PARKSVILLE – Paul Dabbs is taking the stress out of custom home builds.
Established over 10 years ago, Paul Dabbs Custom Homes combines close attention to detail with a customer-oriented building process to put together some of the Island’s most breathtaking homes on time and on budget.
The company sets itself apart with its commitment to transparency throughout the project, making the construction process as stress-free as possible for its clients.
Paul started the company after decades of working in a variety of fields, including logistics and transportation.
“I always excelled at whatever I did, but my previous jobs never gave me that internal sense of gratification that I craved,” he says. “In the early 2000s, I began to realize that I always loved the construction industry. From a very young age, I would be mesmerized by construction. Even as an adult, I would spend hours visiting construction sites, being amazed by the work that was being done.”
Eventually, Paul made the decision to pursue his dream and returned to school to complete a certificate in Construction Project Management. Once this was completed he and his wife Sue, decided to leave their Toronto home, moving to the Parksville area. Shortly thereafter, Paul Dabbs Custom Homes was born.
“Mentorship has been very important for my success,” he says. “When I started out, I formed a relationship with another builder who helped me to find my footing. For the first few years, I rode on his coattails, learning the business and supply chain. He helped me build relationships with some of the area’s top subcontractors, many of whom I still work with to this day.”
After about two years of mentorship, Paul moved out on his own, honing his own construction style and building a strong reputation in the region.
“On time, on budget; that’s our motto,” he says. “In logistics, you need to get the right product in the right condition at the right price at the right time. I bring that into everything I do. Creating the best possible conditions for success is at the centre of my business.”
“Paul is all about relationships,” says Sue, who handles most of the company’s office work. “He likes the one-on-one client interaction; building and fostering a relationship.”
Many of Paul’s clients move to the Island from the Lower Mainland, Interior, or even prairie provinces. In many cases, this distance would be a significant obstacle when building a custom home.
“It can be really stressful for the client if we don’t communicate properly and stick to our agreements,” he says. “When we’re in these types of situations, I send photos almost daily to the homeowners, keeping them in the loop.
“Last year, we built a house in Fanny Bay for a couple that was moving to the Island. The wife didn’t see the house at all, and the husband saw it once before it was finished. In the end, they were extremely happy with our work.”
Before starting construction, Paul puts a detailed budget together for the client, which he refers to throughout the building process. As the project progresses, he keeps his clients informed on each step, letting them know if the cost is higher or lower than expected, and adjusting along the way.
“If we’re going down the wrong path with an aspect of the project, I have a conversation with the homeowner, giving them a couple of options for how to proceed,” he remarks. “I love coming up with creative solutions to big problems.”
Before the walls are put up, Paul covers the floor in chalk lines to give clients a visual representation of the home’s layout. They then walk through the home, and will often make changes on the spot, moving walls and adjusting spaces to optimize the final result.
In order to maintain this standard of care, Paul limits the number of projects to two per year.
The success of these projects would not be possible without Paul’s team of reliable sub trades.
“I’m all about respecting our tradespeople,” he says. “The people I work with are respected, and it comes back the other way. In my client contracts I include a stipulation that once a subtrade’s bill is submitted, I confirm the work is done and tell the client it’s ok to pay the bill. After that point, the agreement is that the homeowner will have five business days to pay the trade directly.”
“I make a point of having two to three go-to sub contractors in each trade. We have a good relationship with all of them, and we try to balance our workload between each company.”
On each project, Paul’s approach to building is heavily influenced by his professional background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in business from Ryerson College, a two-year logistics certificate from George Brown College in Toronto, and a background as a pilot.
“All of my professional experience and training informs what I do,” he says.
For example, before going to business school, Paul spent three years in flight school training to become a pilot, learning about aerodynamics, temperature and wind.
“I apply that knowledge to homes I’m building,” he continues. “Waterfront property is great, but it’s five degrees colder than lots that are farther from the ocean. You have to be careful about how many trees you take down in the building process, because you don’t want to freeze yourself out. Builders don’t tend to think about those things, but my background helps me to consider a wide array of variables on a build.”