive maintenance schedule. We like to think that we make the inspector’s job easy.

Whether you’re thinking about selling your home or simply understand the importance of preventative maintenance, connect with our team at Glasshouse to learn more about our preventative maintenance service.

7 Ways to Grow Your Contracting Business (While Times are Good)

After some rocky years following the housing crash, new home sales are looking good. In fact, sales of new homes jumped 5.2 percent in November, considerably higher than expected. And that average includes some tremendous regional growth. New home sales in the West and Midwest were up by 7.7 and a whopping 43.8 percent respectively during that period, according to U.S. Census data.

So, things are going well … That may be the case, but we don’t see successful contractors sitting back and counting their cash in times like these. In fact, while the market is on an upswing is the perfect time to grow and strengthen your business.  During those periods, you have some cash flow that can be put toward increased marketing, and with more recent sales you have the attention and ear of more clients.

Growing your business is all about establishing new customer relationships and solidifying existing ones. Use this time to promote successful projects, increase your marketing reach, and nurture client relationships.

Here are some proven ways to build your business when times are good.

#1. Boost your online presence

While things are moving along smoothly, spend some extra time on enhancing your participation online. Of course your website should always be accurate and up to date, but is it informative? Consider adding a blog as a vehicle for sharing information that’s relevant to your customers’ interests. To ensure that your content is effective, research what your audience wants from posts and never use your blog to sell. Post information that tells people something, and it’s more likely to be shared widely.

This helps you to establish yourself as a reliable expert, someone who people can rely on for relevant and accurate information. It plants the seed of trust, which makes for strong and positive relationships with customers and industry partners.

Also online, read some influential blogs in your field, and participate in the comment area conversation. Again, it’s important to resist the temptation to make a sales pitch; just interact in a positive way, and look for opportunities to share useful information. Link to these blogs to help your readers learn more as well.  

#2. Assess your progress toward goals

Success can’t happen without a roadmap, and while the market is hopping it’s a great time to check in on your progress. Hopefully your goals are quantifiable, meaning progress can be measured in some way. If not, take this time to set some specific parameters and objectives that you’ll be able to monitor over the months and years to come.

#3. Dive deeper into your marketing strategy

Take a look at your marketing strategy, and push your boundaries. One area that continues to be strong for marketing is email.  It’s certainly one of the most cost-effective approaches. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has a return on investment of around 4300 percent. (Yeah. Two zeros.)

Of course this isn’t going to happen if you bombard people with generic “give me your money” messages. As with any online content, emails have to be targeted, personalized, and relevant. An effective marketing tool that doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time is a monthly email newsletter.

It helps to be able to keep up with what your contacts are up to, and there are plenty of tech tools to help with that. Rapportive, for example, allows you to get your contact’s LinkedIn profiles directly in your inbox.

#4. Set up an after-the-sale service program

Referrals are critical in the business, so spending some time on ways to extend your relationship with past customers can really pay off. Take a page from the Car Dealer’s handbook and provide great service after the sale. New homeowners are always in need of services: why not use your expertise to set them up with the best?

Beyond serving as a resource for referrals to excellent and trustworthy service providers, establishing a home maintenance service keeps you top-of-mind for years to come.

#5. Host an event at one of your communities/projects

Keep yourself relevant to your clients by inviting them to a gathering to showcase your latest and greatest work. Reach out to past clients. You never know which of them might be considering a move or have relatives or friends coming to the area who might be very interested in newly completed projects.

#6. Hire an assistant to make calls and follow-up on leads

One of the major ways that we lose business is by not following up on leads and inquiries. A study cited on HubSpot found that  “71% of qualified leads are never followed up with. What’s more is, of the leads that are followed up on, they’re only touched an average of 1.3 times. This represents tremendous opportunity costs not only in revenue, but in the customer/prospect experience as well.”

Especially when business is good, you likely have leads coming in on a variety of channels. It can be difficult to keep up, let alone evaluate which leads are most promising. This might be a good time to hire someone with great people skills who can follow up on those leads, contacting them, answering questions, and providing further information. This assistant could help to categorize your leads for more effective marketing going forward, as well.

#7. Revamp record keeping

Help keep things running smoothly as your company grows by evaluating your system for keeping records. If you’re still using a lot of paper and spreadsheets, check into some digital solutions. Software and platforms for business have come a very long way in just the last few years. Consider these ideas for making record-keeping more accurate and less time-consuming than ever:

  •      Use cloud storage for 24/7 access anywhere
  •      Automate billing
  •      Integrate tasks with a CRM system
  •      Share and sign documents electronically

Don’t Let Your Business Run by Chance

Learn more about our after-the-sale home maintenance programs for contractors and builders. Connect with our Glasshouse team today and start realizing the benefits of long-term client relationship building.

5 Content Marketing Tips for Contractors and Builders

The key to connecting with potential clients online in any business is the use of content marketing. What is content marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute provides this definition: Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The key here is to make the content “valuable and relevant.” Otherwise the definition would apply to any kind of marketing or ads. Good content marketing provides information that people will seek out.

So content marketing should provide information that your customers need. But why do you need content marketing? Because it has three very beneficial effects:

  •      Increased sales
  •      Lower cost
  •      More loyal customers

Here are some tips to help you maximize those benefits for your business.

1. Take advantage of different formats

Content marketing comes in a variety of forms. Forbes lists these examples:

Infographics

These images present statistics, charts, graphs, and other information in an easy-to-read format. If you need some examples, here are 197 infographics on the topic of content marketing.

Webpages

Make the most of your site by considering search engine optimization, which helps you boost its ranking on sites like Google. Take a look at The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz.

Podcasts  

Change up your online content with some audio. It makes you visible on an additional platform, iTunes. Podcasts can be a very inexpensive way to add some snap to your online content.

Videos

Your business can have its own YouTube channel. Videos are a tremendously effective way to promote new projects.            

2. Write a Blog

Unless you’re blogging, you’re not maximizing your marketing reach. It’s an extremely cost-effective way to connect with a wide audience and generate valuable leads.  

According to a 2016 report, B2B marketers who blog receive 67% more leads than those who don’t, and marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

A well-written blog is the quickest way to establish your credibility as a reliable expert in your industry. If this is uncharted territory, there are plenty of resources available to get you started, like this free planner from HubSpot.

Different types of blog posts lead to different results. Denamico identifies several that are especially appropriate for builders and contractors.

Tactical

These are generally 500-750 words in length and they make up the bulk of most blogs. Tactica posts provide steps or insights to achieve a specific end-goal. This post is a tactical blog. A homebuilder’s post might include “What to Look for in a Custom Home Builder” or “How to Lower Energy Costs in Your New Home.”

In-depth

These are longer posts, and they include outside information such as data on industry trends, new products or construction techniques. These take more time to research, but can be very effective.

List

These posts are fairly easy to produce, and very shareable on social media. They usually drive short-term traffic, but you can update them periodically to get more mileage.  Examples might include a Checklist for First-Time Home Buyers or Five Easy Ways to Update your Bathroom.

Influencer

This type of post can be used to highlight other leaders in the industry or your community. An interview with an expert on sustainable building might be a great topic for an influencer post.  

Editorial

This type of post offers your considered opinion on things that matter to you: trends, legislature, new materials and construction techniques, and consumer demands. They may generate some great discussion.

Ad hoc

This type of post can be about anything that occurs to you. Write about upcoming events in your company or community. Talk about a positive customer encounter or an exciting new project. Consider Ad hoc posts as a journal that shares your company’s story.

3. Stick to relevant topics

Cement your place as an expert in your field by covering it in your posts. Explore a range of topics that will be of interest to your target audience. If you’re low on inspiration, consult an online resource for topic ideas. They can be categorized into different stages according to where the target audience is in the prospecting process: awareness, consideration, decision, or delight.

4. Make it fun to read/watch

HubSpot provides some great tips for making content more engaging and interactive. The key is to elicit a response, or make the reader want to share the post with someone. Online sharing really unleashes the possibilities of content marketing. Here are just a few of their ideas:

  •      New home photo albums
  •      Captioning contests
  •      Ask questions
  •      Share company and staff events, awards, and accomplishments
  •      Seasonal tips –home maintenance, etc.
  •      Property updates
  •      Local area info
  •      Property tours
  •      Floor plans
  •      Link to other blogs/content

5. Take advantage of available services

You may be feeling a little weary just reading about all of the work that goes into effective content marketing, and it is certainly easy to get overwhelmed. There are only so many hours in the day, so how much can you realistically dedicate to generating content?

If your schedule doesn’t allow for hours of writing, our Done-For-You Newsletter may be the ideal solution. We create the valuable and relevant content your homeowners are looking to read, brand it with your logo and contact information, and automatically send it to your client list each month, so you can stay on the radar and provide useful information without neglecting your other tasks. Let us help you grow your business!

Glasshouse Launches Done-For-You Newsletters

Keeping in touch with clients, while important, often falls by the wayside when business is good. But for most contractors, the majority of new business comes from referrals. We wrote about the value of continued communication recently and can now offer you a solution to help: Done-For-You Newsletters.

The name speaks for itself. Our Done-For-You Newsletters give you a hands-off approach to keeping in touch with your clients, generating referral business, and staying top-of-mind when a new home project arises. In a few simple steps, you can set it and forget it.

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Custom Email Templates & Articles Written by Industry Pros

We will create monthly newsletters on your behalf and send them to your client list. Our engaging newsletter templates are customized by talented designers. They include three to four pieces of content alongside your company information, logo and brand color. Upon receiving the newsletters, your customers will enjoy reading expert advice from industry professionals on essential home maintenance tips, valuable upgrade opportunities, and more.

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Branded Microsite

Additionally, we will create a personalized microsite to host articles from the newsletter along with an interactive company profile page.  Showcasing contact information, customer reviews, photos from past projects, and original articles from your newsletters, the profile pages are the perfect tool to keep your clients up-to-date on how you can keep their homes in peak condition.

The homeowner-focused articles in your microsite will be updated on a monthly basis in conjunction with the mailing of your newsletter. However your clients can visit the site at any time to read past posts or research your company. Not to mention, it’s quick and easy to make updates to your page when you have new reviews or images to share.

If your marketing plan needs a jumpstart or you are too busy to even think about how to stay relevant with past clients, Done-For-You Newsletters are the answer to your problems. Fill out our sign-up form to get started on your first newsletter campaign today!

Selling Your Home? Give Buyers Confidence with Glasshouse

Preparing to sell your house means shifting your perspective a bit. You have to start seeing it not as your home, but as a place where others might want to live. As you probably know, there are dozens of things you can do to make the property more attractive to potential buyers.

Of course the initial impression that a home makes is critically important. That is what fuels the drive to improve curb appeal, make any necessary repairs, and upgrade fixtures and appliances.  It has spawned a whole industry, devoted to preparing and staging the home to make it more visually appealing, so that buyers can picture themselves living there.

Once prospective buyers get past the initial impression they are looking for indications of the home’s value. They want to decide whether to make an offer, and if so, how much the home is worth. Well-maintained features and systems show that a home has been well cared for, and buyers feel more confident about making an offer.

Keeping up with maintenance tasks, large and small, help a home retain its value. Industry observers tell us that neglecting maintenance can result in a 10 percent decrease in the value of a home. Without maintenance, an average home can depreciate by thousands of dollars.

When the time comes to sell that house, inspectors are likely to find a laundry list of needed repairs, and potential buyers can easily be scared off by the types of problems that will come to light.

A university study showed that regular maintenance boosts home value by about 1% per year, so maintenance slows down depreciation. That fact, combined with the fact that real estate prices overall tend to increase over time, means more value in a well-maintained home.

For the most part, if you’ve practiced good maintenance over the years, it will be evident. Any of the exterior features –siding, roof, landscaping –as well as the cosmetics inside are easy to observe, but what about when it comes to your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical, and other systems?  Unless you’ve been able to keep scrupulous records and receipts, you may not be able to demonstrate to potential buyers how well they’ve been maintained.

A sale can hang on considerations like these. Indeed, financing a purchase may be impossible for some buyers when a home requires certain repairs.  FHA loans, for example, won’t be granted for homes with structural issues.

The more you’re able to assure the buyer that the home is solid and well maintained, the more comfortable they’ll feel. Having a third party validate your statements about home maintenance can be the kind of assurance that will help buyers reach a decision.

Working with the house managers at Glasshouse can be the ideal solution. We can provide complete records of the maintenance completed on your home, along with information on the age and condition of its systems and structural elements.

Having Glasshouse as your ally means never having to wonder whether you’ve covered all of the important preventative maintenance that your home needs. A detailed and personalized maintenance calendar means that nothing is neglected or left to chance.  

Our dedicated house managers make quarterly visits to complete a preset list of maintenance tasks, building a digital catalog of the home’s systems and appliances with each visit.  They will also provide informative maintenance reports following each visit.

This comes in handy when the time comes to sell. Not only will you have few, if any repairs to make before putting the house on the market, which can save considerable time, but you’ll also be able to provide the potential buyer with peace of mind.  They can hear about how the home has been professionally cared for by the professionals who handled the job.

Preventative maintenance can save thousands in repair costs. It’s estimated that every $1 spent on home maintenance saves $100 on repairs. Explore our site to see how Glasshouse works to make it easy to keep your home in peak condition, so you can enjoy it now and maintain its value so you can find the right buyer when the time comes to sell.

Give potential buyers confidence in the value of your home with Glasshouse.