Chicagoland's Building Industry Publication

January 1996 Cover Story: DH Homes Leading The Way Into The 21st Century

Home buyers touring DH Homes' new designer series models often do a double-take as they walk from room to room. While expecting to find "standard" standard features, they're pleasantly surprised to see amenities and options usually reserved only for Dartmoor Homes' architectural series of large, one-of-a-kind custom homes.

"Our philosophy has always been, 'No matter what, offer customization in many and all of our homes'," says Pat Taylor, DH Homes President.

That philosophy will hold true as Taylor redirects the focus of his company's design and marketing efforts toward the first-time move-up buyer. For more than 20 years, Dartmoor Homes specialized in building unique custom homes in the 3,500 to 5,000+ sq.ft. range. The home buying market has changed, though, and there is more demand for mid-range homes ($350,000) of 2,400-3,300 sq.ft. Taylor and his staff are using their customization and design expertise to incorporate the best custom features and amenities into the designer series to give consumers what they want and to tap into a growing market.

"There simply aren't as many buyers for large-scale homes any more," he points out. "The last recession changed the face of the home buying market dramatically. Builders - in fact, the building industry - must change course to meet changing consumer demand. We're doing so by offering extensive customization options to our customers - without the high price tag."

While Dartmoor Homes' two decades of steady growth was primarily from sales of custom homes (as much as 90 percent in the late '80s), Taylor anticipates that 80 percent of DH Homes' future business will come from sales of its designer series.

"The designer series represents the next logical step for buyers moving up for the first time," he notes. "Homeowners with five, six or seven years equity in an 1,800 to 2,000 sq. ft. home are ready to move into about 3,000 sq.ft." Taylor recognizes, too, that homeowners aren't as mobile as they once were. DH Homes is offering its designer series in communities where first-time buyer developments already exist.

DH Homes is also building and/or planning several residential developments in communities where Dartmoor previously built custom homes.

"A lot of our customers," he says, "are previous customers who's lifestyles have changed. They want state-of the-art amenities, and want to stay in the same city or town The designer series gives them that option.

Vice President of Operations Ray Skiera doesn't worry about competing in highly competitive, growing residential areas. Because DH Homes offers buyers the kind of customization not available in other similarly priced homes - and thanks to the reputation the builder has earned over the years - he knows DH Homes will continue to be at the forefront of the high-quality local building market.

An Innovator In Homes Designed For Today's Buyer

The real innovations are in interiors, says Skiera, pointing to the "revolution" that has taken place in Chicago-area architectural design over the past 10 or so years. "Volume ceil ings, more spacious bathrooms, greatrooms, more windows, energy efficiency - buyers want and expect these 'custom' touches in mid-range homes as well.

"But, we've also learned that there are certain types of architectural styles that have stood the test of time - literally for centuries. Buyers still want Georgians, Tudors, Coionials and other 'classic' home designs. We understand that and plan our designs accordingly."

"We've always kept pace with the latest design innovations and construction techniques," asserts Skiera. "Our expertise in designing and building custom homes lends itself well to the designer series."

The entire DH team - from salespeople to subcontractors - have years of experience in the building industry. "Our sales manager has been with us for 15 years," notes Taylor, "and many of our subcontractors have been working with me since the mid-'70s." Their skills and experience, he adds, give them the expertise to easily customize any blueprint or floor plan to buyers' needs or design requests.

Taylor brought Bill Laytin, Senior Vice President and corporate counsel, on board at DH Homes after working with him independently for several years. Laytin, too, has been involved in the Chicago-area real estate, building and construction industries for more than two decades; his now full-time association with DH Homes provides even greater depth to an already greatly experienced and knowledgeable staff.

Customer Service Always the Primary Focus

Taylor notes that DH Homes' salespeople aren't your typical order-takers. Each has an extensive background in the construction industry. For the home buyer, this means that the DH Homes representative can take them through the entire building process, explaining what can or can't be done and helping the buyer lay out the home exactly they way they want it.

In fact, DH Homes' contract is an extensively detailed document that might be as long as six or seven pages. It outlines every step of construction so buyers know what to expect, and when. "Instead of making the buyer select colors and make other choices up front," Skiera explains, "the contract specifies various times throughout the process that those choices are made. It also details possible obstacles so there are no surprises. It's really more of a home building guide or a kind of 'flowchart' to home construction."

Taylor emphasizes that professional, attentive service to the customer is cruicial in today's competitive home building market. "Quality is paramoumt," he says, "but equally important is taking care of your customer during construction and after. Being available to answer questions, being flexible enough to make changes as the home starts to take shape, just staying in touch with the buyer from beginning to end. It not only gives customers confi dence in what you're doing, but also lets them participate in and have fun building their home.

"That's the way we've always felt home building should be - an enjoyable experience for us and for our customers."

Dartmoor will, of course, offer its architectural series to high-end buyers even as DH Homes more closely targets the mid range market with its designer series. Committed to offering the same quality and custom craftsmanship to all home buyers, Taylor and the DH team are poised to meet - and grow with - an evolving home building industry and ever-changing customer needs.

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