Andrew Lange told his last boss when he was hired that he was going to leave after five years to start his own company. “Then the bottom fell out of the market,” he says. “Five years came up and I said, ‘I’m not leaving.’ We stayed steady and kept rocking and rolling and absorbing.”

Now, Lange’s been running Drake Homes since 2011, doing what others have labeled ‘heavy remodeling.’ “We take houses that are existing, take them down to the ground, maybe maintain some portions of them. In Birmingham, there’s no lots. There’s no developments going in,” Lange says.

One of the ways Lange separates Drake Homes from the competition is his pre-project feasibility study. After the initial meeting with potential clients, he takes around two weeks and digests the information, estimates out all of the costs, and draws up some initial plans. “They might say, ‘I want new hardwoods and an addition.’ I’ll price that out. Adding X square feet. I’ll study where those costs will lie. Sometimes we might do a sketch to relay our thoughts or ideas. The feasibility study is to say, ‘Hey, we’re invested.’ We’ve gotten referrals off of just the feasibility study that hasn’t gotten off the ground.”

Offering all of that work—roughly between four and six hours for the full feasibility study—for free is something Lange has assessed time and again, but still feels it’s the right choice for his company. “A lot of times what happens is, they’ll bid out two or three people or want a commitment or somebody local charges an estimate. We don’t think that’s the best way to win the trust of our clients,” he says. “When we get out there, I’m fixing to invest time in this feasibility study, I would ask that you are serious and don’t share our stuff.”

- Lange has noticed that competitors in Birmingham have heavy field and light office staff. Drake Homes is structured the opposite way, to feed the information in the best way possible. “That all comes from the production industry. If the information was executable, a builder could build from his house, just going out two times a week. If he doesn’t get good information, he’s just problem solving all day,” he says.

- Most of Drake Homes’ leads come from referrals, but the company does reach out to local real estate agents. Says Lange, “It’s a huge benefit when someone’s going to purchase a home but they don’t like the kitchen. We go out, give them a quick cost, maybe run a feasibility study.”