By the Book
Huntington Homes of Winnipeg, Manitoba will complete from 20 – 25 custom homes this year with a detailed marketing and building plan that leaves nothing to chance.
Owned by brothers Rob and Sheldon Swan, with backgrounds in commerce, computers and communications, Huntington Homes is a casebook example of how to succeed in the housing market, even in tough times.
Building in Winnipeg and surrounding areas, Huntington relies on a sound marketing plan, iron clad quality standards and strict cost controls to deliver on-time and on-budget.
“We have developed a costing program to allow us to price very accurately,” said Rob Swan. On one recent home, the cost estimates were only $275 off budget at completion.” We are not always that close, but that is our goal,” Rob said.
The emphasis on quality translates down to painstaking details, as well as on the big items. “We know there is a market that demands quality,” Rob said, “Quality is premier, first and foremost.”
“If we don’t use laminated treads in the staircase, the stairs are going to squeak after the first two to four years, so we use laminated stair treads,” Rob explains, “It is more expensive but it is the proper way to do things.”
Huntington believes their building standard specifications are the highest in Winnipeg, which not only attracts discerning clients but also assures speedy processing of permits through City Hall. Huntington Homes retains consulting engineers to check the soils reports and structural specifications on each of its houses to assure consistent quality.
There Is No Guesswork. The Swans claim their role is to guide clients from the idea of dream home into the reality. “The builder has to help the client understand the choices so they can pick the products that suit their needs,” Rob explains.
To match the dream accurately with the reality, Huntington has developed a 10-page list of standard features and up to 15-pages of ‘a la carte’ items detailing almost every conceivable option. Time-lines are built into the list, right to the possession date. Sub-contractors are given copies of the pages that relate to their work.
“We use the house plan, not as an approximation of how the house should look when it is finished, but exactly how the house will be constructed.” Rob said, “The plan will tell the height of the intercom speaker at the exact location. It will detail how many inches away from the door the intercom will be, there is no guesswork.
By working closely with the client before work starts, Huntington Homes avoids unnecessary visits to the site by the client during construction or changes in the work order.
Marketing Structure Tightly Organized. The Swan brothers are not contractors who decided one day to become homebuilders. Before they began building, the brothers operated the Manitoba Sony office systems dealership. Sheldon, has a university commerce degree and Rob, has a sales and marketing background. While with Sony, the brothers gained a respect and a knowledge of marketing, customer service and computers. Both brothers credit their success, in a large part, to a detailed management structure organized by departments.
While Swan has used such technology to improve how his display home works, he hasn’t sacrificed style. The foyer opens to an airy staircase to the right, a formal dining area to the left and the great room straight ahead. A focal point of the space, a Kichler light fixture made of steel and finished in muted, rustic old-brick tones, hangs from the two-storey high ceiling. An example of modern art, the light with it’s case-iron-like appearance is very versatile, says Robinson Lighting, who also supplied a matching fixture in the dining area as well.
The specific departments cover sales, design, costing, customer services and accounting, each with its operations manual. Sheldon is in charge of operations and finance, while Rob oversees the sales and marketing.
This year, Huntington Homes expects to start over 50,000 square feet of new custom homes. Their clients can be assured that each square foot will be built the only way the Swan brothers know how – by the book.