By L. RAYBURN
Carol Hartzog Communications
As more than 2,500 individuals claim to be builders in the state, Oklahoma homebuyers face an overwhelming amount of choices when they go to build a home. And, Oklahoma home builders face a large number of competitors, some of whom lack the skills needed to do the job right.
With a lack of licensing in the state, Oklahoma's top builders joined together to set themselves apart from their competition. Through the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association (OSHBA), the group created a certification process to increase the professionalism of the home-building industry in the state.
"In Oklahoma, anyone can call themselves a builder and frankly, that's dangerous for homebuyers and our industry overall," said Tony Foust of DaVinci Homes and chairman of the Certified Builder committee for OSHBA.
"Through the certification program, the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association offers a solution that provides peace-of-mind and assurance to the homebuyer and helps us raise the caliber of builders in Oklahoma."
OSHBA strategically made the certification a strict process to ensure the program's credibility. To even qualify for certification, a builder must be a member of the association for at least two years. Following this time period, builders must take nine hours of continuing education classes annually, carry a workers compensation policy and liability insurance, offer at least a one-year warranty on all work done and comply with building codes.
"Certification was a natural fit for my company," said Jeff Click of Jeff Click Homes and vice president/secretary of OSHBA. "Not only did it tie to my company's core values - progress and excellence - but it added a credibility stamp to what I was already doing as a good builder.
"Oklahoma has a thriving building industry, which although a good thing, causes some under-qualified contractors to enter the market. Certification allows me to differentiate myself, and shows my clients that I am constantly pursuing excellence."
Click is one of 150 Certified Professional Builders in Oklahoma. Although a relatively small percentage of builders in the state, Certified Professional Builders have an elite reputation for their commitment to continuing education and industry best practices.
One of the primary perks of certification is the access to classes for increasing industry knowledge. Many of these classes, taught by experts in the field, focus on new science and technology that help to increase energy efficiency and produce better home builds. Other classes help certified builders stay up-to-date on insurance, safety and ethics rules and regulations.
"The way we build homes has changed in the last five years, let alone the last 20 or 30," said Foust. "Continuing education classes teach the new, best methods for homebuilding. Builders can then pass this knowledge on to their clients to save them money and build them a better product. As happy homeowners and positive referrals drive our business, this is particularly important."
All Certified Professional Builders have access to specific marketing tools to help promote their certified status. For example, certified builders can display the Certified Public Builder logo on their outreach materials, as well as in their showroom.
For example, the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association closely polices these marketing tools to ensure only certified builders use them, as to not discredit the program's high standards.
"I display my Certified Public Builder logo in my showroom when I meet with prospective clients," said Click. "Most homebuyers comment on it and want to learn more. These moments provide the perfect opportunity for me to highlight the difference between my work and that of my competitors.
"Through these conversations, I am able to show my clients that I am committed to learning, incorporating the best our industry has to offer, and ultimately producing the highest quality product for their families."
Although OSHBA continues to work toward licensing in the state, the certification process is a step in the right direction for offering a level of security to potential homebuyers and a professional boost to top builders in the state.
"With so many builders in Oklahoma, we must take the extra step to show our lifelong commitment to this industry," said Foust. "As a Certified Professional Builder, I show my clients that I stand by my work and that I plan to be a local leader in the industry for years to come."
To learn more about the Certified Professional Builder program in Oklahoma, visit the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association's Web site at www.okhba.org.