Last year, more than 3,000 people toured a 110-year-old train depot that Agape Construction had transformed from a dilapidated shell into a 5,000-square-foot luxury home. The tour produced far more than a $1.5 million sale. “We are absolutely flush with leads and work,” says Kevin O'Brien, president. The company's name recognition and credibility soared, he says, including among prospects who had been contemplating hiring Agape Construction for their own homes. “We took them to the depot, and it was an instantaneous sale.”

Several factors contributed to the depot's success, beyond its architecture and craftsmanship. O'Brien (right, front) and his wife, Amy (left), convinced dozens of trade contractors and businesses to discount or donate services and materials. They staffed the depot and another tour home three days a week for eight months. And they pulled together private financing for the job, which banks deemed too risky.

Such complex maneuvers are nothing new to Agape (Greek for unconditional love), which also did land development until early this year. “Our rate of return is greater with remodeling,” O'Brien says. Second-story additions, for instance, are “down to a science,” thanks to large crews that get in and out within days. Innovations such as a weekly manpower calendar and goals and results forms keep employees on task. And an accelerated sales system has slashed design drop-offs and strengthened profitability.