Steve Bennett is a custom home builder, which in his mind means he’s a relationship builder.
While collaborating with clients for the 14 to 16 months required to build high-end custom homes, Steve nurtures relationships that thrive well after the owner receives the keys to the home. To Steve, building a home and building a rapport with a client go together like hammer and nail.
“The relationship I have with my clients, that’s what really motivates me,” Steve says.
Steve, the sole proprietor of Steve Bennett Builders, takes his relationships with clients so seriously, he pledges to take care of any home he builds as long as the client owns it. His company offers each of its homeowners ongoing support with home maintenance or construction issues for as long as the client owns the home.
That pledge explains the dozens of keys Steve keeps, to use in case he needs access to a home he has built.
“Callbacks are not fun,” Steve says. “But I don’t look at them as callbacks. I look at them as taking care of my client until they sell the home.”
Except for a period when he lived in Palm Desert, California, more than 25 years ago, Steve has been a lifelong Oregonian. He grew up in Salem but loved to come to Bend with his father to fish. Steve himself is a 3rd generation Bend resident. His father attended the Kenwood School on Newport Ave. Steve’s paternal grandfather was Bend’s first city clerk and co-owner of Union Grocery on Wall St. (now Local Joes) almost a century ago. Steve’s two boys and grandchildren all live in Bend — now five generations of Bendites!
So Steve’s roots and pride in Bend and Central Oregon run deep. He cherishes all the beauty and outdoor possibilities this region offers — fishing, golfing, hiking, hunting and so on.
“I have never been in a place,” Steve says, “where you can walk out your front door, close your eyes, put your hands out in front of you like a windmill and spin 360 degrees — and wherever you stop, you’re going to point in the direction of finding something fun to do.”
As a boutique high-end custom home builder serving all of Central Oregon, Steve Bennett Builders doesn’t mass-produce spec homes and isn’t looking to increase the volume of its business. Such a goal would subvert the personal touch that Steve treasures.
“It’s not a short romance,” Steve says, alluding to the timeframe needed to create a high-end custom-built home. “It’s a relationship that’s so important to me.”
For anyone considering building a high-end home in Central Oregon, Steve addressed some common concerns and topics. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Besides the cost of a project and its timing, what questions should a prospective homeowner ask a builder?
A: • A homeowner should want to know about the framework of the budget and understand how the phases and elements of a custom home — excavation, foundation, lumber, masonry, windows and doors, light fixtures, finish work and so on — factor into a budget.
• Ask the builder how the client will be billed — how often, based on what and due when.
• Come to an understanding about how the client can track the progress of the home and the status of actual costs compared to budget.
• Find out how busy the builder is. Will he or she have the time to make your project a high priority, or will it be just another item on a to-do list?
• Ask how changes to the original plan will be handled and how additional costs incurred with a change order will be calculated.
Q: What considerations do owners and builders need to keep in mind about building in Central Oregon?
A: • Weather is the most important consideration. From a construction standpoint, you should ideally be in the ground in spring so you can have a roof over your head before the snow starts falling in October. That’s really important.
• The terrain in Central Oregon can hide unknowns that aren’t discovered until the dig-out of a lot. The granite and lava rock underground can create hurdles that are expensive to overcome.
• The high demand for skilled and experienced craftsmen in Central Oregon affects the cost of new homes and can have an impact on a project’s completion date. Maintaining regular contact with subcontractors — both for cultivating relationships and maintaining awareness of their availability — is almost a must for a builder. The bottom line is that subcontractors are busy, increasing the pressure on builders to set and adhere to a schedule.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of about being a home builder in Central Oregon?
A: • I love every aspect of what I do. Home building is both artistic and analytical. I enjoy the challenge of the building process and thrive on creating the best team to work with for each individual project. I relish working with the tremendously talented architects and interior designers in Central Oregon and the craftsmen who do the nitty-gritty work — some of them have worked with me for 25 years. But the reward of bringing the masterpiece to life does not overshadow the personal relationship developed with the homeowner.
Steve, who turns 70 on May 26, has operated Steve Bennett Builders since 1995. He spent the 15 years before that building homes in California, establishing such strong relationships that, he says, he still gets calls from past clients asking when he’ll be back.
“It’s not the sticks and bricks,” Steve says. “It’s about the relationship you get with people, and I am truly blessed. I have had great clients, many who are now lifelong friends.”