A Conversation with
James Engle Homes and Rodrock Homes
Q: How long have you been building homes in the KC area and do you cover the metro?
(JEH) We have been building homes in the metro for 16 years. We are currently in Kansas and the south side of Missouri. We do build in the Northland but we are not actively building inventory homes in the Northland.
(RH) The Rodrock family is both locally and family owned, building custom new homes in the Kansas City area for three generations. We build custom homes throughout the Johnson County area, with more than 30 floor plans being built in over 15 communities.
Q: What would you say is the biggest change in KC home building over the past 10 years?
(JEH) The lack of labor is the biggest change. We knew that we lost a lot of labor when housing in general took a down turn, however, we are still struggle in getting back the levels of labor now that the market has recovered. We have had almost no luck in attracting a new labor force. It has driven prices up dramatically and negatively impacted the Builder’s ability to manage trades and control pricing.
(RH) The energy efficiency of the new home has become a high priority for home buyers over the past 10 years. They understand the savings on utility bills can help offset the increase of the house payment over the time. Outdoor living areas are very important; covered decks, patios, and lanai’s are now standard features on almost every home. The internet has helped bring new ideas into our market. Buyers bring in photos from Houzz and Pinterest to show new things to incorporate into their home.
Q: What are some problems buyers encounter that can be avoided (during construction process)?
(JEH) We advise every customer to make their selections early. We find that buyers typically go with their first instinct but will go back and forth several times before finally deciding. In some cases, the back and forth will put them up against a deadline and that is when the stress starts to build. That stress can lead to frustration. (RH) Communication is always an important aspect in building a new home. It is our job to communicate the realistic expectations to the home buyer regarding the building process. Out of town lenders can be another challenge. If they are unfamiliar with the new home construction or the unpredictability our Midwestern weather they can negatively impact closing.
Q: What can a great builder add to the process?
(JEH) The answer is in your question… Process. A good builder will not only have a process, they will have a detailed process and should be able to easily explain it. There are a lot of scenarios and activities to coordinate and to do it well, you must have a good process and follow it. While the process is important, it is also what frustrates some people. We try to be flexible; however, flexible without assuming risk is where the line has to be drawn. Buyers and Builders don’t necessarily see the location of that line in the same place. We just ask that Buyers look at it as if they were at their job and understand that the process is there for a reason and to trust it.
(RH) An experienced home builder can take out much of the mystery and suspense in building a new home, because most situations have been encountered before. A builder that closes 75-100 homes a year knows what questions a buyers has and can communicate the information before the question needs to be asked.
Q: What is the one thing buyers put in a new home that they don’t need to or regret adding?
(JEH) I guess we could say that any option is something we don’t need if we think in terms of only needing the basics. When it comes to spending money wisely, the old adage of spending it in the kitchen and Master Bath still hold true and are usually the first places we spend. Secondary bathrooms are the first place where items are not upgraded.
Q: Where do buyers overspend?
(JEH) I am not sure if it is overspending if it brings them enjoyment, however, lower level finishes have become extremely elaborate. While we still do a lot of “normal” finishes, the number of high end, $100,000 + lower level finishes has increased dramatically over the last few years.
(RH) Home buyers tend to spend the most on upgrades that allow them to customize their home and put their personal touch on it. A person may spend extra on kitchen appliances if they enjoy cooking and will maximize the benefits of the additional features. Someone else may show artistic flair in their selections of the lighting fixtures, tile, or even the carpet.
Q: What can an experienced realtor add to the process?
(JEH) A Realtor who is experienced in new home construction can bring a lot of value to a customer. Knowing the process, since it is a 6-9 month process vs a 1-2 month process will make a huge difference. From there, being able to educate buyers on what to expect from a Builder certainly helps a customer much more than someone who is not experienced.
(RH) An experienced Realtor with knowledge of new home construction will give their clients “peace of mind” throughout the process. That agent can help by knowing what questions to ask before construction begins, set expectations, and partner with the builder to make it a positive experience for the home buyer. The Realtor can help educate by sharing how long a certain stage of construction should take, when changes or upgrades are possible, and the expectation of the finished product.