Insight Homes takes pride in building better, greener homes for clients.
By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
Some homebuilders aim to build projects as inexpensively as they can, but Insight Homes takes the opposite approach. “When you speak to many homebuilders, their goal is how low can they get their costs to build a house,” President Robert Elliott says. This approach can help them compete, but “our culture’s completely different,” he says, explaining that Insight Homes focuses on how it can build a better home for educated consumers despite the cost. “That’s our tagline: ‘It’s just a better house.’”
This has enabled the Bridgeville, Del.-based company to attract clients as well as employees who were tired of selling underperforming houses. ”When you take that culture and spread it through to your employees, they understand that,” he says. “There’s a degree of pride.” CEO Robert Lisle started the company after the experience of building a family home.
During the process, Lisle discovered that many builders ignore modern building techniques and materials that are available. This led him to perform an experiment where he built 36 homes with all the factors that resulted in a better house, including superior structures, air quality and efficient energy usage. “He garnered attention from multiple entities, [including] the Department of Energy [DOE],” Elliott says.
The DOE performed a study on Lisle’s homes, which proved to be more efficient than ENERGY STAR guidelines. The company also saw rising demand from customers who wanted to purchase quality units. “That’s how Insight Homes was created,” Elliott says, noting that the company has won numerous environmental awards, including being named Builder of the Year by GreenHomeBuilder Magazine.
Insight Homes sets itself apart with its commitment to the quality. For example, “We don’t know of another builder in our region that has a building scientist on staff full-time,” Elliott says. That scientist, he explains, spends his time experimenting with products and techniques in houses in the field. “We put data loggers in them that give us information on how the house is performing,” Elliott says.
Insight Homes also determines its houses’ long-term effects. These processes, he adds, are performed in cooperation with homeowners. “We explain to them what we’re doing and as if they want to be a part of it in their house,” Elliott says. “We’re always trying to fine-tune everything,” he says, noting that this comes into play with the use of green features.
“While most homebuilders consider green from the standpoint of saving the planet, we certainly are saving the planet and have returned millions of dollars of savings to the local economy that would be certainly spent on energy.” It may cost more to use the features that Insight Homes prefers, but clients “will have that extra cost more than paid for by the savings in energy well before they’re done with the house,” Elliott says. “That makes it make sense.”
The Client’s Hub
Insight Homes prides itself on strong communication with its clients where they regularly receive consistent, correct information. When buyers make a purchase with homebuilders, they often work with the company’s sales team, building crews and administrative department. Sometimes things can be miscommunicated as customers move between departments. “What will happen is the person says, ‘That’s not what I was told by the previous department,’” Elliott explains. “They may have misheard it, but they’re already [working with] the next department.”
Insight Homes ensures a steady flow of information by assigning a customer care specialist as soon as clients sign a contract. “That care specialist stays with that customer and they’re with that customer all the time until their house is completed,” he says. This approach has eliminated confusion drastically for Insight Homes’ customers. “They become the hub to the customer and the hub internally,” Elliott says.
Insight Homes continues to keep its finger on the pulse of green technologies. Soon, the company will start implementing Inverter HVAC systems, which are very much different from regular HVAC systems, Elliott says. Currently, Insight Homes employs a modulating furnace. In a typical system, he explains, will start a fire and blow a hot fan over it when your home drops below the set temperature.
“When that temperature gets to a certain point, it shuts off,” he continues. “From that second the temperature starts dropping again, it starts over.” The modulating system is similar to the climate control system in a premium vehicle. “It does not shut on and off,” Elliott describes. “By varying the flame height and the fan speed, you’re always at the perfect temperature.” It also does not flood rooms with hot air. “You can’t even tell it is on,” he says. “There is hardly any air flow coming out of the ducts.”
Filling the Gaps
Elliott joined Insight Homes in 2014 and comes from an entrepreneurial background, like Lisle. “I have never worked for a company before that was not my own company,” he recalls. After starting a bicycle business at the age of 12, “I graduated to other businesses, sold those and started new businesses,” he recalls, adding that he has known Lisle for many years. “He said, ‘I’ve seen what you’ve done with everything you’ve touched, and my business needs day-to-day management,’” Elliott recalls. “I came along to fill in the gaps for things that were needed for the company to grow.”
In the last year, he notes, Insight Homes expanded outside of its niche of 2,000-square-foot homes in the $300,000 price range. “We’re now applying our technology to million-dollar houses and larger houses,” he says. The company has benefited from that switch. “We also see ourselves hitting a wider audience,” Elliott says. “Whether you’re on a budget or not, you will want a comfortable house higher air quality, lower costs to own and superb build quality.” Insight Homes also is a DOE Zero Energy Home partner and an NGBS committed partner.