Bill Orrence | Stanley Martin Custom Homes

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About This Episode

Go With John into the new year as he chats with Bill Orrence, Project Manager at Stanley Martin Custom Homes. In this episode, Bill shares his passion for building and how he became a custom home builder. Bill also discusses the importance of effective communication with the homeowners and why he values his relationships with his clients; and even shares some innovative ideas that clients have implemented in past builds! Don’t miss it!
Stanley Martin Custom Homes Website




[00:00:05] Speaker 1 Welcome to another episode of the Go With Show today, we’re going to be chatting with Bill Orrence. Welcome, Bill.


[00:00:11] Speaker 2 Thank you, John.


[00:00:11] Speaker 1 Pleasure to be here. Yeah, I’m glad you’re here. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to chat with us. Bill, you’re one of our Stanley Martin custom home project managers. That’s correct. Yep. So how long have you been with the company?


[00:00:25] Speaker 2 About seven years now.


[00:00:26] Speaker 1 OK, that’s good.


[00:00:27] Speaker 2 While, yeah, not too bad. Yeah, I love it.


[00:00:29] Speaker 1 That’s good. Well, we love having you here. So how did you how did you get in to tell us about where you grew up and how did you get into the construction industry?


[00:00:39] Speaker 2 Oh, well, I’m a local born and raised up here in Rockville. And construction has always been in my blood and my all the way back to where my grandmother was. She designed and built her houses when she was growing up back in the twenties and thirties. Dad always did everything at home, so I was always helping him with projects around a house, building things and it just caught on. And I just love it, and I love watching building things, and it’s always been that way. But I started right from when I was in college. I got a break on summer vacation, dated a girl. That mother was a real estate broker. Oh, no. Yeah. So she was doing condo renovations down in Alexandria, right? So the two hundred and thirty two building unit buildings down in Valley Park? If you’re familiar with it. Mm hmm. And so she offered me a summer job there and it just turned into, you know, into the fall and the winter, and they offered me a contract and never looked back.


[00:01:42] Speaker 1 So did you leave school early today?


[00:01:44] Speaker 2 Did they offer me a bunch of money to do that and a place to stay for free and, you know, being young and 20 years old? Or who wouldn’t want that? Right? Exactly. Yeah, yeah. So it turned into going into single family homes, and I’ve been building single families ever since. You know, some townhouses every once in a while. Right? But now I think it’s more, you know, the top end of my career with we’re doing the custom homes. I kind of think that’s the icing on the cake as a career because it’s always something different and it’s always something great communication with homeowners, right? Yeah. You never know what you’re going to build. You guys sell some wild stuff. There is nothing you got to say no to.


[00:02:27] Speaker 1 Right, right.


[00:02:28] Speaker 2 Elevators, steam showers,


[00:02:30] Speaker 1 photovoltaics, trips. Yeah, I mean, it’s yeah, if people want it, we want to build it. And that makes it fun for you, too.


[00:02:37] Speaker 2 Yeah, it does. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, every house is different and every, every homeowner’s different in their personalities. Every is different and we got a lot more interaction. You do when and if you did with a production builder, I would see you maybe at the beginning, maybe for a drywall, definitely at the end. Three times here I meet with him every week, right?


[00:02:56] Speaker 1 So you have worked for production builders in the past. Oh yeah. Yeah, so. So let’s just talk a little bit about that because I think there are plenty of build on your lot builders in our area that treat their buyers like production buyers, right? So some of them even have on their website, they say we give you four meetings during construction, while one meeting is a pre-construction meeting. One meeting is a new home orientation, so that leaves you two meetings during the entire build, which is probably an electrical walk and an a pre drywall walk. If I had to guess, would that make sense? Correct? Yeah. So, so you know, we actually sat down with the PMS with with with a couple of PMS and Mike and and Pad and we talked about kind of the importance of weekly meetings, but you’re pretty much meeting with the buyers every week throughout construction. Oh yeah, and you get to know him really well.


[00:03:48] Speaker 2 Oh, very much so. Yeah. As I say, I’m an open book, right? I’ll give you as much of that information on that house as you want. If you want to come do a frame checks with me. Yeah, absolutely. I’ll do it. Yeah, because the more you know about how that house is built, the more comfortable you are


[00:04:02] Speaker 1 with it, right? And the more you love it.


[00:04:04] Speaker 2 Absolutely. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing, and I even come in on a Saturday to help you out if you want to be a part of it. We just we just did a house recently, not too far from here, and we did a frame check on a Saturday and they had a great time. And you get so much more knowledge of how everything is put together, right? And it makes you feel really good about the house.


[00:04:25] Speaker 1 Yeah, yeah. It’s always been interesting to me how well all of our Stanley Martin custom home project managers communicate with the homeowner because generally your project manager out there, you run of the mill project manager is really good at communicating with the subcontractors, right? It takes a it takes a special personality to manage a construction project, which I don’t have. Yeah, I’ve tried it, but it is. You got to know how to work, that work with the trades, right? Sure. And and and it’s a totally different. Personality type that could really communicate well with the homeowner, so tell us, Bill, what is your kind of secret to being able to really manage the trades very well? And then you have these incredibly great relationships with our buyers.


[00:05:18] Speaker 2 Yeah. So it’s kind of two different things when you’re a production builder. Actually, some of the guys are scared of homeowners and they just want to strictly deal with the subcontractors as they don’t want to have any kind of animosity or they don’t want the homeowners telling them what to do. They can’t change things where we can always, constantly change things in our houses.


[00:05:39] Speaker 1 Yeah, if you’re doing a cost, if you’re


[00:05:40] Speaker 2 doing a jack and it’s a little bit different production, some of the production guys or more obviously they have a computer scheduled in front of them, right? And they push a button right and a computer automatically spits out what’s going to happen for the rest of the day of the week, right? They don’t quite realize different things you can do during the construction process. A custom home builder is a little bit differently. We do have the computer systems, don’t get me wrong, but we’re able to deviate from that schedule in case we run into an obstacle and in today’s market with COVID. And what we’re going through is extremely important because if I get a backwater of something or a windows or doors, if dad doesn’t fall into that schedule complete, we need to know where to go. How does subsub vent that and go to the next steps? Right? But it’s really nice working with the homeowners. You can let them know of what’s going on, what, what are anticipating. I think they’ve said in the past, I think Brian went over this with you on previous episode, right, that we give them a synopsis of what’s going on this week and what’s going to happen the next week. Yes. And if there’s any foreseeable thing coming up the future with backwater from where we we know, let them know ahead of time because we want to change the A to a different product line that we can get in sooner.


[00:07:03] Speaker 1 Right, right. So so I think I think I think really the the big one, one of the big kiss, your success is, I think, really that you just genuinely enjoy working with the homeowner and making their dream become a reality.


[00:07:16] Speaker 2 Yeah. For me, this has always been a dream job. You know, I can’t believe I get paid to do this. I absolutely love it. I love construction. And people always say, Well, why don’t you just work your way up the ladder or go? You know, I’ve had offers for have been building inspectors from the counties and I said, No, no, I really like what I do now. Yeah. And always have. And I’ll do it as long as I possibly can. Yes, confusion makes a big difference.


[00:07:41] Speaker 1 Yeah. Confucius said. Find something you love to do and you never work another day in your life.


[00:07:46] Speaker 2 That’s correct. That’s exactly what it is. No. Yeah, I absolutely love it. And you know, I think it shows, I think it shows in the work and it shows with the homeowners. I really like this new aspect now going to customs and having that interaction with the homeowners, right? And it is kind of sad toward the end where you don’t get to see him every week. I’ve had homeowners cry when we, you know, say farewell at the end of the project. Oh, you know, it’s kind of hard to cut. Those aprons bring string sometimes. But I think one of the best compliments I had from one of the homeowners when we finished it and we were looking out the window and said, Well, you know, this is this is it. We’re we’re done no more, no more weekly meetings, nothing else, he says. Bill, I wish I could hit the lottery. We could build another one right across the street, said, You know, I literally like that when you hit it, let me know. Yeah, yeah, let’s do it. That’s all. But I have built multiple homes for four for customers. Our customer, right? Right. So it is it


[00:08:47] Speaker 1 is amazing how many people do build a home with us and then they come back a few years later and build another one? Oh, it is amazing that a lot of repeat business in our in our company, it is.


[00:08:58] Speaker 2 It is just because it’s so efficient and it works so well, right?


[00:09:03] Speaker 1 Yeah, I agree. So so what are what are some of the your favorite things to do in the in the project? I know you enjoy the weekly meetings with the customers, but what else is there that kind of like what would get you out of bed every day? What are you excited about when you are coming into the office? Give us some examples.


[00:09:24] Speaker 2 Well, I really like just make sure one of the subcontractor shows up and does what they’re going to do for the day and make sure it’s done correctly. But when it’s interacting with the homeowners, I just love teaching them right. I love teaching them and showing them how the system works, how the the foundation drain tile system works. Yeah, what we’re looking for is is the framing and how all the components of the house come together. And it all makes sense, right? And homeowners just love it. You know, I’ll teach you as much as you want to know about the house, right? But yeah, it just I just love it.


[00:09:58] Speaker 1 Are there any? So you talked about steam showers and some of the wild things they. The elevators, are there certain elements that you enjoy working with more than others?


[00:10:10] Speaker 2 Now, you know, the ones that get me are the ones, the surprise ones that I’ve never heard of before. I must remember we did a house over in Alexandria and the guy came up with a soundproofing method I’d never heard of before. Stuff called green glue. So is a is a type of like caulking materials is really chartreuse green that we’ve applied between the floors levels of plywood on the floor, right? And it would convert sound energy and heat energy and become completely soundproof without


[00:10:42] Speaker 1 insulation so that they do two layers,


[00:10:44] Speaker 2 two layers. So we had two layers of plywood on the floor, right? And we did two layers of drywall back to back on the walls. Right. And you could stand on one side. Holland couldn’t hear it on the other. So how did they admit that stuff? Yeah, but it’s crazy. I’ve never heard that.


[00:10:59] Speaker 1 Similar to show, the RC channel is kind of the same theory, but it probably didn’t work. So have you worked with RC channels or C channel? Describe to us what is RC channel?


[00:11:08] Speaker 2 It’s just it’s just a wider channel that you separate gives the drywall some separation from the stuff from the start, right? And then we we can insulate between that. We did that over at a house. I had an Amtrak train right behind it about metro train, I guess was and that really worked to yeah, so either one. But the green glue was interesting. I’ve never heard of Green before, but it’s fascinating. Amazing. Yeah.


[00:11:35] Speaker 1 So what else you got?


[00:11:38] Speaker 2 Some of the other things that you can put in a V. I think I got a house coming up with the accordion doors that are coming out. You know, I we


[00:11:46] Speaker 1 don’t you mean like like the like the multi multi panels? Yeah, those are getting really popular floating staircases.


[00:11:52] Speaker 2 Yeah, I think we got a pivotal door front doors coming in, right? And that’s just you don’t ever see that in production. Yeah, but you see it in custom.


[00:12:00] Speaker 1 Yeah. So one of the neat things you know about our program, I’ll just say for the folks listening is if you’re going the custom route with us, you can do whatever you want to do. If you can think it, we have probably already done it and we love to have new challenges and work new things into our build. So we have a lot of fun fun with that correct.


[00:12:21] Speaker 2 And having that information and going into the planning design process is a whole lot easier than the try and don’t try and change it. Horses in the middle of the stream, right? Get up, gather all your thoughts together and present them to us, right? And we’ll design it. We’ll price it out for you, and we’ll put it out. Absolutely. Yeah.


[00:12:41] Speaker 1 All right. We’re going to take a quick break. We are chatting with Bill Orrence. Project manager was Stanley Martin. Custom Homes Bill will be right back. All right. All right, so we are back with Bill Orrence of Stanley Martin Custom Homes, he’s a project manager with the company. So welcome back, Bill.


[00:13:02] Speaker 2 Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.


[00:13:03] Speaker 1 So, so let’s talk about, I guess let’s talk a little bit about, you know, you love coming to work every day. You love working with your buyers. How many homes at a time are you typically managing?


[00:13:16] Speaker 2 Well, it’s usually two or three houses, so sometimes we go up to four, but it balances out about


[00:13:21] Speaker 1 three, right? And that’s really probably about your limit because you got to have time not only to manage the subcontractors, but you got to have time for the weekly meetings and all the customer interactions, customer interactions that you love to have.


[00:13:34] Speaker 2 Correct. And some of these houses may be 20 or 30 minutes apart from each other.


[00:13:38] Speaker 1 Exactly. So you got to have drive time. Yeah. So how do you work, Mosley? I know you’re from Rockville, but what do you mainly work in Maryland or vegetarian?


[00:13:46] Speaker 2 Yeah, I do all the Montgomery County houses, but I was also built quite a few houses in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County. So, so


[00:13:55] Speaker 1 do you have a do you have like, do you have a favorite jurisdiction to work in? I know we’ve talked about this before, that all jurisdictions are different and they all have their own nuances. But are there are some that you just really particularly enjoy?


[00:14:08] Speaker 2 I really like the Montgomery County houses, but for personal reasons. I just don’t like crossing the bridge every day. But they’re very similar to Fairfax County, and different counties have different styles, right? Arlington is very focused on their planters and all that kind of stuff on the outside, right? How they put your pavers in and make sure that’s done correctly. So they’re very concerned about the bay. Yeah, but the rest of the inspections universally are basically the same. We all use the same I.R.S. code books, right?


[00:14:41] Speaker 1 What is I.R.S. stand for


[00:14:43] Speaker 2 International Residential


[00:14:44] Speaker 1 Code? Okay, so they’re all using that same standard, correct? Okay, that’s correct. So really, it’s the same building practices in every jurisdiction. It’s just how do they administer it and what are the nuances with their system? That’s correct. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, so tell us about some of your favorite details, shall we? During the break, we were talking about a wine room that we did in Alexandra, and I remember that we actually have pictures on our website on it. But tell us about that, that wine.


[00:15:10] Speaker 2 Yeah, so that one wine room is not only is just gorgeous room in itself with a tile work and the imported tile that we use, but it’s also conditioned. So it had its own air conditioning unit that came in just for that wine room on a digital thermostat. And this is a good sized room is probably eight by eight, right? It was as almost could have been another bedroom down there, but that was just fascinating is the way that that whole system came together. Yeah, but there’s always something I had an engineer that he actually put in a four inch vent from the basement to the second floor and installed a fan motor so he would take the cooler air from the basement and run it up into the second floor during the summertime and reverse the process in the wintertime.


[00:15:58] Speaker 1 I’ve always wanted to do that.


[00:15:59] Speaker 2 Somebody actually did actually do that, and it worked great. Yeah, and and it was quiet motor. You didn’t hear it running, but it just how many.


[00:16:08] Speaker 1 As you remember what the CFMEU’s,


[00:16:10] Speaker 2 I don’t know is probably a hundred ms. I would say.


[00:16:14] Speaker 1 So it’s just like almost like a bathroom fan.


[00:16:16] Speaker 2 Yes. Correct. Correct. But he had the fan located in a storage room down below. So right, it was a way from anybody to hear. Upstairs were the bedrooms. So you just had, you know, cool air coming in from the basement all the time. That’s brilliant. Yeah, it really was.


[00:16:31] Speaker 1 Yeah, and go ahead.


[00:16:33] Speaker 2 And it wasn’t. It wasn’t unsightly. It was just a four inch round plate sitting on top and in the wall, right?


[00:16:39] Speaker 1 Very cool. So what other kind of things have you done that you found particularly interesting?


[00:16:45] Speaker 2 You know, it’s not only stuff on our side is stuff on the outside of the houses, you know, put it in koi ponds and just fancy Dex with with. Grill, you know,


[00:16:59] Speaker 1 outdoor kitchen


[00:17:00] Speaker 2 kitchens and everything you can think of. Yeah.


[00:17:03] Speaker 1 So how many folks, you know, because we manage the site work as part of the build there is, we do charge a fee for it, I will just say. But for 99 percent of our buyers, they see the value in having us manage the site work. So you do all kinds when we manage the site work, whether you’re putting in a pool or a koi pond or whatever an outdoor kitchen. The management fee stays the same. So the more you actually do on the outside, the better value the customers getting out of that management fee because we do it all as a direct pass through. So. Correct. So what other what other kind of outdoor things have folks added in?


[00:17:42] Speaker 2 So I built a house one time for a autumn guy who ran an auto mechanic shop, right? And we had a really tall garages, ceiling heights. So what we did is we put in a lift for his cars so he could actually elevate his car instead of being a two car garage. It was a four car garage, right? That’s just that’s crazy to think about, but it was within and without a hitch, and it was just fascinating stuff. Yeah, those


[00:18:09] Speaker 1 those are portable too, aren’t they? They just come in and they set them up on the ground. You don’t have to bottom


[00:18:13] Speaker 2 to the ones we did. We bulked up a little bit on the slab before we taught it to make sure it had enough thickness in there for the for the double car.


[00:18:21] Speaker 1 Right. That makes sense. That makes sense. Cool. Cool. So all right. Perfect. That’s that’s that’s that’s great. That’s great stuff. I’d love to have a lift in my garage one day. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but they are cool. So, so Bill, let’s talk about. So talk a little bit in closing, as we kind of wrap up our conversation today, talk a little bit about Stanley Martin, custom homes and and our culture. And what do you like about working here versus maybe some of the experiences you’ve had? Yeah, I don’t want to say anything negative about any other builder, but, you know, maybe draw some compare and contrast what your experiences are in the construction world in general. And what do you love about Stanley Martin Custom Homes?


[00:19:05] Speaker 2 I love it. Because of the size of the company is a big difference. We have a tight knit group of people, very talented people. Michael spent a lot of time gathering us all together, right? We have a ton of experience out in the field. When you work with a production builder, I work with several top builders in the country and when I’m building for them, the procedure is you can build 24 houses at a time by using our computer system. Well, yeah, you can. You can punch a computer all day, but you’re not going to spend your time inside your houses and seeing exactly what you’re doing, right? So you lose that quality. When I was with that nation builder at National Builder, I actually did a lot of teaching as well. So I would teach people how to become project managers, attend classes and bought all different bunch of candidates and maybe have framing experience or electric electrical experience. And I teach them how to build a house, right? But what they really want to do is be able to teach somebody straight out of college and had no building experience whatsoever and teach them how to use a keyboard right to schedule their house out. Right. But when it comes down to meeting with a client and you’re looking at your foundation wall, they see a line diagonally going across Nashville. What is that line this person straight out of college? He’s not going to know what that is. Right? It’s a poor line, not a cold joint, right. And you need to have that ability to be able to express to you, to our people that we know what we’re doing. We know exactly what everything is. Yeah. And it makes a big factor because you need to know what you’re doing when you’re building a custom home and you need to know if they ask you a question. If they want to add a sliding glass door here that no well, we can, but we’ll to change ahead or hide them. Or can we expand a bedroom over here? And you know, we can’t do that because that’s a bearing wall. Right? So you need to be able to have the ability to answer those tough questions, right?


[00:21:13] Speaker 1 I think all of our project managers are highly one of them is highly experienced. Fantastic. It’s unbelievable.


[00:21:20] Speaker 2 It is some of the guys that we work with. I’ve worked with them for over 25 years, right? And different places. But we are, you know, we’re all the same group.


[00:21:30] Speaker 1 Yeah, it’s amazing. He is. So so what about what is it about the Stanley Martin custom home culture that you like?


[00:21:38] Speaker 2 I just like that everybody’s got a first name basis, right? When you’re at the national building, you’re a number right name, right? Oh yeah. And I could call him about any time. I still, you know, talk to the guys that I work with all the time and we have lunch together and we group up and we. We don’t do that with a national builder, right? It’s something a little bit different.


[00:22:01] Speaker 1 Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Well, fantastic. So Bill, listen, we really, really appreciate you coming in and chatting with us today. You’ve got you’ve got skills. And yeah, we we we appreciate the way you enjoy communicating with our customers. And it’s it’s great to have you on board and we appreciate you sharing some stories with us today.


[00:22:26] Speaker 2 Thanks, John. It was a pleasure to be here. And it is truly a pleasure building the custom homes and making sure that the customers enjoy the experience.


[00:22:37] Speaker 1 And you know, Michael always says anybody can build a home. The hard part is building a home with quality while providing a great experience for our buyers. That’s that’s the hard part. Well said. Yeah, well, it’s Michael’s words, not mine. All right. On that note, we’ll wrap it up. Bill, thanks again for coming in. This concludes another episode of the Go with John show. Thanks, Bill. Thank you, John.