Above and Beyond with Architects and Clients

With the nature of the remodel business, and customers demanding more for their home improvement dollars, it makes sense to duplicate what successful remodelers are doing working with existing customers and architects. I recently spoke to Dennis Allen, the principal partner of Allen Associates, a custom home building and remodeling company in Santa Barbara, CA.

In one communication, Dennis told me that: “we are having a banner year. We’re ahead of our target for sales. This is a nice change after we had a slow 3-4 months at the end of last year. We are really concentrating on sales and landing projects. It seems to be working. The service aspect of sales is rarely discussed in building magazines or at conferences, yet we find it to be critical. It is what builds trust and pulls prospects into signed contracts”.

Dennis does quite a bit with green building, and oftentimes works with architects. I asked Dennis to review what he is doing, and he shared a number of specific suggestions. I’ve included the 12 best here:

  1. Prompt & effective communication –

    • Architects feel responsible for the project, and they like to know what’s going on. Copy the architect when communicating with the client. This builds the team and helps lead to future work.

    • Frequent updating on a project’s status. Short e-mails are the best. Blackberries are a good tool to accomplish this

    • Get numbers to both client and architect early or, at a minimum, when you said you would

  2. Do them a BIG favor (We dug and located a large water line on the property of an important architect’s client and didn’t charge either the architect or the client) – a small investment. In this case, it is leading to a 6000 square-foot new house that the architect will design and we will build. Big favors impress both architects and homeowners.

  3. Always be available within reason (for example, Dennis visited a property that a past client was thinking of buying. Always, when the client asks, “When can you meet?” your response should be, “what works for you? I will make myself available.”

  4. Help assess issues on a project (for example, an architect who has questions regarding the heating system. If you can, arrange for the heating contractor to visit job site, assess the situation and answer questions).

  5. Make major efforts to beat whatever schedule you set up—getting numbers together, pre-construction commitments, or building the project. Beating schedules wows architects and clients. It is an important form of under promising, but over-achieving.

  6. If possible, offer a home performance assessment for existing homes. If you don’t do home performance testing, work with someone who does. This establishes your professionalism and quantifies your advice. We charge for this service but it impresses our clients and architects.

  7. At any meeting or phone call with an architect, client, or both, arrange for the next step and when it will happen. This builds progress, shows that you are proactive, and creates openings for many of the other items mentioned on this list.

  8. If you see issues that can be a problem on a job, that could potentially embarrass an architect, pull them aside and inform them. If there is a problem at a job, suggest 2 or 3 solutions on how to fix it but let the architect and client decide.

  9. Budget numbers – If working with an architect, send them to the architect first and help them to understand them. They will often explain the numbers to the client and make your job much easier.

  10. If you have the expertise, provide green building advice to the architect and homeowners. When you mention a green product or system, send follow-up written materials to both. This applies not only to green building materials, but any product or system that you recommend. Written materials help substantiate your professionalism.

Whether or not you offer green building expertise, or can do a home performance assessment, the idea behind all of these suggestions is to exceed expectations. Wow the client you are working with. Wow the architect if one is involved in your project. People so seldom have “wow” experiences anymore that when they do have one, it is something they remember.

Planning a Successful Home Addition or Remodel

Have you ever been through a remodel..?  Yea.. well then you know about the emotional highs and lows.  It doesn’t have to be that way – Paramount Remodeling is here to help you every step of the way.  Here are some tips from experts, to get you started.

Make a list of your wants and needs

A great place to start when you’re ready for a home addition or remodel is to write down what you want to accomplish changing your home.  If it’s an addition, you want to add more space, but more importantly, what is this space going to be used for?  This changes from family to family.  The more you can hone in on your end goals, the easier it will be to design with your Contractor and Architect.  Keep in mind, you have likely selected your Contractor and Architect because you trust them, their quality of work, and their opinions.  Lean on them to help decide what is feasible, whether or not it’s a good design idea, and if it’s something you can fit in your budget.

Think about your routine

Routines, for most, are a way of life.  Before you begin the project you should note what rooms you use most, and when.  If you want to have work done in that room, whether they are interior changes, or an expansion, you will have to work around the construction, so it’s a good things to plan for now.  If you keep an open line of communication with your Contractor, they can help work around days/times that are important to you not to be disturbed, and they can let you know days/times it’s unavoidable and to plan around it.  This will create a much more enjoyable environment for your family.


Check the calendar

It’s important to make sure your project works with your schedule.  Do you have a party coming up?  Family or friends visiting?  If so, discuss this with your Contractor, they can help plan to be done beforehand; we suggest giving yourself a few extra weeks so there isn’t any overlap in case there are delays or changes to the project.

Get inspired

Time to figure out what you love, and what you don’t!  There are many places to find inspiration; Houzz, Watching remodeling TV shows, reading magazines, and checking out Paramount’s website.

Consider your space

Houses come in many shapes and sizes – What worked on your neighbor’s house wont necessarily work on yours.  Spend some time considering how your home, yard, and surrounding areas will change.  Adding space doesn’t have to take away any yard, you can also build up. 

Hire a professional

This is the this is the most important beginning step to your project.  Find someone you can trust, someone you can communicate with openly, someone you want in your life for several months;  It’s a lot like dating (don’t worry, you don’t actually have to date us).  Find a contractor that can help you with your plans, interior design and material selections.  Having a one stop shop will save you time and money.  At Paramount, that is our M.O.  We help you from concept through completion.

Get your permits

If you’ve picked a good team (contractor/Architect) this part should be easy on you.  There are many building codes and legal restrictions that need to be followed closely.  From working in a historic district, to building heights, building to land ratio, setback restrictions (how far from your property line/neighbors), and covenants for designs in your area.  In many cases, one or more of these items might restrict you from what you want, but with the right team you can successfully apply for a variance (permission to disregard a particular ordinance).

Plan your renovation free area

This is an important step before your renovation begins to help reduce or eliminate stress of the work.  We also recommend “relocating” any areas that will be out of commission during construction.  Living without a kitchen will get old fast.  Make sure you have a temporary kitchen set up; fridge, water source, microwave, and if you can, BBQ often.  This same rule applies to any area in your house – it’s important to have areas in your house, if you’re living there during construction, that you can escape.

Let the excitement roll in

Building your new project is an exciting and important endeavor, and Paramount Remodeling wants the process to be as smooth and enjoyable as possible.  That is why we provide each of our clients with access to a secure website with all of the details of their project. Whether you are at home, at work, on the road, or on vacation, Paramount puts the information you need, at your fingertips; Selections, Upgrades, Financial decisions, questions, documents, photos, and more.