Buying A Home to Remodel

Uncertainty in home shopping can be frustrating for buyers when they can’t find the perfect home. One company has stepped up to help buyers out in showing them what can be done with homes they are looking at. By simply shopping homes with potential clients for a fee, Sinn Design Build of Ladue, Mo., has found a way to increase its business, by helping homeowners find the right house for their goals.

It all started when a couple looking to build a new home had fallen in love with an older home, but needed to find out if they could fix it to fit their needs. Knowing time was running short though as other potential buyers were circling around looking, their real estate agent gave Tricia Sinn, president of Sinn Design Build, a call to see if she could come out right away.

“I said to them that if they were comfortable putting a contract on it, with even a 24-hour kick out of me seeing it and giving my opinion of how the house should be, I’ll be right over,” says Sinn. “They said great; we put it under contract and I met with them that night. We went to the house and everything the home-owners were saying to me was that they loved this old 1920s Mediterranean-styled house, but it didn’t meet the needs of their family.

“We sat there on the hood of the car with a set of the old plans of the house and did a quick design assessment of what they were looking for. They were after more of the amenities of a new house, but just loved the character of this old home.”

With the cost of land in this affluent St. Louis area neighborhood high, Sinn was able to determine that for what they wanted, a new home would cost them $3.5 million. Going off square foot prices based on similar projects Sinn Design Build had done, Sinn was able to estimate that they would be able to give the the homeowners what they wanted in this older home for around $1.2 million. They were thrilled with the better price point and had Sinn Design Build begin designing their renovations immediately.

“It’s really a consultative approach to remodeling,” says Sinn. “I get requests constantly for this approach of shopping older homes with buyers and every single one has turned into a client. This has been hugely successful for us and has put us in a position of being an expert in the field. It’s a valuable service to those people.”

Through word-of-mouth from clients and agents in the area, this service has really taken off for Sinn Design Build. With revenues around $7 million in 2006, this year is looking up with a predicted $10 to $12 million in revenue. They now must be very selective in what they’re going out to look at, but they know that if a client is willing to pay for the service, they are serious about buying a house and having the work done. A lot of times for Sinn Design Build, the agents won’t ask about the price of the project, but how long it will take to get the job done.

As for getting into this area, Sinn suggests that it takes someone who has a lot of expertise in the field, because when getting into larger projects, it’s very important to be accurate in the estimate. Sinn feels that it is better to be over in her estimation rather than under. She even tells her clients this to instill the point that at this stage in the process figures are not set in stone.

“Before you bring on this type of service as a profit center, you need to think carefully about how to carry it out,” explains Sinn. “We felt it best to move slowly on this and be seen as the industry expert rather than just throw it out there for whoever wants a free bid before they buy a house.”

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