A year after move-in, when the occupants of a custom-built Bremer home have settled in and the newness has worn off, the phone rings. It’s Josh Bremer calling, asking how things are going. He wants to know if the homeowners are enjoying the house, if it lives up to their expectations, if he can do anything to make it better. It’s a bold move, but Bremer rarely hears complaints. Instead, his clients tell him how happy they are with his work — and how much they love their home.
Personal touches like these not only set Bremer Homes apart from other custom builders, but they also serve as the foundation for the business. For that reason, Bremer intentionally keeps his business small. He wants to personally interact with each client.
“When you buy a house from me,” says Bremer, “you work with me.”
Bremer is quick to emphasize that he wants to give homeowners a great experience. To do that, he focuses as much on the planning stages of each project as he does on the build itself.
“When you design a complete custom home, you have to understand what the customer wants,” says Bremer. “I also like to understand why. We talk through everything on the front end so we can avoid ‘I wish we had… ’ later on.”
Bremer believes in regular, open communication to eliminate surprises in the process. Each project starts with a meeting in his office with everyone seated around a wooden dining table. It creates a family-type atmosphere where everyone can get to know each other and share information.
Clients bring ideas with them, photos or drawings of styles they like so Bremer can get to know their tastes. He asks particularly about the areas that are most personal: the kitchen, the master bedroom and the overall visual appearance of the house. From there, he introduces the topic of budget.
“It’s important to work from a common sense standpoint,” explains Bremer. “We want to be sure we match needs to the budget.”
Bremer dives into his projects armed with deep practical experience. His background covers more than just design; he has been intimately involved with the construction process his entire life.
“I’ve done all of the physical parts of construction myself,” says Bremer.
He grew up on a farm and worked on residential construction remodels through his youth and early adulthood. Bremer then earned a drafting degree and worked for a builder before striking out on his own. He even sold houses for a while, helping him understand not only the features people want, but also the people themselves. Along the way, Bremer also learned the key to building a successful business: trust.
“This is a trust relationship,” says Bremer. “If my customers don’t view me as someone they can trust, it’s not a good partnership.”
To build that trust, Bremer promotes open and honest communication. He wants to understand each client’s hopes and expectations for their new house, asking question after question to make sure he gets it right. Bremer uses his experience to make recommendations that will accomplish the client’s goals.
“Ultimately,” says Bremer, “we want to do what makes the customer happy.”
One thing he will never do, however, is sacrifice quality. After all, Bremer’s reputation depends on each house he builds.
“When you build a custom home, you have to give it more attention,” explains Bremer. “We build with a higher standard that takes into account quality of both product and process.”
The end result, adds Bremer, is tangible. “It’s quality you can feel. It’s quality you can see.”
Accordingly, Bremer stays personally involved with each project. He visits each of his construction sites at least once a week, and he stays in constant communication with both his clients and his contractors. It’s all part of building that trust relationship.
“Communication is not a specialty; it’s what you have to do,” says Bremer.
In an industry where so many variables affect the progress of each job, that’s especially important. Weather, plan changes, scheduling and other factors keep the construction timeline fluid. Even though Bremer tries to minimize much of the variation through his robust planning process, construction time does fluctuate; it’s the nature of the business. Regular, effective communication keeps everyone on the same page.
“Just be honest with people,” says Bremer. “As long as you tell people what is going on, they can work with it.”
Still, building a custom home takes a lot less time than people may think. Bremer lays out the process in four steps: meet, design, finance, and build. When the first three steps have been completed — particularly with the attention to detail Bremer places on front end planning — the actual build process generally takes four to eight months, depending on the size and complexity of the home.
Bremer takes pride in every custom home he brings to life. Each one is as meaningful to him as it is to the home’s owner.
“All my projects are my favorite,” chuckles Bremer. “I can’t single any one of them out.”
The results are obvious. Nearly all of Bremer’s business comes from referrals; prospective clients often reach out to him after they’ve seen a home Bremer has built for someone they know. He takes pride in knowing he has made a positive impact on his clients.
“When you can build off a referral,” says Bremer, “you know you’re doing a good job.”
As his business grows, Bremer remains focused on providing the same personal attention that has driven his success. He wants to maintain individual connections.
“We try to keep it small,” he explains. “We want to make sure people get the attention they deserve.”
To Bremer, that’s what custom home building is all about.