Manufactured custom products; the first two words in this term might seem like opposites at first, but in the custom home market it makes sense to those who believe it’s a better method of achieving the high quality their clients demand.
Mike Connor believes manufacturing certain elements of a custom home in a controlled environment rather than on-site is a better way of delivering quality. After 40 years of building homes, he’s certainly qualified to pass judgment on the process. At Connor Homes, detail work takes place in a factory environment to ensure a consistent level of quality. The term Connor uses to describe his process is mill-built architecture.
“There are efficiencies in building things in a factory, so why not apply those efficiencies to trim details in a custom home, not just framing? We produce consistent details, and we do it all the time. Ultimately, you can have high-end sophisticated architectural detailing at a cost just about anyone can afford. Frankly, I’m amazed more builders aren’t doing it this way,” Connor says.
As a general contractor out of college, Connor was interested in building homes but wasn’t sure where to begin. He connected with a panelized home manufacturer for guidance, and began constructing a line of homes. Connor soon became interested in historic houses so he launched his business 20 years ago.
How it Works
Connor considers himself a designer and builder. However, he stopped on-site construction a few years ago and now contracts with other builders to handle that portion of the process. He believes the idea of hiring an architect in one town and a builder in another makes the process difficult and more expensive than it needs to be.
“Our method of home design and construction goes back to the way it used to be done in past centuries where architects and builders were the same people,” Connor says. “That’s how we look at it. We do it more efficiently.”
For a 2,500 sq. ft. home, efficiency means framing manufacturing takes about 3 to 4 days, while interior manufacturing takes another 3 to 4 days. “We build all of our own cabinetry in our facilities. Then all the pieces are loaded and shipped, which is orchestrated by software which determines the best way to stack and bundle the pieces for the most efficient unloading process on site,” Connor explains.
“On a typical 2,500 sq. ft. Colonial, a crew of four or five can have the home enclosed in about 10 days,” he continues. “Then comes installation of the exterior trim, windows, etc. What we do amounts to roughly one-third of a homeowner’s total costs for the project. Additional costs involve on-site work such as foundation costs, labor, mechanicals and things like that.” Move-in can be accomplished in roughly four to six months.
The Connor Homes design process can take clients down different paths. At the custom level, homeowners can approach Connor to handle everything from custom design to manufacturing and even on-site construction through one of Connor’s builder partners. The on-staff design team draws plans from scratch
“When someone hires us to design a house for them, it’s a heck of a bargain,” Connor says. “We see ourselves as an architectural design firm. We’re not selling plans to price around. Our contracts state the plan is for a one-time build, and the rights for the plans stay with us.
Sometimes Connor Homes works with outside architects and designers, including specialists such as kitchen designers. “They contact us because they may be doing a sophisticated design and need it accurately manufactured. They spend a lot of time drawing detailed architectural elements and, unfortunately, what is created in the field is not always what they drew. So they come to us to make sure details are made they way they’re drawn,” Connor explains.