Eric Lee set out to create a design/build company with unparalleled ethics when he launched VictorEric.
AS THE DESIGN/BUILD METHOD of delivering homes has gained steam over the last decade, more contractors and architectural firms use the term lightly, giving homebuyers a false sense of the services they offer. Eric Lee knows all too well what can happen when a company says it’s something it’s not, so he has made it his mission to show homebuyers what the true design/build experience is like through his firm, VictorEric Premium Homes.
“There are a lot more people calling themselves design/builders these days, but they’re not really design/builders – it’s more of a marketing thing,” says Lee, who is a principal with his namesake firm. “Most of the time, it is either a business where people hire contractors and designers who are not in-house and call themselves a design/build team.
“That hurts our industry because it doesn’t offer the advantages of true, integrated design/ build experience where one creator is doing it all,” Lee adds.
Lee may have launched his company in 1997, but his building roots took hold when his family first immigrated to Canada as Chinese refugees in 1979.
The Lees attempted to build a home in the suburbs of Vancouver, but an unscrupulous contractor ran off with the family’s life savings, leaving the Lees and the subcontractors high and dry.
Lee’s mother, Lana, may have been recently widowed, but she didn’t let this setback hold her down in a new country where she didn’t speak the language. Instead, Lee says, she approached Chinese builders in her new subdivision about her predicament to see if they could help. Lee says they showed her how to finish the house herself, teaching her aspects of the industry including inspection criteria and then connecting her with trustworthy tradespeople.
“This is the time where I subconsciously made a note to become something different,” says Lee, who was 18 years old at the time. “I was interested in design at the time, but I thought, ‘I’ve got to change this culture and build an ethics-based building and design company so nobody else has to suffer this kind of hardship and injustice.’”
Since building the first family home, Lee says his entire family has been involved in the construction industry in some capacity. He was the only one to venture into design, however. Lee was completing designs for his own projects for some time until clients returned to VictorEric with requests that he build the homes, too, citing corrupt and incompetent contractors.
With many examples of careless and shoddy design execution, he added building services in 2010.
“I opened up to offer building services, but only for our designs,” Lee says. “I was not building for other people. So, we were different than the rest because we truly integrated design/build into each house.”
Last month, VictorEric was named one of the top employers in British Columbia by Small Business BC.
Most recently, VictorEric has ventured into development within the last two years. Since Vancouver is one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, real estate in this market – even the city’s less desirable East Side – starts at about $1 million for a small tear-down house.
Once again, Lee relies on his ethics and aims to help guide others to follow his company’s principles. VictorEric now develops real estate projects to allow locals with smaller amounts of capital to profit from the real estate market.
From Land to Keys
VictorEric recently delivered a project from cradle to grave when the company performed all services for the Ash residence on the west side of Vancouver. According to Lee, VictorEric provided land acquisition, architectural design, landscape design, interior design and construction services for the customer.
VictorEric has earned many Georgie Award finalist recognitions for interior and architectural design, but this was a first for best landscape design 2015.
By offering the complete suite of services his clients need from their designer and homebuilders, Lee says VictorEric learned a valuable lesson from the Ash residence about customer service and how much it plays into the buyer experience.
“Seeing the fun and stress-free face of our clients working with us was incredible,” Lee says. “That’s super motivating and encouraging, which drives us to perfect our process even more.”
As Lee sees it, the future of VictorEric relies on the success of each individual employee. With that in mind, the company offers tuition reimbursement as well as formal, in-house training programs to develop employees who will lead VictorEric well into the future.
For example, Jacquelene Hung joined VictorEric as a receptionist in 2005. She began taking design courses on her own, leading her to a position with the design team.
Today, she has moved on to work as a project coordinator on the construction side of VictorEric.
Nurturing happy employees is just one of the many ways Lee intends to offer VictorEric’s clients an enjoyable homebuilding process from beginning to end.
“I think as a company, what I want to do is be recognized for providing that stress-free environment for clients by keeping it simple for clients,” Lee says. “There are so many horror stories about contractors during construction, so we want to make those stories go away and keep it simple.”