Success in custom home building is built upon a company’s solid foundation of great expectations, which demand: a high level of work performance executed by an experienced team, a quality home constructed with master craftsmanship, thoughtful landscaping to enhance its unique design and an energetic commitment to the idea that building homes is the work of building dreams.
After working summers in construction and dabbling in the pool and spa business only long enough to solidify their feelings that the construction business was the right path for them, brothers John and Anthony Mandalfino started their own contracting company. Their work consisted of small additions and renovations to homes in the Burlington area before receiving their first substantial opportunity to build a custom home for an Oakville couple.
By all accounts, John, at 27 years of age, and Anthony, at age 23, had everything working against them. Not only were they considered to be very young by industry standards even to build their first home, they also didn’t have an extensive portfolio behind them, or any prior experience in the Oakville area.
“We were very aware that this was our time to showcase and establish ourselves,” admits Anthony. “In 1991-1992 Southeast Oakville was the place to be. A very strong custom home building trend already existed, but it was ultimately up to us to prove ourselves worthy of belonging here.”
Working six to seven days a week to complete the majority of the exterior work on the home themselves and contracting out the interior work paid off well for this dedicated team. Both agree that they were lucky to build a home on such an influential street, and they were happy that their clients were thrilled in the end. It was all they needed to get the credibility they desired, make a name for themselves and forge new relationships with architects and various industry leaders.
Upon closer examination of Hallmark’s formula, several contributing factors earmarked them for success.
What they lacked in depth of their portfolio they compensated for in knowledge. Both were eager to take the time to understand every aspect of the project in order to choose the right subtrades for the job. John explains: “When you make it policy that you’re interested in producing quality work, you attract experienced tradespeople and discerning consumers interested in a high caliber of workmanship.”
A high standard of performance expected at work extends from the moment work is started on the house and often finishes long after work on the home has been completed. “As soon as the drywall is up and the windows have been installed,” explains Tony, “there are strict rules in place that demand respectful behaviour from the entire team working on a Hallmark home. It sets the standard for the level of work we’re interested in achieving on a daily basis, it sets the tone for a clean and safe work environment and it makes the homeowners feel welcome when they visit the job site. Workers are not only expected to tidy up after themselves at the end of each day and clean each home from top to bottom at the end of each week, they make themselves available to answer any questions visiting homeowners might have. I couldn’t work any other way,” Tony concludes.
Long after construction has completed, John and Tony continue to service their clients, who have learned to rely on the founders of Hallmark’s savvy industry knowledge and their approachable nature. “It’s common practice for us to refer our clients to trusted industry leaders we know can help them out with any need that may arise, such as referring our clients to companies that will fix their outdoor pool heating system, etc.” offers John.
The level of quality that permeates each aspect of Hallmark’s projects is visible on the grandest scale in each home they complete with expertise, vision and attention to detail.
If your previous home was built by Hallmark and you’re in the market for a new one, chances are that you’ll find the same workers on the project who built your first home. Loyal to quality craftsmen and good people, there has been no reason for Hallmark to adopt new philosophies or techniques along the way that compromise their attention to detail. “We’ve never received a complaint in regards to the quality of our work,” admits Tony. “We’ve stayed true to our vision that time-honoured building methods be used in each of our homes, regardless of whether they are contemporary designs or not. Good quality never goes out of style.”
Despite their steadfast approach in using traditional materials, their vision is unlimited in terms of what can be achieved at each address. Open to clients approaching them with ideas they’ve seen on television, the internet or in magazines, there is virtually nothing Hallmark can’t locate or outsource. “We visit trade shows across the continent in search of new and interesting materials to keep progressive and aware of new trends,” adds John.
Any type of hardwood, exotic woods included, is available. “We’re not particularly set on building any style of home,” continues John. “We’re open to anything, as long as we are able to bring our strengths to the table of using proven building techniques without sacrificing our attention to detail.” Sometimes this involves having to make adjustments along the way. “If there’s something that we don’t like or a detail that requires a change, we won’t hesitate to follow through on our instincts. In the end, those with high expectations will see the value in our work.”
Admittedly, this team is not interested in merely building a big, flashy house. Intent on making fine details a focal point, clients are encouraged to see the difference quality materials, as well as unique interior and trim details, add to a home. “You can’t make someone see the difference in your work unless they understand it,” Tony points out. “Before construction begins, clients are walked through a variety of homes to see what differentiates Hallmark from the others.”
“Home building is no longer a business that involves building 3200 square foot homes and allowing homeowners to choose their five favourite colours,” John continues. “We look at every aspect of the home on an individual basis, because we’re in the business of building dreams.”
Each project evolves from an active collaboration between Hallmark and the client. A unique experience; in the end, one vision delivers a final product that has been given an opportunity to benefit from: a full interior design service, introduction to an architect, landscaping services and the disclosure of budgeting procedures to create a consistent product from start to finish.
If clients wish, they will not only walk into a beautifully new constructed home made of the finest materials and detailed with handsome particulars, but also one that has been furnished from top to bottom and elegantly landscaped with the final touches that make a house inviting. “Hallmark can handle everything straight through to the tiles you choose to put on the floors, including: choosing appliances, the selection of draperies and rugs, right down to the throw cushions you want on your couch,” Tony assures. “There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a beautiful home that hasn’t been furnished or landscaped with an eye trained to see how each aspect fits into the larger vision of the project as a result of expenses not being budgeted into the total cost.”
Built on honesty, Hallmark Homes was probably the first builder interested in consummating a fee based on full disclosure invoicing. Clients know exactly what their money will buy before the joint venture between builder and client begins.
Currently working on their most challenging project to date: 15,000 square feet of living space complete with a recording studio, home theatre, the most interior millwork they’ve ever completed, an automated lighting control system and virtually every custom feature available, Hallmark has witnessed an evolution that continues to propel them forward. “Once you’ve reached a certain pinnacle of success, it’s surprising how additional benchmarks appear that continue to demand further evolution from who you are and what you’ve built,” explains Tony.
It accounts for why the enthusiasm for home building hasn’t waned for these partners. Given the opportunity to develop strong relationships with a very talented bunch of people who share similar interests is special,” both John and Tony admit. “Building is very social and active, which suits our personalities perfectly.”
Proud of their accomplishments that will even outlive them, having kids taught John and Tony how short life is, and the importance of appreciating every day. In addition to their demanding schedules, John and Tony each coach their kids’ sports teams. “This opportunity to experience a part of our children’s lives will present itself for only a short period of time, and then it will be gone,” John reasons. “It’s important to commit yourself 100%, so that you can look back on your life later, knowing that you did everything in your power to make a difference,” Tony adds.
The same holds true in their careers as custom home builders. Supporting local charities and sports teams in the community is part of their mandate. Passing time building dreams for others makes sense to John and Anthony Mandalfino. Especially when, in doing so, they have been able to make their own dreams of: success, respect and contributing to the lives of others a reality – the stuff that only materializes from a wealth of great expectations.