As unusual home builder backgrounds go, Jonathan Ide knows he can make a good case for his.

After all, how many home builders are certified public accountants? Ide was a practicing CPA for the first nine years of his career. Ever the handyman, he had an itch to build something. So, on the side, he built a family house. Then two years later, he built another one and then another … well, you can guess the rest.

Add to that a generous dose of Iowa nice and you have the makings of a homebuilding natural.

Wanted: Differentiator

Yet good intentions only go so far. Ide didn’t grow up in the business and had few contacts or connections within it.

“I needed a niche,” the Iowa home builder recalls. “I’m self-taught. I had to separate myself from everyone else with a hammer and pickup truck.” Ide found his differentiator building his second home.

His business-building hook is insulating concrete forms (ICF). ICF is a wall system formed by stacking foam-framed blocks Lego-like to create a cast-in-place concrete wall. The inquiries he handled during construction hinted this might be his golden ticket out.

$63 Electric Bill

That ticket was emphatically punched after a side-by-side comparison of July electric bills between his new and former home. “My neighbors thought my $193 July bill for my first 3,900-square-foot stick-build home (set at 78 degrees) was amazingly low. Two doors down I had my new 4,300-square-foot ICF home set at 72 degrees. Bigger home, colder temperature, much smaller bill. Just $63.” Hello differentiator!

And hello to Ide Concrete Homes. Today the Des Moines-area family business has made a name for itself as central Iowa’s go-to ICF residential and commercial builder. His 16 years in the business has taught Ide at least five lessons:

  1. Respect Your Limits. Ide loves the hands-on, do-it-all nature of his homebuilding approach. Though he’s now juggling three projects, he prefers one at a time. His project calendar is booked through 2022.
  2. Frontload the First Meeting. “I’ll rough out a square foot price. I didn’t do that in the early days. Folks would give me plans for a castle they could never afford. Be upfront. The first meeting is as much about judging personalities as anything else,” Ide advises.
  3. Over Communicate. “Communications is my top priority. I answer my phone. I text back. The hour doesn’t matter,” the home builder says.
  4. Build for Strength. Energy-savings aside, it’s resilience that appeals to Ide. “The two homes I’m working on now are directly related to the derecho storm last summer [$4 billion in Iowa damage],” he explains. “ICF stands up to wind and fire like nothing else.”
  5. Build for Wellness. An ICF home is all-but dust-free thanks to structural tightness, ideal for asthma and allergy sufferers. Interior quiet is also a welcome benefit that earns gets rave reviews.

Large house or small, it doesn’t matter to Ide. “I’m so happy for the families. I’ve never had an ICF owner ever go back to traditional construction.”

Learn more about how ICF can help differentiate your homebuilding business with market-leading resilience.