He’s never had another job. His father has been in construction for over 50 years. In fact, Brian Lantz started working for his father in home building when he was just 10 years old! In 1988, Brian went out on his own, founding Homes By Brian, Inc. The secret to his longevity is simple. According to Brian, “Quality and personal touches pay off.”
Based in Schererville, Homes By Brian built 10 homes last year in Northwest Indiana. That’s a good pace for Lantz, whose quality reputation hinges on his personal involvement. Lantz’s degrees in civil engineering technology and construction engineering are evident in the company’s homes. For example, some builders simply dismiss cracks in garage floors, stating “concrete floors are just going to crack.” But prior to pouring the garage slab, Lantz floods the gravel and sand base with a couple inches of water to aid in compaction, thus minimizing the likelihood of future cement cracking. He heats and dehumidifies his homes prior to drywall application to reduce the chance of drywall problems later on. In addition to both gluing and screwing the floors to eliminate squeaks, Lantz screws the subfloors along with screwing the walls down to the floor, further reducing the potential for squeaks.
Lantz’s personal involvement extends to doing all his own client meetings, bidding, scheduling, and even the materials take-offs. He stakes his own houses and spends the day onsite each time a new homesite is being excavated to spot any soil issues. Throughout construction, Lantz visits each jobsite two to three times per day.
“I like working with Design Basics’ plans! I know what to expect and can ballpark a price pretty easily. And I encourage my customers to look at Design Basics for plans for their new home,” comments Lantz.
Lantz is also his customers’ single point of contact, helping ensure clear and consistent communication. There is no other salesperson; he meets with all prospective buyers and clients in his home office. Customers aren’t assigned to a foreman, either; Lantz personally works with each customer from beginning to end, even attending his own closings. He also works with his customers on modifying plans to get them the design that’s “just right.” Lantz lives in one of his subdivisions among many of his customers-turned-neighbors and friends. And, he has even vacationed with some of his customers.
Northland home plan #2322
Not surprisingly, this high level of personal involvement has resulted in tremendous positive word-of-mouth, the #1 source of new customers for Homes By Brian. The company has never used traditional media advertising nor even been listed in the phone book. Rather, Lantz has always found that his yard signs are effective marketing and more recently, if he’s had a spec home, he holds open houses in that home on Sunday afternoons to meet potential clients and answer all their questions. Lantz wrote his own website but conceded the company’s Facebook outreach to his son.
Customers’ personal experiences building with Lantz have resulted in 13 different clients whom he has had the pleasure of building two houses for. It often becomes a family affair as well. Lantz built four homes for one extended family and five homes for another. He has even built a couple homes for second generation customers – adult children whose parents first chose Homes By Brian for their new homes.
Click here for more about Homes By Brian Inc. and see beautiful photos of their custom designs!
(Cover photo: Ashton home plan #2203.)
A report by the real estate website Zillow found 17% of prospective home buyers are willing to pay the 20% premium for a brand-new home compared to a resale property. But willing and able are different sides of the coin. The median (half lower, half higher) sales price of new houses sold in February 2018 was $326,800 (U.S. Census Bureau), requiring an $85,000+ annual household income to qualify for such a home’s 30-year mortgage with 10% down at a 4.5% interest rate.
Rising land and construction costs have forced many builders to shy away from the lower end of the market. After all, certain fixed costs such as regulatory and permits vary little, if at all, based on a home’s size, constituting a much higher percentage of a less expensive home’s selling price. Yet the limited supply of affordable homes (partly due to investors having gobbled up tens of thousands of lower priced homes during the recession for rentals) can mean wonderful opportunities for builders offering attractively-priced new homes.
Design Basics’ Kuebler plan (#31007) is a charming three-bedroom, two-story home focused on both affordability and livability. At just 35-feet wide, this home works on smaller, less expensive homesites. The streamlined foundation is rectangular (cost-effective), requiring just two steel poles in the basement. Only three different-sized windows are used, simplifying ordering. A half-wall at the top of the stairs is less expensive than railings. A more price-focused exterior could include eliminating the second reverse gable and the covered porch, using single-wide windows with shutters in lieu of the double wide windows, and bringing the master bedroom windows together as opposed to the split windows.
Livability is evident throughout. Coming in from the garage there’s a handy bench and a drop zone helping keep clutter contained and out of the kitchen. The front flex room can be purposed as an eating area or home office, and the kitchen island has dual access. On the upper level, the storage is amazing, the five-foot walk-in shower rewarding, and the second-floor laundry is convenient. Plus, there’s 155 square feet over the garage for a kid’s play room or even more storage!
Take a look at other “affordable” home designs:
Plan #35084 the Dane Mills (featured above): a split entry home with main floor laundry or our signature Pocket Office™
Plan #8656 the Irvington: a 4-bedroom, 2-story home that maximizes square footage under roof
Plan #8530BL the Calverton: a top-selling 3-bedroom ranch less than 1,200 sq. ft.
In 2018, Design Basics is celebrating 35 years of providing home builders and home buyers with quality home plans. In an age where only 20% of businesses are still in business after 20 years, we are grateful for the many wonderful people who have contributed to our success. We hope that in sharing some of the lessons learned on our journey, you will find applications leading to your ongoing success!
Our products have evolved. Building codes and building materials have changed, household composition has become more varied, and home buyers’ design preferences have changed. Design Basics has both embraced new design trends as well as introduced design amenities, which have since become today’s hottest trends. The secret is actively listening to our customers’ challenges and dreams, resulting in some of today’s best-selling home plans.
How we create our products has evolved. Most obvious was moving from manual drafting to CAD of the construction drawings, making plan creation and modifications more efficient. While Design Basics has always used a team approach to home design, by the mid-2000’s we have utilized a co-ed design team, elevating the importance of women’s preferences in home design. Technology also now makes photo-realistic presentation renderings attractive and affordable, helping customers better envision the built home.
How we deliver our products has evolved. Back in the day, Design Basics ran lots and lots of blueprints and vellums, which were both erasable and reproducible. They were shipped out by the next business day via UPS or FedEx. Today, most home plan orders are sent as digital files (PDF or CAD formats), both making for a quick delivery as well as more economical for all parties involved.
How we market our products has evolved. In the 1980’s, our marketing was pretty much word-of-mouth, ads in BUILDER Magazine, and the NAHB International Builders’ Show. Starting in 1990, Design Basics added a very successful self-publishing program via direct mail distribution of publications for builders and developers. By 2007, the Internet and digital marketing replaced most of the company’s direct mail efforts, but has given us added flexibility in creating and disseminating marketing materials and home plan designs.
The bottom line? It’s great to love what you do, but it’s not okay to be infatuated with how you’ve always done it. Embrace the changes that keep us moving forward, while continuing to provide innovative design and exceptional customer service. Design Basics…Where Great Design Matters!
Did you know we have a library of home plan books – print and digital – to aid in your plan selection? Below is a sampling of our most popular home plan books.
Digital Plan Books
Our digital edition of PREMIER HOME PLANS was recently released and contains over 60 trendsetting home plans presented photographically and/or full-color artist’s elevation renderings! It also includes a special section on dual owner’s suites and three builder feature stories.
HER HOME™ Home Plans featuring VELUX® Skylights is a collection of home plans with skylights incorporated into the design.
(View these plan books by clicking on the image.)
Print Plan Books
Our PREMIER HOME PLANS book is available for purchase and features hundreds of plans; includes our special Home Design issue of HER HOME™ magazine.
Home plans for the way you live: Set of four plan books featuring over 200 plans categorized using our signature Livability at a Glance™ floor plan color-coding.
(View these plan books by clicking on the image.)
Check out our entire library of home plan books in our online bookstore.
Contact us to order: 800.947.7526.
Nothing says more about a builder than the homes the company builds. Your homes communicate what you believe is important and what [you perceive] buyers want and value. Some aspects are obvious to prospective buyers; others are “hidden assets” buyers might overlook or not notice at all. That’s where your stories regarding those hidden assets can powerfully influence the buying decision. But ultimately, whether or not the home sells is based on the stories prospects tell themselves.
We’ll use Design Basics’ new Beckley Place (42348) home plan to illustrate. The eclectic exterior incorporates shake and horizontal siding plus stone accents. A combination of composite shingles and metal roofing, carriage-style garage doors, shuttered windows, and a covered front porch create a façade that’s new and distinctive. The volume entry foyer is wide and inviting, while the flex room to the left presents a great opportunity to stir the buyer’s emotions. Simply asking “How would you use this space?” will help you identify your prospect’s priorities. As designed, it might be an ideal parlor, music room, or sunroom. But if a craft room or home office is what the buyers have in mind, closing the space off with double doors can provide desired privacy. Just beyond, the staircase landing presents a window seat flanked by built-in shelving. Explaining that the window is both aesthetic and a safety issue (better lighting in the staircase), and that a split staircase, such as this design, reduces fall danger and serious injury, can help your buyers appreciate such an amenity. Some buyers might place books on the shelves; others may display nick-knacks that bring a smile every time she passes by them!
Drop zone stories tend to center around de-cluttering the kitchen; parents recognize the desirability of lockers for organizing their kids’ stuff; and, a bench by the lockers is great for removing shoes. A planning desk is also shown in this space, which could be repurposed as a coat closet or bulk item storage if preferred. A covered patio means your outdoor plans need not be cancelled due to rain, and the corner location offers added privacy as well as making this space more pleasurable on windy days.
The garage is wonderfully sized for active households, including the extra-deep outside bay, which is ideal for backing a boat into or perhaps a collector car. The generous storage area presents workshop opportunities or organization that eliminates the “trek-around-the-bikes-and-garden equipment” routine. Explaining it in this way triggers related memories!
Buyer hot-button issues continue upstairs, starting with the owner’s suite. Three transom windows over the likely headboard wall are a visual delight. The combined shower/bathing area is trending upward and if your hopeful buyers aren’t “tub people,” the bathtub could be omitted and that space given over to an even larger walk-in closet. Because most of us disrobe in the bathroom, a door from the owner’s bath to the laundry room eliminates steps, and there is room between the laundry sink and dryer for a hamper/clothes basket. This is another one of those stories buyers rehearse when they’re contemplating their new home purchase with you. Two sinks AND separate vanities for the compartmentalized hall bath is a great way to reduce conflict, especially when teens are in a hurry. While some buyers love the spaciousness of a two-story entry, others see this as “wasted space.” For those individuals, suggesting this space could be finished and turned into a walk-in closet for bedroom #2 or hall cedar closet or open study area may help turn prospects into customers!
Search our library of home plans here.