Meet our September Builder of the Month, Mike Gibbons of Wausau Homes Appleton.
Mike Gibbons has been building custom homes in the Fox River Valley for the past 35 years. He earned the Graduate Master Builder (GMB) designation through the Home Builder Institute of Wisconsin. A resident of Neenah, Mike is an expert at navigating the homebuilding process and is ready to help make every homebuyer’s experience an enjoyable one from start to finish.
Get to know Mike on a more personal level with our Q&A.
How long have you been a Wausau Homes builder?
I have been a custom home builder for almost 40 years and have been with Wausau Homes for 7 years.
How did you get into the Home Building Business?
I became interested in the construction business during high school, when I took several shop classes and the instructor for those classes also taught a class on construction. I learned everything from running my own construction business to hands-on experience framing houses. I discovered I loved construction! Several of my friends and I thought: “Hey, we could make money doing this!” One of these friends had a connection with a local contractor, so after high school graduation he hired us to frame houses. My friends and I worked for him for quite some time. But, I knew that I wanted to be self-employed and started my own construction business a number of years later. I ran my own business for many years until I became interested in the Wausau Homes experience, and the rest is history!
Why did you choose to be a Wausau Homes builder?
After running my own construction business for many years, I quickly became aware of all of the advantages of joining the Wausau Homes Team. What I value about their program is their brand recognition, the great marketing they do for their builders, the online presence they facilitate for us, the protected territory that they offer, and finally the company’s core values; that was very important to me. I have always been very pragmatic, up-front, and honest with my customers, as opposed to other independent builders in this area. I want my customers to be happy with their final product and never claim that I was not honest with them regarding the building process and/or costs. I would rather have their referral, not their wrath! Other builders would claim they could do the same job for much less. But the customer would soon discover there were add-on's and the final cost came in higher than first quoted. I lost many jobs because of my up-front honesty, but my reputation and my integrity are both very important to me and also important core values of Wausau Homes. I also appreciate the fact that I am building a business with them. When I am ready to retire, I hope to sell this established business and get a decent return on my investment.
When you're not building homes what do you like to do?
Being on the golf course has always been a passion of mine since I was 8 years old. It is my time to socialize with friends, relax, and forget about business for a few hours. I also love doing any activity or relaxing by water. Being in this area of Wisconsin, offers many opportunities for this.
What part of the custom home building process do you find the most rewarding?
I must say that it is the end product. When the home is done and all cleaned up; it's evening time, the lights are on in the home and I stand in the street and appreciate everything that went in to building this new home. I have a deep feeling of satisfaction. And the customers when they first walk in to their new home; how thrilled they are that the home of their dreams has become a reality.
If you were building your dream home what is the one feature you would have to have?
I must have a well-designed, open concept living area, dining room, and kitchen. I have lived in homes where this area was not well-designed and not big enough. I think family is important. I like a nice fireplace and generous kitchen island, all appreciated when you are entertaining. Gathering family for holidays or special events in a space big enough and designed for all of them to be able to mingle, eat, and celebrate the day is the best feeling. Family is becoming more central in our lives and getting them all together is very significant aspect of my life. I advise many of my customers to make this part of their home big enough and designed to their liking. It is difficult to change as the years go by and the family grows to include grown children, grandchildren and in-laws. So, make it the way you want it now.
What is one tip you would give to all custom home buyers?
Following up on the previous question, I encourage customers to build what they want now! Make sure this home is meeting their needs now and in the future. If you think you will always be able to add on later, you never do. If you are having difficulty affording what you want now, wait until you can. Don’t short yourself now and be sorry later. Make sure you look down the road five and ten years out - will you still love your home and is it still meeting your needs? And of course accomplishing all of this can be challenging for the customer, especially a first-time home builder. But, a big part of my job is guiding them through the process and being the calming factor when they have questions, concerns, or uncertainty. I also like to make sure the customers consider high energy efficiency features in their home when building. The insulation, walls, and furnace are all very important. Don’t cut corners here!
Are there any home building trends in your area that stand out?
Yes, we plaster the walls in our homes. Other builders in other areas of the state and country mostly drywall their walls, tape and paint them. I feel it is important that I build a well-constructed home, a stronger wall, and a more finished product for our customers.
What has been your most rewarding build to date and why?
It was a home I built for a 50 year old woman a number of years ago. Her home had burned down to the ground. She was devastated and came into my design studio crying. She had no one to help her. I listened to her story and we talked about building a home that she would love again. She trusted me immediately. I told her not to worry and that the two of us would travel the journey of building her new home together. I have previously mentioned that I pride myself with building quality homes. When she finally walked in to her new home, she cried again, saying the home turned out much better than she ever expected. My standards and commitment to my customers is always a top priority. I am proud of the fact that I helped her through a very difficult time and provided her with a new home that she loved.
10. What events can interested home buyers find you at in the coming months?
I will be at all of the home-sets coming up over the next few months as well as all our open houses, where we show our homes. I will be participating in several of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce events coming up. And finally, we will be at the Fox Cities Home Show in January.