Customer Service and Support makes for a better set of plans and panelized home package. Can changes be made to my new home plan and panelized home kit? The value of quality home plans and how they benefit your new home build.
Interviewer: Hello everybody and welcome to episode 32 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me in studio as always is the President and Founder of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want, exactly as they want, across the nation and worldwide since 1993 and that man would be Mr. Steve Tuma. Steve, how is it going?
Steve Landmark: Hey, it’s an excellent day. Thirty-two episodes. So what do we have? Like six, seven, eight, a hundred minutes of stuff for people to listen to.
Interviewer: Yeah. I would say at least and so far we haven’t been too redundant, which is surprising.
Steve Landmark: Extremely valuable knowledge. It’s actually pretty cool because I was wondering. You know, someone is listening to all these. We had a customer last week who said, “I listen to the podcast. I drive from my job. I learned everything.”
Steve Landmark: Yeah. So we’re helping him with the home. He lives in the Denver area and he’s going to build in Nevada.
Interviewer: Yeah. What did he say about me? No, I’m –
Steve Landmark: He said, “Hey, it’s that sidekick over there. He just knows everything. He’s the real reason.” That’s what he said.
Interviewer: So I was going over some ideas for a few new shows and I’ve been wanting to do – you know, so change it up a little bit and I – you know, just keep a – keep a notebook handy and I ran across an idea I had a while back. But we haven’t gotten to yet and that idea being as a – as a potential panelized home builder, who goes into any aspect of my life thinking I know everything about everything, that’s just who I am and I’m always wrong. So talk to me as though I don’t know anything, which is pretty true. When building a new home, what should I look for that I don’t realize I actually need to know? In other words, educate me on panelized home building. For instance, customer service. Why do you think customer service and positive attitude is – they’re so important to the success of a new home building project?
Steve Landmark: Well, it’s kind of interesting because sometimes people look at when they’re buying stuff as like it’s a commodity. A gallon of milk. Like hey, this gallon of milk is the same as that gallon of milk. So how can you possibly be any different in the home building business? Well, this isn’t a gallon of milk. There’s a lot of details that need to go into knowing if your house will fit on the land. Is it the right house? Energy codes, mechanical details, structural design. We offer a very high level of customer service. We will take the time with each and every customer individually specific to their project, to make sure it goes on because a lot of owner builders are building because it makes sense. It saves them money. They get a home with the details that they want. But a lot of them just want to do it. We’ve had customers that have built two, three, four, five, ten homes. It’s just what they want to do.
Interviewer: Rather than buy a preexisting home, just build.
Steve Landmark: Right, right. So someone may have built a home. You know, say five years ago. Well the codes are different. Energy codes are up. So even though what you did five years ago or ten or twenty years ago, the concepts are the same, the way you do it is different.
Steve Landmark: So this is kind of a situation of if you ask us a question, we’re going to give you a complete answer. We’re going to let you understand what’s going on because our customers are essentially the general contractor. They’re coordinating. They’re working with different people. They’re taking care of issues one by one as they arise and we want to be a resource to them. So if they get stuck with something, the building department asked them a funny question, they don’t understand something, we’re able to help them. So there’s a difference of just going somewhere and saying, “Hey, I need a hundred two-by-fours,” compared to “Hey, how do I use those hundred two-by-fours properly and efficiently to make sure that my house is built right?”
Steve Landmark: So it’s not just buying materials. It’s making sure the home is done right. I think that’s the key element to it is it’s a big project. It’s a big project building homes. It’s a big project understanding the processes and the nuances to different homes and different areas. So that’s why we tell people and we act on it. We provide the service. That’s just part of what we do. It’s just in us to help people do it. So sometimes people say, “Well, I just want the cheapest house.” I’m like, “Well, do you want the cheapest house or do you want the best house built at the best price?”
Steve Landmark: And that’s a key to it because you don’t want the cheapest house later to find out it’s not energy-efficient or you’ve got issues with the building department. You want to make sure that it’s done right.
Interviewer: Now you guys are pretty hands-on then with your customers. So I would imagine that there – you’ve had customers that want to make a lot of changes or they’re making last minute changes. How do you go about letting people know that that’s going to affect their overall budget and schedule if they make a lot of changes throughout the process?
Steve Landmark: Well, that’s an interesting thing because the actual change process, we want people to get the right home and sometimes there are situations where customers need to change because they just haven’t settled on how they want something put together. Other times, they’re kind of stuck in a situation for a code issue or a land situation. So we will work with them to get the house right. We don’t just want to do changes for the purpose of doing them. But if something needs to be done to take care of a customer, we do it. We don’t charge extra.
Now if they go add something, say they’re starting with a 1500-square-foot home and they’re expanding to a 2000-square-foot home, the cost of those materials would obviously be more. But we’re not going to say, hey, that’s a plan change. It’s not like an architect or a lawyer where they just want to rack up bills and send you details. So we will go through and supply whatever is necessary to make sure that the home is put together.
Now, there’s a couple of facets to what you brought up on changes because sometimes people will say, “Well, it’s a panelized home. It’s prebuilt. You can’t change it.” Yes, you can.
Steve Landmark: You don’t always want to because what ends up happening with changes is they end up costing more. If you have a wall in place and you decide you need to move it, well, it might be a structural wall. That wall might already have plumbing in it. So you’re kind of paying to take it down and redo it. So you really want to do all the changes upfront on paper going through the process. But let’s just say something happens where someone needs a change.
This happened to us. A couple starts designing a home. We go through the process. They get everything going. We go through permitting. Suddenly they find out they’re pregnant. They need an extra room for the grandparents to come over to play babysitter and it’s like, “Steve, how do we put four bedrooms in this house?” It’s like OK, I guess we got to do it. It sounds like a good reason.
So we figure it out. So if somebody has a situation like that, we’re not there nickel-and-diming people to say, hey, give me – you know, you need this. You’re stuck. We’re going to charge you. No, we’re going to be extremely cooperative and do what we can to make it work so that the customer is happy. Bottom line is if a customer is happy, they tell a friend.
Steve Landmark: We get a customer next year.
Interviewer: You were talking earlier, just a few minutes ago, about local building departments and what info that they might need from me, the customer. But what if my local building department asks for things that I just don’t know or I can’t answer?
Steve Landmark: Well, that’s something we could look at their website. We can call them. We can review the situation or if a customer feels that they want to transfer their questions to us, we can answer them and do a – the chances are we’ve seen and experienced the question that’s being posed. So what is a customer – it might be the first time or third time around building a home with us. We’ve been doing it 25 years. We’ve probably seen the situation before. So a customer – we always encourage our customers to contact us by email. They can text us, call us, whatever it is. If they have questions, we look at the time that we spend upfront, developing a relationship, letting our customer know how we can support them through their project. They see the big value in that.
Interviewer: Yeah. I mean there’s no replacing experience, that’s for sure. Now we had done a show about – we already touched upon contractors in the past. I don’t remember which episode that was. But what about contractors and information that they may need? Can Landmark jump on the phone with a contractor and help with questions that I the customer probably just can’t answer?
Steve Landmark: Oh, yes. We’re more than happy to communicate with anyone that’s involved with the project to make sure that everything is clear. But generally what we do in that case is we would develop the first set of plans with a customer and send it to them. So then the contractor has something very clear. That contractor can then say, “Hey, it’s this house on that lot,” and if there’s any questions, they can review them with us and we will go through. The reason for that is that sometimes there are just different practices in different parts of the country or an individual contractor says, “Hey, this is the way I like to do it,” because of whatever reason. If that’s the case, we can work with them to get it taken care of. The key to that kind of preview, it just kind of gets everyone on the same wavelength.
Interviewer: Right. Now, you’re pretty much thinking that in – to be prepared as a good home builder, that I should have a unified set of plans, right? I mean I can’t just call an architect or an engineer and expect them to do all of the work for me, though that might be nice.
Steve Landmark: Right. The reason being is that – let’s just say you’re doing a house project in an estate where they need architectural plans, structural plans, a site plan, energy codes, green codes and plumbing, electric and heat design. So you can go to all those different people and have them do their work. But then who’s putting it together to make sure it’s unified?
Steve Landmark: You know, make sure that the electric matches the HVAC, to make sure the plumbing works matches the floor plan, to make sure that the insulation fits within the structure, to make sure it’s drawn on the architectural plans. So you notice – this isn’t true all the time. But you can’t exactly go to a typical grocery store and say, “Hey, here’s some pepperoni. Here’s some cheese. Here’s some dough. Here are some tomatoes. Make my pizza.” No. They’re like, “We sell pieces. You have to put it together,” and that’s the art and that’s kind of the situation that we do is go through and get it put together because each of these disciplines usually does their job but they’re overlapping to make sure it’s tied together unified as we call it. It makes sense because more and more building departments are actually checking to make sure that things make sense. They’re not just saying, “Hey, you turned an energy code. We will check that off the list.”
They’re actually reading them to make sure they’re right and reflected on the plans and that’s what we’ve been doing for decades. So it’s not a new concept to us but that’s it. But sometimes people think hey, I’m just going to go call this guy and he’s going to magically do this and this guy is going to do that and some amount is going to come together. That’s not always the case. We do a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure the foundation design works for the land, works for the house. The insulation works for the house. The mechanical design works for the house. Energy codes match up. Green codes and everything are there and it’s the details. That’s really why you want it, so that it’s clear. By having a clear set of plans, it’s easier to get permits. It’s easier for inspections. It’s easier to get stuff done and it’s easier to keep communication clean so that someone doesn’t come back and say, “Well, I thought you wanted purple siding.” So we put details on the plans to show what a customer wants.
Steve Landmark: So therefore, it’s accurate. So it’s very clear what’s to be done and there’s no finger pointing.
Interviewer: Now what about just questions that I as an owner builder might have? I mean will Landmark be there? You guys are able to be there to answer my questions, just my questions as the builder during the design and building process?
Steve Landmark: Oh, yes. That’s part of the customer service part. We want our customers to understand what’s going on. They act as the general contractor or they may hire a general contractor. But they come to us to have a certain level of control and understanding of their project. So they may ask. Hey, why was the calculation done this way? Hey, why has this happened? What about this or hey, can we do that?
That’s what we’re able to go through. Now, some customers just rely on us to get it done right. Other customers will have a variety of questions. Whatever works, we’re going to do it right. We’re going to provide the best set of plans and provide customer support throughout the whole project. We do communicate with our customers even after the delivery of the house. It could be months later. I’m just communicating, saying, “Hey, how is everything going?”
Steve Landmark: We want to know it’s done right. We’re proud of the product we supply and we want people to be proud of their home.
Interviewer: You were telling me once. I think it was on an episode of this show as a matter of the fact that you’ve got customers from years ago who still send Christmas cards and stuff.
Steve Landmark: Oh, yeah. We will get people to call. You know, Steve, remember me? We built 19 years ago.
Interviewer: That’s awesome.
Steve Landmark: You want to do it? I will be like, “Yeah, let’s go do it.” He goes, “Remember that son I told you about? He needs a house,” and I’m just like, “Wow!”
Interviewer: He has got three kids of his own.
Steve Landmark: I’m glad I didn’t age 19 years in that time your son grew up. But yeah, it’s – no, literally stuff like that is happening. It’s just kind of a trip. It’s kind of like whoa. You know, that’s when you realize we’ve been doing this 25 years. There’s another generation in there of customers that maybe they’re retiring. Maybe there’s a kid coming along. Maybe families are condensing into one home with the grandparents or something. So it’s pretty interesting to see how small the world is and who knows who to help different people, but also where people end up and what they choose to do. We had a customer. He lives in Napa, building some rental units in – outside of Oklahoma City. But he wants to design his home for the Canary Islands, his retirement home. So we’re able to help the people and that’s the key thing. We help people. We have a good time doing it. That’s the key.
Interviewer: There’s almost a generational word of mouth going on. That’s pretty awesome.
Steve Landmark: Yeah.
Interviewer: It’s like people go to their high school reunion and say, “Why does everyone look so much older than me?”
Steve Landmark: Yeah, exactly. It’s true.
Interviewer: Why do my customers look so much older than me? Twenty-five years ago. That’s funny.
Steve Landmark: Yeah. But that’s the key thing about it is different people have different concerns. Some people, they want to know the technical parts. Other people just want it to look a certain way. Other people just want to know it’s energy-efficient. You know, so whatever aspect it is, we’ve been doing this a while and I’m extremely confident and know that we can take care of each customer individually. We’ve been doing it – what? Going on 26 years.
Interviewer: Yeah. Now we were talking about contractors a little bit a little earlier and let’s talk about subcontractors a bit. So is it possible that – you know, we’re talking about unified plans. Is it possible to make my plans themselves let’s say a communication tool to get like even the best pricing or scheduling for my subcontractors?
Steve Landmark: Yes, and that is extremely important. This brings something up. Yeah, that’s a great question because there are people that go on the internet and will go through and they will find a website that says it costs so much to build here and it costs so much to build there and without ever getting a set of plans, they will go through and determine that their new mansion is going to cost a certain amount of money without ever once getting a set of plans and without ever once talking to a contractor or a building department. Although that might sound good in theory, we’re always a believer that laborer rates can change. Different items in different places can change. Different building sites dictate different situations. So we’re believers that someone should have an accurate and clear set of plans. So that when they’re at the site with the foundation guy or talking to the electrician, it’s extremely clear what you’re asking to be done. By the clear set of plans, the contractors know what you want so they can give you a sharper price.
Steve Landmark: If you just go through and say, “Steve, I’m thinking about plumbing a 4000-square-foot house. What’s the cost?”
Steve Landmark: Well, the contractor is kind of like looking up in the sky going, “Let me pick a start out. What’s this like?” It’s just kind of a dream world. So it’s kind of like – I always joke. I mentioned this a couple of times. It’s like calling the grocery store and asking how much dinner is. So you might be able to get a general ballpark. But when you’re serious about it, you want to have a set of plans that are drawn, so that you can talk to the contractors and it would be very clear what needs to be done. You will find out that your budget is better. Your schedule will be better. The whole thing will be good because the contractors want to help. But in order to help, they need to know what you want. You don’t just go into a restaurant and say, “Give me food.”
Steve Landmark: You say, “Hey, I want some spaghetti with shrimp,” or something.
Interviewer: That goes back to communication.
Steve Landmark: Right, and that’s what we consider our set of plans to be is a communication tool. So we can take our customers’ ideas, put them together so that the building department can review them, but also so that the contractor understands what’s there and the financings involved so that the bank understands.
Interviewer: Sure. Well, you know, Landmark is known for its solid customer service and that includes great communication. I mean it’s so important between you guys and your customers. Have you found that diligent communication has added a lot to the success of your company and that your customer’s home design and building projects have been successful because of that? Obviously 25, 26 years in the business, it would appear the proof is right there.
Steve Landmark: Yes, it is because it’s one of the key elements because when you understand what you’re doing, when you ask a question and you get a real and complete answer, you’re able to make a better decision which therefore leads to a better home. You can go through and understand your project. It’s more fulfilling and like I said, a lot of our customers are doing it because they want to. They like it. It’s fun.
Some of it, it’s a financial thing. So they want to know. Hey, what can I do? I need to cut a little bit of money out of my house. What can I do to eliminate some cost? And we could work with them. So we’re not just someone that says – you know, when someone says, “Hey, I need to cut $5000 out of my house cost. How do I do it?” we don’t just say make it smaller because that idea – you know, a different space in a home has a different price. It’s misleading. That’s – so it would be better and what we would do is go through and say, “OK, you want to cut this amount of money out. Let’s review a couple of features. This is abnormally expensive. That’s abnormally expensive. This and that. Do you need this?” A lot of times, people are like, “You know what? I didn’t even know that. It’s right on the plan and it just didn’t register.” So we’re able to go through and let them understand that hey, more corners in the house means it’s going to cost more. Taller ceilings are going to cost more. Different architectural details are going to cost more and sometimes there are situations. Myself, if I was working on a house and there was a budget restriction on something, I might say, “Hey, let’s make sure we get the sized house we want. But let’s put a little cheaper carpet in.” Then in five years or two years or whenever, you can upgrade the carpet. But at least you’ve got the main home that you need.
Steve Landmark: So there are different ways of planning it depending upon what the challenge is. Is it something restricted by the lot size? Is it a budget thing? What is the budget situation? We’re able to go through. So our desire to help our customer not just build a good house but understand what they’re doing is a key element and I think that wraps into the beginning part. You know, the customer service. By getting a complete answer, you have a better understanding of what you’re doing, so our customer can then go on and build our home and have a better level of knowledge. It’s more fulfilling when you’re building stuff and you understand it because everyone has got a friend with an opinion.
Steve Landmark: But asking them if they’ve ever built a house or why they have that opinion, it’s kind of weird and it can be confusing because you go to your different – you go to five friends and you get seven different answers. Then it’s like, OK, how do I put this together? Hey, I read this on the internet. It’s kind of like, well, let’s put this in a reality check of how it actually matters for your project. No generalities. Let’s talk about what happens for your project and your piece of land. That’s what we’re here for. You hit the key element. Knowledge, support, help. That’s why people like to work with us.
Interviewer: I told you it’s all about me, man. That’s why this show is successful.
Steve Landmark: That’s it.
Interviewer: So we’re clean out of time for this episode of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. But before we go, Steve, can you let the people know how to learn more about Landmark and how to – Landmark Home and Land Company and how to get a hold of you guys?
Steve Landmark: We have our website at www.lhlc.com. That’s kind of the initials of Landmark Home and Land Company, www.lhlc.com. You can see us on YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook. You can also give us a call, 1-800-830-9788. Mike will answer the phone. If for some reason you get a voicemail, we will get back with you very quickly and work to get you taken care of and you could also email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are proactive. We take care of people. We answer the phone. We get what you need, so you can make a decision and build the best house possible.
Interviewer: And there you go. So for Steve Tuma and myself, thanks for listening to the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. We always enjoy providing you with great information. So there you go. Be safe out there and we will see you next time.
Steve Landmark: Have a great day. Thank you.