Building wisdom John "Jack" Tucker uses his construction expertise and a guitar to explain how well-built homes get that way.

September 28, 1997|By Bob Graham | Bob Graham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

John J. "Jack" Tucker III tries to take the complex and make it simple. He tries to create clarity out of confusion. He preaches and his pupils -- agents, Realtors, sellers, buyers -- listen keenly to what they know is a voice of experience.

Take Jane Jett for example.

Jett has been processing subcontractors' invoices for William Douglas Homes for more than a year. But it wasn't until July, when she took a course called "Anatomy of a House" at Anne Arundel Community College, that she finally understood the language on those pages.

She credits Tucker, a homebuilder with 18 years' experience, with teaching her during that two-day seminar on how to read invoices, to spot inconsistencies and to recognize billing errors.

"Now, when I see a subcontractor's invoice, I know what I am reading," Jett said.

Since 1993, Tucker, 43, of Crofton has been demystifying the homebuilding process by holding public and private seminars for people within the building industry and others who are interested in the homebuilding process. He's worked with a number of builders and brokers, including Washington Homes, NVR Homes, Ryan Homes, Long & Foster, Century 21 and Re/Max.

"People are used to the corporate catch-all kind of answer, but I'm not that way. I try to tell them the way it is," said Tucker, whose unorthodox style sometimes includes presenting his material by taking his guitar and serenading his audiences in the methods of building a home.

His success in explaining the process to more than 500 people during the last four years drew the attention of the National Association of Home Builders. On Tuesday, his program, "Home Construction Made Easy," will become part of the training of sales agents throughout the country who are members of the association.

"He understands sales lingo, and he understands what builders think and what they know, and he bridges the gap between construction and sales," said Jodi Pilca, director of marketing for Ryan Homes.

He attended a seminar Tucker presented to the company two years ago.

Pilca recommended Tucker's no-nonsense program to the NAHB. He explained that Tucker had created a simple, yet detailed, program that would enable builder representatives to understand more about the product they would be selling.

Tucker recognizes that many people -- on both sides of the sales contract -- do not understand "the nuts and bolts" of how a house comes together.

Tucker says people employed by homebuilders and developers often lack a good understanding of what they are selling, compounding a buyer's difficulty in understanding what he is considering purchasing.

Sales personnel might dodge questions or emphasize the things they understand.

"By explaining the process to the salespeople, we improve their ability to sell the house, as well as give them the ability to educate the buyers," Tucker said.

Tucker began holding seminars in the late 1980s, when he was a trainer for Ryland Homes, the Columbia-based builder of single-family homes and townhouses.

For three days, including one day at a construction site, Tucker would give salespeople the knowledge they needed to become more effective. Detailed lessons covered such topics as how wall panels are hung, what proper land grading looks like, and when options can and should be added. The result, Tucker found, was that sales improved and change orders from buyers decreased because those representatives were explaining all the possibilities before contracts were signed.

"Why shouldn't the people selling the product know everything about that product," asks Tucker, president of construction for Thoroughbred Homes, a custom builder in Washington.

"If the people doing the selling understand their product more, then they can better explain what is going on to the people buying the houses."

"I think there's a lot of skepticism about homebuilders," said Meg Meyers, executive director of the National Association of Home Builders, a Washington-based organization that provides technical and educational support to homebuilder associations across the country.

Pilca realized that Tucker had created a program similar to what the NAHB thought it needed to improve its members' success in selling homes. Pilca's suggestion set into motion an eight-month refining process.

Tucker worked closely on modifying the course with Cristine F. Garoflo, senior course designer and developer for the Home Builders Institute, which was contracted by the NAHB to modify Tucker's program. The new course was rolled out in Raleigh, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., this summer and received good reviews.

"Jack is genuinely interested in helping people understand the building process so they have the power to make better decisions," Garoflo said.

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