Homebuilder Thomas E. Heers, a transplant from California, lets people wander through his house at 260 W. 100 South, and look through his kitchen cabinets, bedroom, closets and anything else they find interesting.
Heers and his wife, Dorothy, probably would like a little more privacy, but in the homebuilding business, customers like to see everything they're getting in their new houses, and Heers believes this is a good way to accomplish that. Heers owns Serrano Homes, and the company's office is in his home."When you build custom homes, the new owners pick out everything, so I have most of the things available in my house, and they get an idea of how they look in the house," said Heers while showing a Deseret News team through his home.
He is proud of the plastic foam exterior panels he uses on his homes, which allow him to heat his large house for $50 per month during January.
Averaging 12-15 new homes annually, Heers has built 70 in Cache Valley since he arrived in 1983. He builds custom homes in the $100,000-$200,000 range, usually building one per year on speculation.
Since his debut in Cache Valley, Heers introduced glue-blown cellulos for insulation that gives his Cache Valley homes an R25 rating, much higher than the factor for insulation bats. Heers said that since he started using the blown insulation, hardly anyone uses the bats anymore.
Heers has developed a computer program allowing him to estimate the cost of a home so he has stopped estimating by the square-foot method. If the cost of the house is less he can pass the savings on to the customer, something that can't be done when quoting a square-foot price to the buyer.
Heers will sell the computer program to other builders, but not to his competitors in Cache Valley.
Heers also has a computer program to track the expenses on each house he builds. "It reduces surprises. It's no fun to have conflicts," he said.
And another computer program is used to tell subcontractors when he expects them to start a project and when they should be finished, which keeps the work progressing in an orderly manner. The program also reminds Heers when he needs to order materials.
Another innovation Heers has brought to Cache Valley is the post and beam house, which he describes as similar to putting Tinker Toys together. The large wooden beams are interlocked with wooden pegs that give a house a spectacular effect with vaulted ceilings and odd-shaped rooms.
Heers has built two post-and-beam houses in the valley so far and enjoys putting them together.
Using mostly subcontractors, Heers' only employees are his 16-year-old son Bryan and his foreman, Farl Miller, who owns Miller's Bonded Insulation, Logan, which does the insulation for Serrano Homes.
A native of Pasadena, Calif., Heers is a third-generation homebuilder. His father started a homebuilding company in the Riverside-San Bernardino area in 1960 and Heers and his brother, Bill, went to work for their father in the early 1970s during the big California building boom.
Building homes in the $60,000-$100,000 range, the Heers' home production went from 20 to 300 homes per year. The company was named builder of the year by the Home Builders Association of Riverside County.
Heers attended USU in the early 1970s because he didn't like any of the colleges he saw in California.He was married in 1974, and in 1983 he and his family moved to Cache Valley where he built their home.
At one time Heers didn't think much of homebuilders' groups, but now is president of the Home Builders Association of Utah, having served in several other offices and served as president of the Northern Utah Home Builders As-socia-tion in 1987.
Heers said anyone wanting to build a house should contact a homebuilders association to select a contractor. Reliable contractors are members, he said, because "They care about their industry," he said.