Building a home is one of life’s special events, something that typically only happens once in a lifetime. Although the thrill of building a new home mainly comes from the anticipation of lasting memories yet to be made within those four walls, HomeCrafters LLC was founded on the principle that the process of building a new home should be just as enjoyable and memorable as living in it. The Hinsdale, Ill.-based custom homebuilder has been building homes and strong relationships with clients since 2000, and owner John Adams says the company has found success by concentrating on making sure clients get the most out of the building process as well as their new homes.
“We build a high quality home, but I would hasten to add that there are many others who do that, as well,” Adams says. “The thing we’ve focused on a lot is the quality of the customer experience as they go through the building process.”
Adams founded HomeCrafters in 2000 with partner Paul Primeau after both men transitioned from careers in the corporate world. Adams worked for Herman Miller, a globally recognized designer of office and healthcare environments, where he held numerous management positions, conducting market research and developing new products. His formal training is in Architecture and Environmental Psychology. Primeau’s training includes degrees in Engineering and Business, and his career included stints at several large health care systems where he oversaw many large capital construction projects.
Adams and Primeau founded HomeCrafters with the objective of applying their management experience in a personal one-on-one setting, in close collaboration with their clients. Adams says. “In a way, we are much like our clients in that we have experienced the demands of the corporate world and understand the needs and values of our clients.”
The company got its start by building five spec homes in the Chicago suburbs of Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills. “As we offered these homes for sale, they became our model homes that launched us into the custom home business,” Adams says. “Marketing these homes allowed us to develop client relationships that have lasted for more than 15 years. We have found that word-of-mouth recommendations from our clients to their friends and neighbors have been the greatest sources of new home and remodeling business opportunities.”
Recently, Adams and Primeau were joined by a third member of the HomeCrafters team, Catie Knoebel. Adams says her master’s degree in architecture and experience in interior design has made her a strong addition to the company, and should help solidify HomeCrafters’ position in the marketplace for a long time to come.
Primeau says the key to HomeCrafters’ success in the Chicago suburbs has been built on a foundation of ensuring clients receive the most enjoyable experience possible while building their new home. He says the collegial atmosphere HomeCrafters creates during every step of the building process serves to leave clients with a favorable impression of the time and effort that went into their new home. “We realize it’s a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime event,” Primeau says.
“Our initial research revealed that people who have built a custom home have vivid memories of the experience, both what went right and what went wrong,” Adams says. “They can tell you what is good and what is bad about their home, and they can tell you what was good and bad about the experience of working with their builder.”
Adams adds that the company understands each client is different and has different expectations regarding their involvement in the project. “We try to structure the process to provide that level of participation and input, and to make the process manageable for our clients, all of whom are busy people with careers, children in school and community activities,” Adams says.
Primeau says many of HomeCrafters’ clients say they would want to work with the company again on another home, and approximately 30 percent of its clients eventually work with the company again on another project. “That’s a very positive endpoint for us,” Primeau says. “No one would ever do that if they weren’t satisfied with the initial experience.”
This is proof that the company’s philosophy of creating an enjoyable experience for clients is a winning strategy for HomeCrafters, according to Adams. “You’re spending a lot of money on it, it’s supposed to be fun,” he says.
No less important than how HomeCrafters approaches the customer experience is how it approaches its day-to-day operations. Primeau says the company is realistic about its budgets and strives to let clients know at all times exactly what is going on with their new homes. “We tend not to surprise people,” he says.
Carefully managing the company’s expenses is another way in which HomeCrafters provides clients with a high quality home. “We are deliberately a small, low fixed-cost organization,” Adams says. “We do not need a large volume of work to absorb our overhead and fixed costs. This enables us to be selective about what projects we take on and what clients we serve.”
Adams adds that the company’s focus on a small, specific area of the Chicago suburbs allows it to maintain a high level of quality. “We do not attempt to serve the downtown Chicago market, the North Shore, or the south or far west suburbs,” Adams explains. “To do so would be to dilute our efforts and prevent us from providing the attention and level of service which is an integral part of our value proposition.”
Remaining focused on a relatively small geographic area gives HomeCrafters the ability to return to any home it has worked on and do a day’s worth of work without needing to take up much of the homeowner’s time. Adams says the company’s customers frequently ask HomeCrafters to hold onto a key to the house so it can return to perform any additional work the customer might request. He says this is evidence of the confidence and security HomeCrafters inspires through its work. “They like the idea that we have a key and we know how the house was built,” Adams says.
Another crucial component of HomeCrafters’ value proposition is the strength of the subcontractors it works with. Adams says the company has strong relationships with many of the best subcontractors in the area.
“These relationships are partnerships in the truest sense of the word in that we are mutually invested in each other’s success,” Adams says. “We carefully select subcontractors based on technical capabilities, but, equally important, also on the basis of their relationship skills with clients and service orientation.”
In recent years, Adams says, HomeCrafters has seen its customers become more aware of the energy efficiency of their homes, and the company has responded by incorporating more energy-efficient and sustainable features. Adams adds that the company also has seen the size of the average home it builds decrease over the last several years. He says this is due to customers thinking more about the later years of their lives, when they won’t need as much space. Primeau says another strong recent trend is the incorporation of integrated entertainment systems. He says many customers don’t want to confine their entertainment options to the living room or a media room, but prefer to have a seamless music system that they can access from anywhere in the home.
Adams says the area HomeCrafters serves is coming out of the recession and seeing a big upswing in activity. “We’re taken aback just about every day by the surge in interest and actual construction activity that we’ve seen,” he says. The past year has been one of HomeCrafters’ busiest in recent memory, and the company already is filling its schedule well into 2016.
“The market that we’re in is very strong in terms of demand,” Primeau says.