Choosing the right home builder for you may seem like an overwhelming and monstrous decision, but it doesn’t have to be. It is important to go in having a clear idea of what you want, once you know that, it makes the process a lot easier for all involved. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jake Winkle, of Winkle Custom Homes, who discussed what sets his company apart from the rest and was given insider knowledge on just what it takes to make a house a home.
Q: After researching you, I’ve discovered that you’re originally from Northern California, yet you’ve spent the majority of your professional career building homes in the Newport Beach and Corona del Mar area. What is it about Orange County that has kept you rooted here? Do you ever see yourself expanding your business elsewhere or do you plan on keeping it local?
Jake Winkle: I started right out of college working for Patterson Custom Homes. I spent nine years at that company. In that time I completed 38 homes from the ground up. A super high number for any builder or project manager. I don’t ever see myself moving because my business is here and I love this area. Orange County is also one of the few places where I have the opportunity to build such amazing homes.
Q: Are there any standard features that your homes include? Or is each one independently designed and unique to itself?
JW: Every project we do is built to last. Our standard build is extremely custom and includes tremendous attention to detail. In terms of trending technology all of our homes are set up for solar power, electric car charging, lighting control, home automation, water leak detection systems, water conservative, interactive security features including individualized security access, and home maintenance built in.
Q: How would you compare yourself to other home builders? What trait would you say is specific to you and Winkle Custom Homes?
JW: We strive to be the absolute best. I use a lot of technology in my company to streamline and organize an otherwise primitive industry. We are a company that focuses on customer service, technical details, and quality builds. We handle absolutely every aspect of a project and are known for extremely detailed work. I run my company like a commercial construction company, meaning we use a lot of scheduling, budgeting, and management tools not commonly seen in residential building. I think the most important aspect is the fact we are always evolving and learning. I refuse to accept the status quo and I challenge each and every one of my employees to continually help improve the process and our product.
Q: I read on your website that Winkle Custom Homes “is selective about its future projects, and strives to work on a more intimate level with clients, consultants, subcontractors, and vendors.” How do you choose who to work with? How can a future client make themselves better suited at securing an opportunity to work with your company?
JW: A custom home is the ultimate consumer product. There is no other purchase in a consumer’s life that will equal what a new home will cost and therefore is held to a much higher level of scrutiny. Building some of these larger homes can take over two years, 8-12 months of planning beforehand, and home maintenance for the life of the project. More so than a lot of other builders, we work extremely close with clients during this entire process. Building a dream home is extremely personal. I spend more times with my clients on a day to day basis than I do most of my friends or family. For these reasons, we find it extremely important to make sure the project is a good fit for everyone involved.
Q: What is it about home building that inspired you to make this your career? Did you ever see yourself pursuing another venture?
JW: I absolutely love what I do. When I look at anything my mind starts reverse engineering it and figuring out how it was built. There is no question I was meant to do what I do. Despite my love for this industry, I was an EMT in college and loved helping other people. If I wasn’t building homes I would be working in philanthropy on an international scale . I have traveled to over 30 countries and truly love people and culture. I am always inspired by what other cultures are doing and how people live throughout the world.
Q: What advice can you give homeowners that are looking for some affordable ways to add a custom look to their home without spending a fortune?
JW: We don’t do many remodels, but off the top of my head — Exterior: New garage doors and updated landscaping. Interior: Flooring refinishes and new countertops.
Q: In your professional opinion, what makes a house a home?
JW: I believe the inhabitants of a house are what make it home. It is the personality of all the individuals that drive the design and function of a home. Each family member has a distinct style, taste and preference. It is these collective items that we use when building a custom home. From a custom bunk bed in a young child’s room to a family theater room, or entertaining bar, each areas design borrows from the wants and needs of the family who will ultimately reside in the finished home. Buying a finished home is much different than customizing a home to fit your family needs. We specialize in homes that are truly custom and as a result, represent the people who live within them. A house is a home when it is filled with love, personality, memory and comforts.
Q: What are the different nuances you’ve found between building beachfront homes opposed to homes not in a coastal region?
JW: Ocean Front homes are totally different than homes built just a mile away. Even less in most cases. Building on the water is similar to building a boat. Everything we do is under constant attack from the salt air. It’s not uncommon to have to wash the windows of an ocean front home every 2 weeks to deal with the salt spray that builds up. We use only non-corrosive metals, commercial based waterproofing systems, epoxy paints, [and] hardwoods, to name a few of the necessary material types when operating this close to the ocean.
Q: Winkle Custom Homes is known for creating W365, a program specific to your company, which deals with “[assisting] from inception to creation.” May you expand a bit more on what W365 provides?
JW: W365 is our approach to building and managing custom homes. Drawing from commercial construction methods, we track, organize, create and manage information pertinent to each project with a robust set of technology tools. W365 is also about access. We believe that our clients, consultants, and subcontractors should have immediate access to answers, information, etc. W365 also represents total transparency. In an otherwise obscure industry, we believe in a total open book policy and pass cost directly on to our clients. Our approach involves our team with the project from the beginning of plan design to ensure that the builder can add valuable input along the design path. Typically our involvement during design will save a client money and time in the long run.
Q: Over the course of your career to date, what has been your most treasured project? What was it about that build that has left it a lasting impression on you?
JW: Each project is unique and so are the clients. I value the relationships I build with my clients as much as the products we build. My clients have been instrumental in shaping my career and company. Some of my most valued advisors are previous clients and now friends. My most treasured project is actually my entire portfolio of completed homes. Every project teaches me something new about this industry and myself. The day we stop learning, will be the day I close the doors on Winkle Custom Homes.