Most of the house hunters who walk through Betenbough Homes’ models are looking for the best price on their first homes. But by the time they sign their contracts, the conversation has turned to value.
“Energy efficiency is important,” says Jeanna Roach, chief marketing officer for the west Texas single-family home builder, named by BUILDER as one of the 10 fastest-growing private builders in 2014. “Healthy families are important to our customers as well. But the cost savings is extremely important.”
Still, the builder is committed to packing green features into each of its homes, so its 100 employees are on a constant quest to keep those value-added amenities affordable. “That is a difficult job,” admits Roach, who has been with the builder, which sells entry-level and first move-up homes in Lubbock, Midland, and Odessa, for eight years.
Yet Betenbough Homes sells its units priced from the $120,000s for $5 to $15 per square foot less than national builders in the region, she estimates, a feat accomplished through high-volume purchases for the 700 homes it builds each year, agreements with manufacturers like Kohler to use only their fixtures, and the use of advanced framing—an engineered system that allows the builder to save on labor by framing a home in one to two days and to add more insulation between studs.
The builder passes those savings on to homeowners in the form of green features that come standard in every home: low-E windows; VOC-free paint; low-flow toilets; programmable thermostats; Energy Star appliances; carpet pads and insulation with recycled content; and energy-efficient lighting.
Roach’s challenge: to convince would-be buyers that a Betenbough home is a better value than a competitor’s home. Her approach: Show them what’s behind the walls of the builder’s 1,500- to 2,500-square-foot homes. The builder invites homeowners to tour the jobsite during the framing process and to visit the warehouses in Littlefield and Big Spring where the frames are made. Students in engineering and construction courses at local universities are invited, too. The media sometimes joins the tours. The company’s YouTube channel features a video about the framing process. And after everyone has gotten excited about studs that are 24 inches apart and roof trusses that line up perfectly with wall studs, they tell people they know. And those people buy homes.
“It clicks,” Roach says. “It just makes sense. … A lot of times, it’s what convinces them to buy the house.”
Affordable efficiency sets Betenbough Homes apart from its competitors, and so does its reputation as a faith-based business. No matter how many features a builder packs into a home, it’s the relationships the staff forges with buyers, vendors, trades, employees, and the public that sell homes.
Relationship-building is a natural extension of the philosophy of the company’s founder, Ron Betenbough, who mixes his Christian faith and values with his home-building acumen into his business model.
The firm donated $3 million last year to charitable causes in the community and around the world. It takes employees on missions to developing countries. It sends flowers or meals to homeowners and employees when their loved ones are sick or they’re celebrating a milestone. The firm's commitment to community outreach earned it the 2013 BUILDER Hearthstone Award.
Roach attributes demand for the builder’s homes as much to its faith-based message as to its green-as-standard product. And that demand has risen in turn: The builder closed 469 homes in 2012, 688 in 2013, and 691 last year.
“The marketing value is in relationships,” she surmises. “And the thing is, they’re genuine relationships.”
So she doesn’t write press releases about the employee missions to Africa and Haiti, although the local press has written about them. “We don’t use it as marketing,” Roach says, pointing to the founder’s philosophy: “He says, ‘I don’t want people to buy homes from me because I’m a Christian. I want them to buy homes from me because we build the best homes at the best price.’ … We’ve seen fruit from that."