Builder of the Year

Kel-Greg Homes named Builder of the Year by the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association at the 2010 Peter Kohler Peak Awards.Kel-Greg HomeWhen people think about winning the lottery they imagine 60 foot yachts, four car garages and year-long tropical vacations to Bora Bora. It’s not earned but who cares right? Well that kind of mentality is not for everyone – especially not Steve Bartlett, president of Kel-Greg Homes.

“I tell my wife that if we won a million dollars, I would donate it all,” says Bartlett. “If I don’t earn it, I don’t want it.”

He didn’t win a million dollars, but he did win the Builder of the Year Award from the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association (NSHBA). With a lowered head, smile and modest thank you, Bartlett accepted the award and the challenge that comes with it.

“We’re now recognized but we’re still at the bottom of the mountain,” says Bartlett. “Climbing steadily to the top will be the challenge that lies ahead for us.”

Kel-Greg Homes has a long list of accreditations, awards and mentions under the tool belt, but this is the first time being named Builder of the Year. Certainly not the last, swears Bartlett. As active participants in NSHBA, Atlantic Home Warranty, Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association and Habitat for Humanity programs and councils, Bartlett and the Kel-Greg team are making a name for themselves as builders and as community leaders.

Builder of the Year Photo Gallery

For over 20 years, Kel-Greg Enterprises and more recently Kel-Greg Homes have taken pride in being industry leaders when it comes to customer service, customer satisfaction and the overall quality of homes.

Bartlett continues to carry the principles of honesty, transparency, integrity and quality that were imbedded in him by Brent and Jo-Anna Keyes, his mentors and founders of Kel-Greg Enterprises. In treating all clients with utmost respect and staying true to their core values, the Keyes built a deeply rooted sense of trust that Bartlett and the Kel-Greg team are devoted to maintain.

Bartlett is 32 and is surprisingly one of the oldest members of the Kel-Greg Homes team apart from a handful of carpenters. After purchasing the Homes division of the business in November of 2007, he quickly realized the strength in having a team of energetic and ambitious men and women in their twenties and thirties.

“The building industry is always changing and we must always be learning with open eyes and ears,” says Bartlett. “We know we have at least 30 years ahead of us, and if we continue building with the same integrity and reputation, we will only improve and expand as a business.”

The Kel-Greg thought process is anything but old school. In the next five to ten years, the number of renovations, accessible-living modifications and new home builds are expected to rise in Nova Scotia. With such a demanding and competitive housing market already taking off, Bartlett trusts more people will be moving back to Nova Scotia from other provinces and a slow increase of young homebuyers will be considering a move to the suburbs – the Kel-Greg area of expertise.

From Fall River to Elmsdale to Truro, Bartlett has not only built houses, but thriving communities. Although the majority of Kel-Greg builds are located in suburban areas on the outskirts of the Halifax Regional Municipality, there is a definite shift in people’s perception of suburban living and there is a noticeable increase in the desire to move further from the city.

“Cities are only getting busier,” says Bartlett. “And now the suburbs are adopting many of the necessary resources you find in HRM, making living further out a quiet, safe and viable option for many urbanites.”

Nova Scotia’s suburbs are beginning to see an expansion in amenities such as complete Sportsplexes rather than just hockey arenas, and more shopping complexes, dining and Superstore options are popping up to make life outside HRM convenient and hassle-free.

Compared to ten years ago, the suburbs were known as disconnected communities with few resources, poor healthcare and schooling opportunities and low economic standing. This has changed tenfold and become an attractive and blossoming region that is well suited for young families, working professionals and retirees.

Although not limited to, Kel-Greg clients are typically second, third or final home purchasers who value having a larger home with outdoor space over a smaller home or condo in the city. For city dwellers, the average daily commute to work is a seven-minute drive, bus or walk. Conveniently, most Kel-Greg communities are only a short 15 to 20 minute highway drive to the bridges, so traffic close to home is rarely an issue. What clients often consider when determining suburban life or city life is the lifestyle they truly want – laidback and more private, or busy and exciting.

Although people’s mentality towards the suburbs is changing and the area is gaining respect both socially and financially, Bartlett would like to see more first-time homebuyers and a younger demographic making the move past the city limits. Being young himself, he knows firsthand the impact a young working demographic can have on a region. For a first-time homebuyer, choosing a Kel-Greg home and having the opportunity to be a part of the unique building experience will provide a very different view on the process of becoming a homeowner. The client becomes invested in the home from conception to completion, versus simply choosing a historic property or fixer-upper in downtown Halifax or Dartmouth for purchase.

Kel-Greg offers a number of turnkey packages where clients can visit the office and find everything they need under one roof. Homes are open to customization and upgrading, but clients can feel confident in choosing Kel-Greg for the proven craftsmanship, integrity and commitment to stay on the cutting-edge of technology. Bartlett’s standards are high – and he expects those of his clients to be as well.

Making the process simple is where Bartlett stands out as a builder, and his principles of honesty, transparency and accountability mean the client always comes first. Bartlett took customer service one step further when in 2008 he introduced the Kel-Greg Home
Experience package that gives the builder and client a chance to form a working relationship and truly understand the needs, wants and dreams that go into each home construction. The Kel-Greg Home Experience is an outline of steps that mark milestones in the home’s development as well as work order reviews and scheduled dates to choose finishes and hardware. The meetings are scheduled on a bi-weekly basis and require commitment on behalf of the client as well as the builder.

“This bi-weekly open forum between myself, co-workers and the client is our active approach to involve clients in the building process where they will be met with respect and all information is kept confidential. It’s our chance to give real answers to client questions and in the end, we have the privilege of handing the client the key to a home they imagined and had a part in creating,” says Bartlett. “It is a stress-free and rewarding experience for us at Kel-Greg and for our clients.”

The base specifications of all Kel-Greg homes are above building code standards in Atlantic Canada, as are the levels of professionalism and craftsmanship. Having high-quality standard products and finishes means Bartlett’s homes will never be the lowest in price. For many experienced homebuyers, quality is first and foremost the priority in investing in a new development, but when clients determine price will be the deciding factor when building a home, they often don’t build with Kel-Greg admits Bartlett.

Especially when it comes to building in the city – a challenge Bartlett is ready and willing to accept when he finds the right clients – competition doubles due to the amount of builders, variety of neighbourhoods and sheer number of projects available.

Kel-Greg homes are not always the lowest priced homes, but Bartlett explains that they are priced to include all disposal fees, permits and generous allowances, among other services. The price quoted is the final price, no hidden fees or last minute add-ons. The homes are also TechReady wired and built to EnerGuide 80 or R-2000. Kel-Greg always strives for a minimum EnerGuide rating between 83 and 85 and will provide clients with all the information necessary to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right type of heating system or windows, for example. The base specifications already reflect an energy efficient and technologically advanced house, but there are always upgrades a homebuyer can make to improve the environmental impact, look or efficiency of a house.

Building houses that are mindful of the environment has always been an important factor in all of Kel-Greg projects.

The municipality states that in a serviced subdivision, which has a water and sewer system in place, 10 percent of the land owned by the developer must be handed over to the municipality for use as green space. Similarly, in an unserviced subdivision where water and sewer systems need to be installed, five percent of the land will go to the municipality.

“I see value in having nature integrated into Kel-Greg communities, and I will gladly hand over a percentage of the land to the municipality so long as it is appropriately developed and fulfills its purpose as a green space,” says Bartlett. He applauds members of his existing communities who have taken it upon themselves to fundraise for landscaping or proper playgrounds. To help with such costs, Bartlett and his team have often volunteered their time, machine work and fill for the proposed projects.

“Many people choose the suburbs for the relaxed lifestyle and proximity to green space,” says Bartlett. “In the past, Kel-Greg has actively participated with residents of their developments in building playgrounds and parks that ultimately enhance the communities. And in doing so, it brings the neighbours closer together and strengthens our relationship with the community.”

Kel-Greg clients are typically very involved, enthusiastic and community-oriented explains Bartlett, who can relate well with his clientele.

“Our clients love being a part of the process and we have no plans on changing the way we do business.”

Bartlett is deeply rooted in his business ethics and truly believes that building 15 exceptional homes and satisfying 15 families is much more rewarding than building 30 mediocre houses and making a higher profit. Choosing customer satisfaction over profit is an uncommon but respected practice in North America, but it is what makes Bartlett and his team happy and able to keep raising the bar in the Nova Scotia housing market. It is what makes a builder like Bartlett Builder of the Year.

“We aim to build a friendship even before breaking ground on a home,” says Bartlett. “Being profitable is only half the battle, the other half is creating a product, a brand and relationship that you can 100 percent stand behind.”

Winning Builder of the Year has done nothing but fuel Bartlett’s desire to be the best businessman, builder and community leader possible. Instead of taking the award as a pat on the back, he sees it as his next challenge – as a championship title that must be defended to its fullest extent.

“Winning Builder of the Year means we as a business have come a long way and are heading in a great direction. We are excited to be recognized in our industry – but defending this award is a true challenge,” says Bartlett. “Proving we are worthy of this award and
continuing to only improve as an organization is a challenge we are most excited about.”

With customer service and satisfaction at the core of the Kel-Greg Enterprises and Kel-Greg Homes, a future Builder of the Year Award seems promising, and definitely a title worth defending.

Mari Suyama

Mari Suyama

With a degree in Journalism and Spanish from the University of King’s College, Mari has turned her passion for writing, languages and travel into a career she loves. Diving into the world of freelance after university, she moved to Latin America

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