“Working on historical homes is like playing classical music versus modern music,” Diane Portelli says. “If you can take one of these older homes apart and put it back together, you can build anything.”
Beginning as little more than a hobby for married couple Diane and Grady Portelli—with a background in advertising and a part-time job as a builder and handyman, respectively—the operation became so busy that it morphed into a real business in 2009.
Once up and running, Quality Home Renovators soon found itself competing with a ton of former home builders who had entered the remodeling market by default.
The Portellis were not deterred. “It’s two different lines of work,” Diane says. “Building new versus taking a house apart, extracting things from it and tying it all back together seamlessly … not everybody can do that well. We have craftsmen who can replicate the sand plaster finish, the baseboard, and trim. These aren’t just things you can go get at Lowe’s.”
Roughly 90% of Quality Home Renovators’ business involves 1920s Craftsman-style bungalows, which are abundant in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. It’s a specialty that started when the Portellis bought their own bungalow in 2003 and rehabbed it part-time between other work. It’s now a showplace that they can walk prospective clients through.
- “Your contract should be your bible,” Diane says. Quality Home Renovators’ contract contains draw and construction schedules, specifications, and timelines.
- Trade contractors work with the company as a team, and respond to inquiries immediately because they get paid as soon as their work is inspected and approved. When hiring subs, “I tell them ‘I don’t want to hear that it’s not your job,’” Diane says. “‘Whatever you need to do to get it done, we have to work as a team.’”
- And though whole-house remodels are the core of the business, the Portellis developed other lines of work, including insurance restoration and a substantial sideline in property rehabs involving 203(k) loans. Guaranteed by the federal government, these loans are for homes that are damaged or sorely in need of rehabilitation. Diane says she took classes and became certified in 203(k) loans so that she knows exactly what paperwork the bank requires and when they need it.