Builder/Architect

Taken from a recent article by Beverly Smirnis in the Fort Worth and Tarrant County Edition of Builder/Architect Magazine. All photos by Henry Biber, Biber Photography.

Greg and Mark Wright are not waiting for governmental regulations to be imposed upon the home building industry to make it better. They know it needs to be better, and have taken it upon themselves to establish their own stringent guidelines for conducting a professional home building business.

It starts with the definition of "custom" home building. "The new home construction industry has become inundated with large corporate building companies which are mass producing homes of all styles and sizes using high volume tract home building techniques". "To us, ''custom built'' means built to the customer's specifications, to meet the customer's individual needs, in an environment that allows the customer the flexibility to be involved in the process, and in a neighborhood where individuality is a way of life, not an exception. "We believe the customer should have the privilege of working with the person whose name is on the sign in front of the house. That builder must have hands-on experience himself, and be willing and capable to supervise the entire design and build process from start to finish. Only when the builder is there to know, step by step, what went into a project, can the customer be assured that a high level of quality control has been achieved. In any business, there should be no one more concerned for quality of the product than the business owner himself".

Brothers Greg and Mark Wright have spent their entire adult lives in the construction industry, and represent the fifth generation of home builders and master carpenters in their family. Greg has been self-employed in the construction industry since he was 19 years old. Even at that young age, Greg had a clear mental picture of what he wanted to do with his life and that picture always revolved around home building! He started as a framing contractor in 1978 and spent the following 12 years mastering the art of wood frame construction. Mark worked for eight years as a crew leader with Greg and went on to become a building superintendent for another custom home builder. During their framing careers, Greg and Mark were responsible for the wood frame construction of over 400 high-end custom homes for some of Tarrant County''s more noteable "Who''s Who" Home Builders.

In the late ''80s and early ''90s, Greg and Mark bought, remodeled, and resold nearly 200 foreclosed and "fixer-upper" homes. When the economy rebounded in 1993, they were ready to fulfill their ultimate career goal to become custom home builders. The solid background acquired by the Wright brothers prior to forming their home building business provides them with the know how to supervise the design and construction of "superior quality" homes.

Association memberships and designations are evidence of the Wright''s dedication to the industry and constant quest to stay current on all news, legislation and education related to their industry. They are members of the Greater Fort Worth Builders Association, Texas Association of Builders and National Association of Builders. Their designation as Certified Master Builders requires annually undergoing an extensive qualifying process involving company financial history, customer service endorsements and meeting the CMB ''s continuing education requirements.

"While homeowners often put more importance on what they see with their eyes, structural integrity, quality of the foundation and framing are what is most important to an experienced builder". "City inspections are a consumer protection mechanism, but we don''t go strictly by the standards of minimum requirements that they mandate. We do our own inspections before the city building inspector ever arrives on site. Our punch-out is far more extensive than what the building inspector mandates."

Though most design features are a matter of homeowner preference, Greg and Mark mandate a number of structural and insulation standards and always recommend the use of upgraded components for superior energy efficiency. "These are the only upgrades that homeowners can enjoy an immediate return on their investment from". Their focus may be on what''s behind the walls, but that''s not to say that the interiors of the homes by Wright Designers and Builders aren''t dazzling! "Adding an art niche here, an arched opening there, or a special texture or finish can be the very thing that embellishes the space. We want every room to have it''s own interest and character".

The Wrights emphasize that choosing the right custom home builder is key to making the process simple and enjoyable for the customer. "All too often, buyers jump into a Contract to Build'' because a particular builder offers them the ''best deal.'' Every builder would like to say that they build the best home, however, the definition of ''best'' is always contingent upon price. Our goal is to offer the best combination of price and quality regardless of the price range we are building in. Quality is never an accident. It is the end result of high expectation, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. Quality represents the wisest choice of numerous alternatives."

While price is a vital element, the Wright brothers also insist that having a great relationship with a builder you can trust should be at least an equal priority. To regulate the work load to a proportion that allows them to provide their own personal supervision, Wright Designers & Builders'' projects are limited to 10 to 12 a year. Both brothers are equal partners with job descriptions including all supervisory responsibilities at the construction sites as well as administrative, financial, and sales and marketing responsibilities. Alliances with some of the area''s finest mortgage and financial institutions and real estate companies allow extended services to be offered to their customers, including special financing packages and programs that help buyers sell the homes they are moving out of.

The Keller area, where they make their own homes, has been the focal point of much of the Wrights'' building activity. There, they have been active in the neighborhoods of Twin Lakes Estates, Chapelwood Estates, Oakmont Hills Estates, Stone Bridge, Oak Run, Glen Forest, and Rancho Serena. Build jobs have also taken them to Southlake, Grapevine, North Richland Hills, Colleyville, Roanoke and Argyle, as well as out in the country on home buyers'' own land. Their home prices have varied from the $300,OOOs to over $1 million. In addition, Wright Designers & Builders has diversified its construction services to include commercial building design, construction management, general contracting and full-scale commercial building services.

The company is currently pursuing contracts for retail, office and business park projects in and around the northeast Tarrant County area which fit within the specific parameters of the Wright brothers'' construction expertise. Limiting the number of projects and scope of construction services also allows Greg and Mark to hand pick the customers they want to build with. "Just as our customers screen us, we screen them to determine that their goals are realistic and reasonable". "The agreement to build is a partnership agreement. Both the customer and the builder must be assured that their best interests are met in this agreement. The only way to accomplish satisfaction is by clear and specific communication."

Greg and Mark have designed a comprehensive system of documentation that spells out the specification of every single aspect of every project, down to the smallest detail, so that both builder and homeowner will be on the same page with their expectations. The contract package includes a "Standard Construction Procedures" document, approximately 25 pages, which takes customers "phase by phase" through the entire project, spelling out exactly how the home will be constructed. The "Design Specification Sheet," which averages 25 pages per home, takes each customer "room by room" through the entire house, spelling out exactly what amenities will be incorporated into each room. A similar "Design Specifiation Sheet" is offered for commercial customers with the same exact and specific detailing. When it comes to estimating cost, there is no guesswork involved. An individual cost analysis breaks everything down into footages and quantities derived from the plans and the customer''s wish list. Every phase of the project is estimated line by line to arrive at the most accurate pricing that can possibly be attained.

"The serious players are in this business first because they love building. We can never lose sight of the fact that every home we build is someone''s dream that they should be able to appreciate and be proud of for years to come. On the commercial side, you''re building something that both the owner and the community should be proud of for years and years. The money is simply just reward for a job well done." "When you''re good at what you do, you make it look easy. This business is not hard to get into; however, some people enter this field because they think it is a glamorous job and a great opportunity to be self employed. What they may not see is that the building business is an extremely high stress occupation requiring a lot of hard work, especially when you have the conscience to do what you say you''re going to do and the commitment to make people happy".

"Most builders don''t have employees. Labor is outsourced to independent contractors. The builder has limited ability to determine how those contractors'' hours are spent. All we can do is try to find those people who share our philosophies for integrity. We work only with subcontractors who understand that doing it right the first time means there won''t be a need to do it a second time. Business-to-business relationships are critical. A builder''s reputation is dependent upon finding subcontractors that do what they say they are going to do and deliver their goods and services for a competitive price. We make a point to discuss these issues of our industry with our customers so they understand the challenges we will both face during their project. Home building is a challenging venture for all parties, but great communication can help make that challenge a worthwhile and satisfying endeavor."

"Follow up is crucial. You must be sure every customer is happy. Word-of-mouth referrals are a builder''s jet fuel. We can never stop asking how we could do our job better."