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Volume 4 • Issue 3 • May/June 2007

Learn why standards appropriate for use across the state help municipalities handle concerns for sustainable development and alleviate problems facing some builders.

4 President’s message

15 The mortgage question

Your help is needed as PBA reaches out to new members of the state legislature.

Many builders wonder if the current mortgage market will hurt homeownership dreams, but experts say tightening of lending standards shouldn’t stifle building.

6 Builder briefs Update on issues important to the industry.

10 Be prepared Careful preparation for public meetings a must; learn how to prepare for those meetings to ensure the best results.

19 Gaining an edge Are you putting your best foot forward when it comes to presenting a professional image to customers?

26 Member spotlight Three brothers at Garman Builders follow their father’s philosophy to bring company into the next century.

Member Insider Member briefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A On the hill. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . B Committee of 75. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C Homeowner education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .D

Keystone Builder cover designed by Chris Anderson.

Keystone Builder

23

Site development standards


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May/June 2007 • Keystone Builder

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by Nikki Brand ike them or not, public meetings are often required for builders. They need to make a favorable impression to keep projects moving. Many people suggest that a meeting before the meeting helps a builder or developer achieve their goal of getting such tasks as zoning variances or development plans approved. “If a municipality is willing to meet with a builder/developer, this could help the approvals process,” said Bridget Scanlon, local government affairs manager of the Home Builders Association of Bucks and Montgomery Counties and the Home Builders Association of Chester and Delaware Counties. “Engaging in dialogue and developing a professional relationship with the elected officials and municipal staff may eliminate unnecessary hurdles and/or challenges in the process.” David Shafkowitz, general council for the Elliott Building Group, Langhorne, said meeting with township officials before a public meeting can help a builder or developer get feedback on a project, answer questions and make any necessary changes to it before it is presented in public. He said most townships will permit a meeting with a township manager, engineer or other staff and suggests building a mutual trust and respect with the government body and its staff. Shafkowitz believes building trust and respect encourages township officials to be more willing to work with a builder if problems arise after construction begins. Township officials often brief the board on agenda items before a public meeting. When the board understands the request and the builder has worked with staff to make necessary changes, this may help the builder during the meeting. “If you don’t know what the outcome of the meeting will be, you shouldn’t go,” Shafkowitz said. When the township board decides they won’t approve a request or project for some reason, the public sees that denial, and it isn’t an image builders would want residents to see. R. Keith Hite, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, said that the role of township officials is to uphold the values of their community, so builders or developers should know those values, know the socio-economic portfolio of the community and the community’s political climate. Shafkowitz suggests that builders start with sketches of their project so alterations can be made — completed designs are expensive and could be a waste of money if there are changes.

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Careful preparation for public meetings a must “Engaging in dialogue and developing a professional relationship with the elected officials and municipal staff may eliminate unnecessary hurdles and/or challenges in the process.

— Bridget Scanlon, local government affairs manager of the Home Builders Association of Bucks and Montgomery Counties and the Home Builders Association of Chester and Delaware Counties

Continued on page 12

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I Keystone Builder • May/June 2007


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May/June 2007 • Keystone Builder

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MEETINGS Continued from page 10

Let the public know you are a professional There is a visual aspect to a public meeting. Having a colorful, nicely designed rendering of a proposed development can help, said Bob Fisher, president of R.J. Fisher and Associates. The builder should look professional, such as wearing a business-casual outfit. Shafkowitz said wearing a suit and tie is not the best idea, as it may give the im-

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I Keystone Builder • May/June 2007

pression that the company is inflexible and wealthy or make people believe the company doesn’t need the business. “A professional appearance also helps to establish credibility within a municipality,” Scanlon said. “Professionalism in personal appearance obviously establishes an immediate first impression. However, professionalism should not be limited to personal appearance. Preparation, distribution of appropriate materials and reliability also contributes to the professionalism of not only the individual, but also the applicant’s company.”

Your conduct at meetings makes all the difference “It is important to remember that the governing body is comprised of individuals with a variety of backgrounds, levels of education, and work experience — presenting all necessary information and respecting the time of those individuals only helps the process,” Scanlon said. She said being prepared and anticipating questions or concerns of a municipality serves to establish credibility. If a builder is prepared for any possible discussion, additional meetings may become unnecessary. More importantly, if an applicant is prepared and provides all of the information, the governing body will be better informed to make their final decision. “Being calm and rational is always a good idea,” Lou Biacchi, PBA director of government affairs, said. “It is understandable for a builder to get angry about irrelevant questions, but getting angry is not a good idea.” Shafkowitz said builders need to be flexible and let the board or residents know they will consider their concerns or possibly make changes to their plan. He said builders should find out what is driving the concern, such as a road being too wide. “Understand that township officials are tasked to balance the often-times competing interests within the community: agriculture vs. non-agriculture, growth vs. nongrowth, etc.,” Hite said. He recommends becoming more knowledgeable of the community’s land use management plan and policies. “Presenters should start their response to a resident’s question by agreeing with something the resident said,” Fisher said. He said it is better to direct a response toward the board instead of the resident. “Sometimes, I’ll hesitate before answering the resident’s question to see if the board will answer it instead.” Fisher said he notices that many presenters talk too much, therefore introducing issues that lead to questions the board might not otherwise have asked. He suggests asking the board what questions they have instead. In the end, Kite said builders need to be a good neighbor: “Remember, what you develop today will become the local government’s responsibility tomorrow.” V


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MEMBERINSIDER May/June 2007

Member briefs

PBA Member Rebate Program is big hit with members

Alternative energy standards: Download and print your copy today

Want proof? Just consider this recent e-mail testimonial send in by someone who observed the benefits it provides to our members: “Being a member of PBA and taking advantage of this member benefit has resulted in the association finding them approximately $3,500-4,000! All they paid was $600 [for their annual dues] and received that much money back, plus all the benefits of their local and state associations! What a program!” Sign up now for rebates from manufacturers who want to reward you for using their products in projects you have completed in 2007. Nearly 300 PBA builders and remodelers who have already registered for the PBA Member Rebate Program will soon receive their 2007 first-quarter rebate checks. Will you get yours? For more information, please contact your PBA field service director or visit http://MemberRebateProgram.PaBuilders.org.

The 2006 edition of Pennsylvania’s Alternative Residential Energy Standards has been released by the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center. These standards serve as an alternative to Chapter 11 of the International Residential Code. The alternative requirements are intended to be simpler to follow and easier to enforce. PHRC designed these standards to be rational, flexible and wellsuited to conditions in Pennsylvania. Visit PBA’s web site at www.PaBuilders.org to download and print a copy of the 18-page booklet.

Developers: Earn incentives from Chesapeake Bay Foundation

State Rep. Douglas Reichley, D-Lehigh, and state Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh, will introduce bills revising the Mechanics’ Lien Law. The changes would provide an exception for all residential projects of three stories or fewer (basements excluded), regardless of project cost (current law excepts those under $1 million). This change will provide the full benefit of last year’s update to more homebuilders. For more information, see your field service director.

Builders in the southcentral Pennsylvania region of the Chesapeake Bay watershed are encouraged to check out a new program that allows them to earn financial incentives — in some cases thousands of dollars — for incorporating buffer zones along streams in their developments. The Stream Stewardship Program will pair builders with experts from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who will provide technical assistance to builders incorporating or retaining vegetative buffers along streams. The foundation will provide financial incentives to qualified participants. Buffer zones help filter excess nutrients, reducing nitrogen and phosphorus entering waterways that drain into the bay. If you are developing a site that has a stream on it and are interested in learning more about this program, contact your PBA field service director.

Visit PBA’s online store for building code books and more

Call to get quotes for workers’ compensation insurance

Shop online for your copies of the 2006 editions of the Uniform Construction Code. Members save up to $20 per book through the PBA web site at www.PaBuilders.org.

PBA members may now contact E.K. McConkey and Co. for a price quote regarding 2007 workers’ compensation insurance rates. Tremendous member support for this money-saving program generated $80,000 in direct reimbursements to participating local associations and major savings for many members. PBA’s program grew to $9 million in sales volume during 2006, providing even better rates through group buying power. For more information, contact the program administrator, E. K. McConkey and Co., at www.ekmcconkey.com/pba.htm, or call Tisha O’Donnell, the PBA workers’ comp program coordinator, at (717) 505-3153. V

PBA backs further revision of Mechanics’ Lien Law

Grants available to support OSHA-certified training Grants of up to $3,000 each are available through PBA’s Builder Services Inc. to support safety training programs offered through local builders associations. The grants are available through local associations serving York, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Lancaster counties and Philadelphia. Contact Pat Miorin at (800) 692-7339, ext. 3015 or by e-mail at pmiorin@PaBuilders.org for more information.

Member Insider • Keystone Builder

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Join PBA’s legislative elite: the Committee of 75 by Jennifer McDermitt n an ongoing effort to put the betterment of Pennsylvania’s housing industry at the forefront of the state’s legislative agenda, PBA has created a major donor fundraising program, the Committee of 75. Since its launch late in 2003, this program has raised $122,000 in personal and corporate contributions from the association’s larger-volume members. “The Committee of 75 was created to get some of our major issues in front of the senators and representatives who can impact our industry,” said Stephen Black, PBA president. “This shows that we are committed to helping them become more familiar with the issues that impact us the most.” Personal contributions are targeted to Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders, while corporate contributions underwrite the administrative costs of the program including the political research and polling to support the housing industry’s political affairs objectives. Funds raised through the Committee of 75 support the Pennsylvania Committee for Affordable Housing, which is PBA’s political action committee that aids political candidates who support legislation advancing housing issues. These funds are used in direct efforts to protect and promote the housing industry. Members of the Committee of 75 are invited to special events, including din-

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Former state Senate Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer meets with Brad Elliott, PBA’s 2006 president, during a Committee of 75 event in Harrisburg. Members of the committee have opportunities to meet with legislature leaders throughout the year.

ners and receptions, where they can meet Pennsylvania’s legislative representatives. Committee of 75 events have featured former Speaker of the House John Perzel, House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, and former senate leaders Robert Jubelirer and David Brightbill. “Meeting with these legislators faceto-face helps us have a stronger voice for our industry,” Black said. PBA leaders are seeking new contributions from Committee of 75 members,

and new contributors are also welcome. While some contributors have donated less, targeted amounts are $5,000 for personal and corporate contributions. Personal contribution checks should be payable to PaCAH, and corporate contribution checks should be payable to the PBA Victory Fund. If you are interested in learning more about the Committee of 75, please contact your field service director or Lou Biacci at (800) 692-7339, ext. 3018, or lbiacchi@pabuilders.org. V

“Committee Of 75” (Contributions since inception through March 9, 2007) Member Name

Amount

Toni J. Rogan

1,000.00

Jim Rumbaugh (Pine Valley Associates)

5,000.00

Timothy & Debra Hoover (Hoover’s Quarry)

5,000.00

Vincent G. Deluca (Deluca Investment Partners)

5,000.00

Stephen D. Black Thomas G. M. Bentley (Bentley Homes)

500.00 5,000.00

E. Martin Gillespie

5,000.00

Bruce A. Edwards

1,400.00

Leslie E. Policz

1,200.00

Mark O. Edwards

1,200.00

Gordon M. Edwards

1,200.00

Stuart E. Price

5,000.00

Bradford H. Elliott

2,500.00

Francis R. Iacobucci

2,500.00

Raymond Iacobucci

2,500.00

Ronald W. Wolf

1,000.00

Joseph E. Dolan

1,000.00

Ronald Gigliotti

2,500.00

Myles D. Sampson

5,000.00

John & Maria Disanto Jack Mitchell (Nittany Homes) Scott H. Cannon

1,000.00 500.00 5,000.00

Galen E. Dreibelbis

5,000.00

Bradford H. Elliott

2,500.00

Timothy & Debra Hoover (Hoover’s Quarry)

5,000.00

Myles D. Sampson

5,000.00

Hardy Magerko P.a.c. (Maggie Hardy Magerko)

10,000.00

Gordon M. Edwards

1,250.00

Mark O. Edwards

1,200.00

Terry Policz

1,250.00

Bruce A. Edwards

1,300.00

Jim Rumbaugh (Pine Valley Associates)

5,000.00

E. Martin Gillespie

5,000.00

Joseph E. Dolan

5,000.00

Bradford H. Elliott

5,000.00

Robert & Susan Mumma (Mann Realty Assoc. Inc.)

5,000.00

Timothy & Debra Hoover (Hoover’s Quarry)

3,500.00

Stephen D. Black

1,000.00

Contributions Total

122,000.00

Member Insider • Keystone Builder

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Homeowner education

Routine home maintenance Your customers need to know that all homes, even new ones, need some level of maintenance. by Jennifer McDermitt hen a builder hands over the keys of a home to a customer, the builder may feel a sense of completion. However, is that customer fully aware of what it takes to maintain that home? What assumptions are customers making about whose responsibility it is to conduct that routine home maintenance? While some builders may not feel it is their responsibility to educate their customers on something like routine home maintenance, it is another level of good customer service that could set builders apart from their competitors. In addition, helping customers understand what maintenance their new home needs — and whose responsibility it is to conduct that maintenance — could save a lot of angry phone calls at a later date from frustrated customers. “Perhaps the most difficult customer is the first-time homebuyer who has rented most of their adult life,” said Bob Yanover of Yanover & Sons Inc. “In the past, they’ve always called their landlord when something happened, and they depended on that landlord for the maintenance and upkeep of their residence.” Yanover says that those customers sometimes falsely assume that by purchasing the home, they have also “purchased the builder.” Charlie Kasko of Avis America says that to help his customers understand routine home maintenance, he equates the home to a new car. “Homes, just like cars, need maintenance, regardless of the fact that they are newly built. I explain that maintenance is what keeps your home new for years to come,” he said. Here is a list of routine home maintenance that should be explained to your customers: % Many types of heating and air conditioning systems contain filters to remove dirt and dust from the air. A homeowner should change these filters when necessary. Tell what type of filters their home needs, how often to change them and where they can be purchased.

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I Keystone Builder • Member Insider

% All laundry exhaust should be periodically cleaned, but some new homes are designed with longer exhaust ducts, which makes periodic cleaning even more important. Explain that lint filters should be changed with each load and ducts should be checked for blockage at least twice a year. % Cleanliness is a factor that will make a home last longer and work better. Dust and dirt, if allowed to accumulate, can harm the finishes on blinds, cabinets, countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, walls, tiles and other items. If dirt does accumulate, make sure to clean it with a substance that does not scratch or damage the finishes.

Homes, just like cars, need maintenance, regardless of the fact that they are newly built. I explain that maintenance is what keeps your home new for years to come. — Charlie Kasko of Avis America % On the outside of your home, make sure that gutters and downspouts do not get clogged with leaves or other objects. The exterior of the house is built to withstand exposure to the elements, but a periodic cleaning will improve the appearance and, in many instances, prolong the life of siding and other exterior products. Also, make sure to unhook all hoses from the exterior of the home before cold weather hits each year. Yanover said the one call he receives the most from homeowners is the one that could be easily avoided by draining and unhooking a hose. “They call me in a panic because they have water in the basement, which has backed up because the water in the hose has frozen,” he said.

Even when the customer is fully informed on routine home maintenance, there is often a question of whose responsibility it is to perform that maintenance and whose responsibility it is in the event that something goes wrong. Both Yanover and Kasko rely on the National Association of Home Builders to help clearly define these responsibilities. NAHB produces a manual titled “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines,” which has a consumer version that can be purchased in bulk to give to customers. “When you hand this piece of literature over to a customer, it shows them that you care,” Yanover said. “It doesn’t just tell them to change their filter, but it tells them why they should change their filter and how often.” Yanover says the manual also clearly defines the homeowner’s responsibilities and the builder’s responsibilities. “It is worded in a way that it doesn’t make it look like you are turning your back on customer service, but instead you are following up on customer service. I can tell who has read it and who hasn’t based on the phone calls I get, and I save a lot of trouble later on by handing it out,” he said. Kasko agrees, “I absolutely swear by it, because it explains what builders think is ‘common sense’ but what not every homeowner understands.” NAHB’s “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines” lets you: % Help customers understand the basics of a properly constructed home and how it should perform during the warranty. % Prevent and resolve customer complaints without having to resort to arbitration or litigation. % Show prospects that you are a professional who consistently builds to meet or exceed accepted industry guidelines. If all else fails, Yanover says that he often gives his customers a list of items to purchase from a home improvement store that will help them tremendously in their new home. He jokes, “I tell them to buy a screwdriver — a flathead and a Philips — a spackle knife and some spackle. Those are things they will need once the movers are gone, the dust has settled and they are all moved in.” For more information about NAHB’s “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines” manual or to order the manuals, visit www.nahb.org/generic.aspx?gener icContentID=41768. V


MORTGAGE MARKET Continued from page 15

while providing safeguards to ensure the loan programs remain affordable. A commitment to fair and responsible lending helps to promote stability in the housing market.” “The economy does not benefit from selling or financing homes that buyers cannot afford,” said A.R. Miller, president of American Home Bank. “Our bank’s mission statement, which has been the same since we were founded, is ‘We help people buy, afford and enjoy

the home of their dreams.’” Miller says the word “afford” was not included by accident. Providing housing that is affordable has been top of mind for quality lenders all along. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Feb. 28 that the current problems in the subprime mortgage market are not likely to spill over into the prime market to a serious degree, suggesting that the projected stabilization of the housing market is not

likely to be derailed by an abrupt firming of mortgage lending standards. “People are asking, ‘How many people would have bought homes but won’t be able to?’” Seiders said. “It’s a question that really can’t be answered. Our forecast isn’t trimmed back too much.”

Remodelers may be least affected this year “Renovation stayed strong in 2006, and, overall, projections look good for 2007,” DiMaio said. “Homeowner equity coupled with the continuing need to upgrade that nation’s aging housing stock is expected to stay strong.” Miller doesn’t believe the tightening of lending guidelines will affect remodelers. “Historically, when there is a slowing in new construction, we see a growth in renovation and rehab lending,” Miller said. “There is a dynamic array of products to finance these initiatives. Qualified buyers should have no trouble finding products to fit their individual needs.”

How builders can prevent cancellations “There are many techniques that builders can use to help reduce contingencies and walk-aways and help qualify more buyers,” said Paul Fazzini, vice president of joint venture development at American Home Bank. Fazzini offered examples such as offering temporary interest rate subsidies to customers; helping customers eliminate conditions in mortgage commitment letters; and offering to pay three, six, nine or even 12 months of mortgage payments. Fazzini says the best way to prevent a walk-away is by selling the lot to the customer before the home is built, which can be done through a construction-to-permanent loan. Most of these techniques are more effective with a preferred lender who can create unique programs to meet the needs of individual buyers and builders. “A preferred lender can design innovative programs to help builders sell more homes without the builder losing control of the building project.” V 16

I Keystone Builder • May/June 2007


Join the 600+ members already in the PBA Workers Comp Program 3URJUDP$GPLQLVWUDWRU EK McConkey & Co, Inc Contact: Tisha O’Donnell 717-505-3153 todonnell@ekmcconkey.com www.ekmcconkey.com/pba.htm

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I Keystone Builder • May/June 2007


by Nikki Brand t’s a simple truth: The person who builds the most beautiful homes won’t be successful if they don’t talk, act and look like a professional. Paul Graham, a real estate agent with Brownstone Real Estate, said people underestimate the importance of others drawing conclusions based on perceptions. “Perception is reality and reality is perception,” Graham said. Bob Saline, APR, president and CEO of PRworks, a company of strategic communications counselors in Harrisburg, uses the word “brand” to describe how a person would like their clients to view their organization as a professional builder. He said there are two basic parts to a brand: the builder and the company. “Wrapped up into brand is everything about you and the organization,” he said. Saline cites the following examples: how the receptionist answers the phone; how you answer your cell phone; your organization’s logo; the smallest, largest and latest home or building you built; how you manage a project; and the happiest and the least happy buyer. Saline says not to forget your relationship with every vendor, township permit board or inspector that you ever engaged to help you deliver your final product. Saline said that the experience clients have with a company sets the course for a professional, or unprofessional, brand promise. “Your brand promise is what long-time, current or prospective clients will come to expect from you during every interaction or experience with you and your organization,” Saline said.

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First impressions can happen before you meet the client The first way a builder displays their professionalism often includes no personal contact — it is through their web site. “Potential buyers are turning to the Internet to make decisions about their healthcare, the next favorite book to read and the home builder or remodeler they may select,” Saline said. “That ‘may’ is very important as you decide to use your nephew who just got his first computer for Christmas or a professional web designer to prepare and maintain your web site.” Saline recommends being honest — wouldn’t you want to consider buying your home from the builder who has quality design, photography, easy navigation and informative content on their web site? Besides a poorly-designed web site, Saline says some Continued on page 20 May/June 2007 • Keystone Builder

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BEST FOOT FORWARD Continued from page 19

builders and remodelers have no web site, which makes them appear behind the times. The next couple of steps in making a professional first impression with the client also may not include you, so it’s critical to involve your staff in your quest for professionalism. “The initial phone call should be a personal call: a nice, ‘May we help you?’ when the phone is answered,” said Joe McCorkel, president of McCorkel Construction in Carlisle. “I understand that some people need to use an answering machine because of budget issues though. A timely response to a message is important, too.” If an answering machine is used, a polite and articulately spoken message should be recorded, and if the message sounds garbled, spending a few extra dollars on a new machine is worth the money. Your cell phone message, and how you answer your cell phone, should also be polite. Even before a prospective client meets you, they may walk into your office, which also plays a part in making a good impression. “If you went to a doctor’s office, you would want the office to look professional to put you at ease,” said Gary Deimler, president of Deimler and Sons Construction in Harrisburg. “When someone walks into your office, you have three-to-five seconds to make an impression,” Graham said. He suggests “showing off your work” with nice accents, such as crown molding. At the least, the front desk should be neat and orderly and the rooms should be clean. Disorganization can make clients wonder if you will be that disorganized and messy when working on their project. If you meet the client at their home to do an estimate, don’t drive up in a filthy truck covered with rust and dents, Graham said.

Look and act the part of a professional “Presentation is extremely important to your clients if you want to be paid as a professional,” Deimler said. Graham suggests you match your client’s dress; if you anticipate that they will wear a suit, then wear a suit, but otherwise don’t overdress. Business casual is good. Mc20

I Keystone Builder • May/June 2007

Corkel said a shirt with a company logo also expresses professionalism. “Eye contact is important,” Graham said. “It is a direct line to the soul. Body language is important too. When people fold their arms, it looks like they are ‘closed up,’ and it can make you wonder, ‘Are they bored? Disinterested?’” He said some of the most successful builders he knows like to sit down with clients and speak with them face-to-face and be “hands-on” during the entire project. Graham said when talking to clients, builders should not use abbreviations or terms that only other people in the industry would know, like “mudding” or “spec house.”

Your brand promise is what long-time, current or prospective clients will come to expect from you during every interaction or experience with you and your organization. — Bob Saline, APR, president and CEO of PRworks

McCorkel said it is important to be prepared for the meeting. “Do some research up front, and maybe show them some photos of a past project, but don’t give them the photos or they may use them to ‘shop around,’” he said. He said to communicate with the client upfront about design costs. McCorkel recommends being a good listener to what people want and giving people ideas of things they could do different to improve the project. They may appreciate a builder or remodeler who goes the extra mile and who talks to them about

ideas for finishing their unfinished basement one day. Deimler said the whole customer experience is important to his staff. As a remodeler, he already faces an uphill battle to fight the unprofessional reputation of the home improvement industry. “If someone calls you into their home, it is often their single largest investment, so they need to trust you,” he said. “We are a design/build business and do a lot of planning — a lot of communication on the front end. You should always do a walk-through and make sure the client understands what is going on.” McCorkel said it’s important to show respect for the client’s property and their living space. “If you have dirty shoes on, take them off before you walk through the house,” he said. He recommends you try to keep their house as clean as possible, but sometimes central heat and air conditioning systems will suck dust through the house, so you should explain that to them. Be sensitive to their needs: if they only have one bathroom, try to install the toilet first. Remodeling rooms like bathrooms and kitchens can be very inconvenient to them, so clearly define the time frame of your work. Graham said be prepared to answer questions, but don’t try to answer them if you really don’t know the answer. “Just say, ‘I don’t know that answer, but I will get one for you,’ and tell them by what time you will give the answer to them,” Graham said. Speaking with confidence, but not arrogance, makes a good impression. “If you don’t believe in yourself and in the product you build, how can you sell it?” Graham said. “You have to believe in your product, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make changes for the customer.”

There is always room for improvement To change or improve a professional reputation, Saline suggests that you ask past clients about their experience with your company. He said it is important to listen carefully to the client’s answers. “Two major questions to ask the client are: how were they treated when they first made a contact, at any level, with your organization; and was that the way they expected to be treated,” Saline said. V


J.H. BRUBAKER, INC. All Locations • 800-723-5546

May/June 2007 • Keystone Builder

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Clearing a path to reason PBA helps develop statewide model standards for site improvements to replace the current patchwork of discordant ordinances.

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by Nikki Brand cross Pennsylvania, no standard provides consistency in residential site development ordinances. For years, township and city officials have created ordinances relating to development as the need arose, which has culminated in a patchwork of confusing and incongruous ordinances. Varying by municipality, these ordinances result in unnecessarily high costs that can make housing less affordable. Enter the need for model site development standards. Two years ago, a consortium of experts came together to develop standards appropriate for use across the state that will help municipalities with their concern for sustainable development and alleviate some of the problems that plague builders. PBA supports the standards and, along with other advocates, hopes municipalities across the state adopt them. The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center coordinated the oversight committee with the Hamer Center for Community Design from Pennsylvania State University. The committee included representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. Design professionals, such as engineers and surveyors, attorneys, municipal officials, representatives from builder and development agencies and emergency management agencies were also a part of the committee.

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In order to get agreement on what is a reasonable minimum standard for roads, parking, sewer, water, grading, etc., we felt we had to have a diverse group of stakeholders tackle the problem.

— Brad Elliott, PBA immediate past president and president of Elliott Building Group in Langhorne

May/June 2007 • Keystone Builder

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RESIDENTIAL Continued from page 23

The committee conducted intensive research and reviewed 100 local ordinances from Pennsylvania municipalities and some from other states. “In order to get agreement on what is a reasonable minimum standard for roads, parking, sewer, water, grading, etc., we felt we had to have a diverse group of stakeholders tackle the problem,” said Brad Elliott, PBA immediate past president and president of Elliott Building Group in Langhorne. “It took two years and lots of meetings, but the end result is that the group has put together an exhaustive source that lays out site improvements standards flexible enough to be used across the state and that provide for the public and environmental safety at the optimal installation and maintenance cost.” Scott Brown, who helped coordinate the committee with PHRC, said municipal boards are comprised of residents with no expertise in development, engineering or any related profession. Brown said these locals are often hesitant to revise existing ordinances. “Municipalities want something that PennDOT and the DEP has approved,” Brown said. “I believe it will be well received by the municipalities, because they will like the support the document has received from several state agencies. It’s timely because the Stormwater Management Best Practices Manual just came out.” Scott Cannon, president of Cannon Custom Homes in Glen Riddle, said one of the reasons he believes municipalities will be interested in adopting the standards is because they are based on sound science and engineering. He believes municipalities will appreciate the fact that the standards included input from builders and developers but were not entirely created by them, easing any concern that the standards are “self-serving” to builders.

Standards can reduce costs Cannon works in several counties and says a lack of statewide standards has created situations where part of a subdivision was in one township and part of the same subdivision was in another township with different ordinances. 24

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The underlying goals of the creation of residential site improvement standards are to create standards that: • • • • • • •

are easily understood and can be efficiently implemented by municipalities. are supported by key regulatory agencies, environmental organizations, and design professionals. optimize life cycle costs considering initial costs and maintenance. are based on current knowledge and science. embrace low impact, sustainable development methodologies. reduce the inconsistency of standards that currently exists. improve the opportunities for non-vehicular movements, within subdivisions for mobility, and pedestrian health and safety.

“Then we are spending a lot of money on developing a subdivision, but there is no real benefit to it,” he said. “It raises the cost of the homes.” “The adoption of a set of consistent standards will allow developers to estimate the development costs with greater accuracy and to avoid being on the steep part of the learning curve with every new jurisdiction they are developing in,” said Dr. Alex Duran, a land development specialist for the PHRC. “In many cases, the infrastructure is being over-built, which increases the end prices on new homes as well as the future maintenance costs for the municipality,” Elliott said. “This over-design comes from many reasons, but mainly because there hasn’t been any statewide effort to agree on a minimal standard proven by engineering and practice. So if in doubt, many municipalities over-engineer infrastructure to cover themselves.”

Green practices are part of the plan The model standards promote environmentally friendly development that will also cut costs. Duran said the green aspect of the standards includes the following: % Increased public open space in cluster-type development: marketability benefits, higher price for lots % Lower roadway widths, depending on required level of service: cost savings for less paving, especially on subdivision access roads % Minimum and maximum parking requirements for a range of residential land uses: cost savings for lower

amounts of paved parking and less costly structural storm water controls % Cul de sacs with center islands: cost savings from less paving and less costly structural storm water detention basins; use of hammerhead-type cul de sacs for 10 or fewer homes will result in lower paving requirements % Open profile (noncurbed) roadways: cost savings from using swales in place of street curb, gutter and storm water drainage piping % Cluster design vs. standard lot size: cost savings from lower roadway and infrastructure costs, shorter water and sewer piping etc. % Traditional neighborhood development subdivision development: cost savings from shorter roadways % Reduction in required parking spaces as credit for preservation of existing trees in parking lots: cost benefits from lower amounts of paving % Shared commercial parking to reduce parking requirements: cost benefits from lower amounts of paving Keith Ashley, director of government affairs for the Builders Association of Metropolitan Harrisburg, said the next step is to get that standards adopted by municipalities. “The standards will be supplied and announced to a variety of groups and organizations such as municipal officials, land use planners, consulting engineers, government web pages and magazine articles,” he said. Cannon said the book of standards is designed to be easy for anyone to understand. “One side of each page states a fundamental and the opposite side of the page has an explanation for the fundamental,” he said. V


Member spotlight

Garman Builders

Three brothers follow father’s philosophy to bring company into the next century. by Jennifer McDermitt van Garman had a simple business philosophy: “If you are going to do it, do it right.” It’s from a time when things seemed simpler. And while it may not be complex in theory, to Ivan’s sons — Mike, Shawn and Jason — it means everything, which is why they have vowed to carry on that philosophy as they run the business their father and mother Charmaine started more than 35 years ago. “Garman Builders recently built its 1,000th home, and the people who bought it actually purchased the fourth home my parents ever built many years ago,” Mike Garman said. “That’s the case with a lot of our customers: they are usually past customers who have a certain level of expectation for this company.” Mike Garman says that is why he and his brothers are constantly re-evaluating their service to ensure that they are meeting the expectations of these “repeat” customers and continuing with their father’s philosophy.

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Facing the Changing Times Mike joined the family business in 1983 upon graduating from high school, Shawn joined in 1986 and Jason joined 1992, however all three boys had been involved in the business from very early on. Mike jokes that with four children (they have an older sister), his mother was basically just trying to “keep them busy.”

Business quick facts: Garman Builders • • • • • •

Owner: Mike Garman, president Years in business: 35 years Number of homes built per year: 80-85 Counties of operation: Lancaster, Bucks, Lebanon, Dauphin Local association: BIA of Lancaster County Association involvement: Mike Garman was the 2006 president of the BIA of Lancaster County as well as the 2005 chairman of the Parade of Homes Committee. • Awards: Garman Builders has won 25 “Best of Shows” at area parades of homes and was the winner of the 2006 Lebanon Valley Farmer’s Bank Award for the Lancaster/Lebanon Parade of Homes. • Company philosophy: “If you are going to do it, do it right.”

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Once all the brothers joined the business, their father stepped away, but he still stops in to check on the boys every so often. “He didn’t really have a succession plan, but he always trusted us, and he knew that we would take good care of the business,” Mike Garman said. In addition to a few name adjustments over the years, Mike says a lot has changed with the business. “Back when we started, we would do everything from start to finish. Today, we sub most of it out, but we still do some of the framing and excavation ourselves,” said Mike. The brothers also are very interested in new building technologies and want their business to be on the forefront of cutting edge techniques. Garman Builders is currently building a Reward Wall home for the Lancaster Parade of Homes. The home features hollow Styrofoam blocks that Mike says “stack up like Legos” with poured concrete walls. “There is a lot of green technology going into the home, which makes it very energy efficient,” he said. For the construction of the home, Garman Builders is partnering with New Holland Construction Supply Center, a company that sells the Reward Wall Systems.

All grown up Besides his business philosophy, Ivan also instilled in his sons the importance of association involvement. Garman Builders is a member of the BIA of Lancaster County, where Mike served as its president in 2006 and as its Parade of Homes chairman in 2005. “When you belong to the association, you are able to put aside the fact that you and the other members are ‘competitors’ and you become ‘peers’ who only care about the future of this industry,” Mike said. Garman Builders is also an award-winning company, having earned the 2006 Lebanon Valley Farmer’s Bank Award for the Lancaster/Lebanon Parade of Homes as well as 25 “Best of Shows” at area parades of homes. Mike says that the building industry, much like his company, has really grown up over the years. “Most of us are no longer working out of the back of a truck anymore — we are more specialized in what we do, and we work to support the future of what we do,” he said. “Any homebuilder can build you a quality home, but what sets us apart is that we really care about our customers. That’s just how we were raised.” V



Keystone Builder - May/June 2007