Few builders begin their companies with a specific goal in mind. Any builder that intends to survive the tests of time must take the basics into consideration; customer service, quality and attention to detail. It is the builder who plans to become a respected name in the business and one with his eye toward the future that will give his buyer something more. Such a builder is Rick Westmoreland of Liberty Homes.
By his definition, affordable elegance is creating a home that is unique, well-designed, and functional, while still being affordable to the average homeowner. In his three short years as a builder, he has managed to do exactly that. It has not been without monumental effort and careful planning, however.
One of their objectives when they go into a development, is to be the exclusive builder for that particular community. This gives them the control over so many aspects of the project and enables them to design the neighborhood to their specifications. From the elevations of the homes to giving the entire "streetscape" their personal touch, Liberty Homes is able to create a particular impression. A far cry from the cookie-cutter approach so many others fall in to. Their homes are elegant; they don't build boxes with tops. Each home will boast something very unique. As Rick Westmoreland would say, "there's more feet than just square feet that go into a home."
In order to accomplish such a feat,
Liberty Homes builds and rebuilds each floor plan using CAD, a
multitude of times.
Their designers spend anywhere from 60 to 300 hours working on a
plan and giving it at least 2 or 3 elevations. Before the first
shovel of dirt is removed, that home has been designed and reviewed
to the nth degree, in a highly controlled environment. It will be tested and retested before the public will ever see the final, beautiful product. It is because of this "value engineering" that Liberty Homes is able to add many things to their homes other builders have to charge extra for. A lot of their standard features become optional upgrades in the hands of their competitors. This careful attention to detail and the meticulous planning on the initial design, allows Liberty Homes to streamline the process and pass on the savings to the homeowner. The primary way in which they are able to accomplish this, is by an understanding and appreciation of the latest technology available.
Making the Most of the 21st Century
All three partners of the company joke that they began their venture on April Fool's Day in the year 2000. Don't let that mislead you; these guys are nobody's fools. Extremely proficient in the latest technology, they make full use of the internet, latest design tools, scheduling programs, database technology and various other components to help them in their business.
Among the many services they provide to their customers is a constant stream of communication. Each week, clients can expect to hear from their builder via email. Not to say there is no personal touch; one of the busiest people in the company is the customer-interface coordinator. She is readily available to the homeowner to answer questions or refer them to the proper person to address their concerns.
They use centralized scheduling, all computerized so that each vender and contractor knows exactly what he has coming up with the company and when. All communications are passed through Abby, the communication coordinator and each party is copied on the information. This eliminates a great deal of back and forth on the phone and deletes the "he said, she said" delays that can be caused by inefficient communications.
All superintendents use Palm Pilots, and when they "hot-sync" them from home, from the model homes, wherever, they are actually hot-synced to the server. They are always walking around with the most up to date information available on the property, down to the minutest detail such as tile color.
A Purposeful Merger
One of the greatest differences in this partnership from many
others, is that it was not forged at a family dinner table, or
between friends from little league. Liberty Homes, Inc. was actually
put together based on resumes. The three men came together with
strengths in very different areas; they didn't start with three
men needing to learn all the different skills.
Rick Westmoreland is the person in charge of the building aspect of
the company. Since the age of 12, he had no doubt about what he
wanted to do with his life. He wanted to build. From hand skilled
carpentry, to gravel work and finally home construction itself, he
has learned the trade from all aspects. His focus is on the
structure and the detail of each home. His desire is for a hundred
years from now, his grandson to be able to point out a home and
proudly say, "My granddaddy built that house."
Rick Stroder is the financial manager of the company. He is a
licensed broker, with a background in banking. However, like Rick
Westmoreland, he also grew up around construction, with a father who
was a masonry contractor for 25 years. He handles the accounting,
the back office and basically the administrative aspect of Liberty
Homes. He also works with the vendors and the banks to get the most
competitive rates and prices on everything.
Joe Duffy is the developer in the company, with approximately 20
years as a developer, but he has spent his entire adult life in the
industry. He was a perfect match to the two Ricks, with the same
philosophy. He wants to build a neighborhood where people will enjoy
living and where they can be proud of their environment. He was the
final piece of the structure and has been a perfect fit with the
mission of the company. They work together as if this has been the
system of twenty years. Most importantly, all three know exactly
what is going on in the company at any given time. It is an
open-book policy which keeps the business fresh and on its toes.
However, all three men are quick to acknowledge that a main cause of
their success is their great staff. They feel that they have put
together an exceptional group of people who work together like a
More than just bells and whistles
While most builders let new homeowners choose such options as carpet and tile colors, Liberty Homes goes a step further. They let their customers have the opportunity to upgrade such items as their hot water heater, windows, air conditioning options, roof upgrades, etc. Basically, whenever Liberty Homes is ready for the next step with any vendor, the coordinator will work with the buyer to ask what he or she would like in that area. This benefits everyone and truly makes it "the buyer's home."
Another benefit over many builders, is that quite often, the buyer will sit down with the salesperson just once and have to choose all their options at that time. Not with Liberty Homes. The buyer is in step with the vendors and chooses as the time arises for that piece of the home. This helps the buyer to stay involved in and excited with the process.
Additionally, they have discovered that there are things other builders include and charge for, that perhaps the buyer doesn't desire or need. Through listening to customer wants, they have managed to eliminate some of the items that were just added, "because they always had been," enabling them to add things that buyers usually ended up adding three to four years down the road. An example of this is the three-car garage. All homes that Liberty Homes builds have three car garages. Very little was given up to accomplish this feature which generally adds six to seven thousand dollars to the price of a home.
Most of the bedrooms have a private entrance to a bathroom. Most all bedrooms have walk-in closest and most homes have sunken whirlpool tubs. All of the homes have walk-in pantries and nice-sized bedrooms.
One of the things they are most proud of, however, is that in all the homes they have built, they have never had a late closing. That in itself is a remarkable accomplishment.
Affordable elegance at its best. Liberty Homes is mastering this concept. They built this company to grow it. They built it to become the preferred home building company in Kansas City. With just three years under their belts, they are already well on their way to accomplishing their goal.