Building with Eyes on Research

Research and benchmarking are business tools Rick Helton uses to ensure the success of Helton Homes in Raleigh, N.C. The importance of preparing good research before jumping into any business venture was ingrained in Helton’s mind in college, and carries through to his life today.

Helton makes the most of the annual economic forecast event hosted by the local home builders’ association. His close attention to the forecast has helped position Helton Homes as a successful custom builder. “Our average price has gone from $170,000 to $800,000,” Helton says.

“When so many tract builders came into our market, we needed to maximize our profit. And profit exists in the $600,000 to $800,000 market where there’s only a 30-day supply of homes,” Helton says. “If we did not utilize the forecast information, we would be in a market where there’s a 320-day supply.”

Helton uses other business tools to keep Helton Homes in working condition. The BuildLinks software program allows homeowners the online ability to track their home’s progress. The software keeps communication lively. “Clients can create change orders and even sign off on them. They also can see the spec list and all their allowances, and how over or under they are. It takes the guesswork out of the process,” Helton says

Helton Homes also uses GuildQuality, a customer satisfaction benchmarking service that has become critical to the builder’s success. “They tell us what we need to work on to do a better job for our clients. GuildQuality sends questionnaires during preconstruction, then 30, 90 days and one year after construction. A lot of times we’ll hear about issues that clients otherwise would not mention to us. We can address those concerns before they become an issue with clients.”

Another benchmarking service Helton Homes uses is called SkyeTec. “They go through the house before insulation and check for mold or water penetration through the roof or doors, and test if the house is leaking or not to ensure efficiency.

“Homeowners tend to believe a new home is maintenance free. SkyeTec helps convey the fact that message is false. They’ll give homeowners a CD on proper home maintenance so they realize they have things to do to maintain their home.”


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