US Builders Review Article: Martell Home Builders: Building a home is personal, so is the contractor

by Chuck McKenna & Written by Molly Shaw, Winter Edition

Chad Martell, founder and president of Martell Home Builders (MHB), is more than a builder. Martell is a familiar face in the lives of the homeowners he’s served, simply because he’s done more than construct a home; Martell and his team have built a lasting relationship.

Based in Sparrowbush, N.Y., MHB has been a turnkey, custom home contractor for more than 26 years and the local business prides itself on the connections made during this time.
These connections, based in open communication and a promise to meet and exceed expectations, have carried the company through a wavering housing market. Before the recession MHB was turning out a steady 15 to 20 homes a year, but when the housing market went under, Martell says the company saw new construction nearly disappear. “Repeat clients carried us through,” he shares. “Every call was directly related to someone we had worked for in the past. People would call and say, ‘You worked for my mom, my dad, my sister,’ etc., without that, we would’ve went under.”

Constant communication builds comradery
Martell says a trustworthy team and the additions and renovations market sustained MHB through the housing crisis. “We found ourselves on the site of a home we built 12 years ago, adding a garage and another bedroom or a different client’s house we did 20 years ago; they wanted to remodel the kitchen,” he recounts.

Since 1988, when Martell and his wife Patti founded the company, MHB has fostered this kind of longstanding relationship by acting as more than a builder, but a family friend, vested in the client’s best interest. “Simply put, if customers are happy, we’re happy,” says Martell. “We’re a local, community based business and you see these folks around town. When you run into them the first thing you ask is, ‘How are you and the kids?’”

“I’m the salesman and the foreman,” adds Martell. “I’m behind what’s going on nearly all the time and I’ve learned that communication is the most important thing. Daily conversations build a relationship and you get to know people really well having these conversations for months during the building process.”

A trusty team to get the job done
If for some reason, he’s not on-site, Martell says he’s confident his trusted, family-like team will represent MHB well. “When I can’t be on a job, I know it’s covered, because most of my people have been with MHB for 15 to 20 years,” he shares. “We don’t really hire seasonal labor, because you can’t be on the job 100 percent of the time and I need to know the people there can interact with clients appropriately and keep the site presentable. Even though it’s a construction site, it’s somebody’s home.”

Nowadays, MHB is running a small eight person crew after scaling back through leaner times, but the company does collaborate with a handful of trusted subcontractors. “We deliver a complete turnkey home job from soup to nuts, backed by a 10-year warranty on everything we do,” assures Martell. “Even if the home is sold, or god forbid something were to happen to me or the company, the warranty goes with it – no matter what.”

MHB offers full construction services, including custom floor plans, site plan development, engineering and architectural services, excavation, foundations and all related activities. “In-house we do framing and interior trim labor and also material usage and things of that nature to ensure better quality control,” explains Martell. “We subcontract out excavation, mechanical and masonry specialty trades.”

However, MHB does not work with just any run-of-the-mill subcontractor. “The subcontractors we work with are very closely tied to MHB and we’ve been working with some of the same folks since I started the company,” reveals Martell. MHB’s subcontractors stick around, because Martell treats each with respect.

“I’ve been in construction my whole life and I started MHB right out of high school,” he shares. “My father was in the glass business and a lot of what he did was in new construction under larger general contractors, which usually made him the last guy to get paid. It’s a difficult business, and I’ve seen that, so I wanted to be on the other side of the coin. It taught me to never make my subcontractors wait for money, to be honest, upfront and pay them on time. If you do that, then they’ll give you the best quality work and be there when you need them.”

Quality before quantity
When Martell started out shortly after graduation, MHB was building a single home a year. Over the following decades, the company progressed to 15 to 20 homes a year – a comfortable number, according to Martell. “We’re comfortable at this number,” he says. “When the market was hot we could have done more, but I’m not comfortable with sacrificing quality for quantity.”

Although the housing slump has certainly put a hold on some homebuilding, Martell says he sees things picking up. “There are more lookers than this time last year, and as things pick up again, I want to get back to the development part of the business,” he shares. “I’m looking forward to the economy continuing to turn around to market the inventory we have on vacant land. New development is always exciting.”

Also exciting for Martell is watching his 21-year-old son enter the family business. “He’s working in a framing crew now and soon he’ll be doing trimming and cabinetry work and then he’ll come into the office and start working with me,” he announces.

After 26 years, Martell Home Builders is moving a family tradition with a passion and great pride in quality homes at affordable prices and person-to-person relationships.