The employees of Allan Custom Homes build homes as if they were moving in upon closing.
THERE ARE MANY homebuilders who treat their business as just a means to make the most money and drive out the competition. At Allan Custom Homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, employees treat homebuyers as they would like to be treated were they about to make the largest investment of their lifetime.
“We build the home as though it’s our own,” says Paul Brundell, founder and president of Allan Custom Homes. “We want the supply community and trade community to want as much of this product as we do, and we stand behind our product long into the future and never have to worry about making that call.”
Brundell grew up in the homebuilding industry in Grand Forks, N.D., where his father, Allan, owned a building and development company. Brundell, however, pursued a career in electrical engineering, and he worked for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids for 20 years.
While with Rockwell, Brundell purchased a property he originally intended to develop as a passive investment. However, development soon led to homebuilding, and Brundell launched Allan Custom Homes in 2003 to pursue his passion. He left Rockwell Collins in 2006.
Today, Brundell uses his experience in engineering, marketing, sales, program management and product line management to create a systematic approach to homebuilding. He says he focuses on integrating systems for optimum efficiency, including Energy Star from the U.S. EPA and green certifications from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Through NAHB, he has been named a Graduate Master Builder, Certified Green Professional, Certified Graduate Builder and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist.
Allan Custom Homes primarily focuses on the design and construction of new homes, but the company also performs room additions, remodeling and cabinetry within an hour radius of Cedar Rapids. “We’re a small startup that has been able to penetrate the mid-to-high-end custom homebuilding market traditionally held by local multigenerational companies,” Brundell says. “I’m new to the area, so I’ve had to rely on extensive contacts, business acumen, persistence, diligence and making a lot of communication to build trust not only amongst my competitors and peers, but within the marketplace to be a viable contender among household names in thecustom homebuilding market.”
Since the crash of the U.S. economy in 2008 and 2009, Brundell says his customers have been making more economically sound decision about the amenities in their homes.
“We’re seeing more value-based decision- making in alignment of wants and needs with the realities that people experienced in 2008 – that is, housing doesn’t always go up, and it may go down in value,” Brundell says. “Customers ask, ‘How do we feel about spending a bunch of money on something that we may or may not need now or in the definable future?’”
For example, whirlpool tubs in master bathrooms were once in high demand. However, according to Brundell’s interviews with potential homebuyers, at least seven out of 10 people don’t use the tub in their master bathrooms. They’re often too busy to take a lengthy bath and often only shower.
“They’re starting to focus on what they need based on their lifestyle,” Brundell says. “If you’re spending that money, why worry about what a future buyer may want? Focus on what you need and value and not do crazy things. There seems to be more discussion about value-based decision-making with better attention to detail and planning.”
To help homebuyers better identify what is important to them, Allan Custom Homes asks each buyer to prioritize their top five wants and needs for their new home. Once there is a consensus on those priorities, the company then begins determining a budget.
“The most commonly asked question across the board is, ‘What is the cost per square foot?’” Brundell says. “Then we find out if we’re building a Chevrolet, Lexus or Ferrari. We have to identify all this before we can give responsible feedback on that particular question, otherwise it is reckless.”
This is where Allan Custom Homes’ attention to detail, professional program management, risk management and a documented quality control program come into play. The homebuilding industry has taken notice – the company was voted builder of the year in the Cedar Rapids metro area Greater Cedar Rapids Home Builders Association. Allan Custom Homes also has earned first place in multiple price categories from the Parade of Homes.
In the future, Brundell wants to improve and expand Allan Custom Homes’ core design/ build custom homebuilding business and remodeling operations.