By Fabian Sandler
Spring is here! Mother’s Day is just around the corner. What better way to show your appreciation to the mother in the family than the gift of completing the home improvement project she is always talking about, but never has the time for? Or better yet, treat her to the adventure and satisfaction of designing her dream home and seeing it come to life.
Headed by Baytown’s own Edward “Eddie” Schwartz, are two of the East bay’s premier residential construction companies, DIY Custom Homes and EMS Home Remodeling. “The reason for having opened DIY Custom Homes three years ago, after having successfully ran EMS Home Remodeling for twelve years (fifteen years now),” he explains. “A friend of mine had been asking me to help him build a home for over a year, and for over a year I kept telling him I didn’t want to get into new construction. Finally, he caught me on a good day. I agreed to help him. When the dust settled and his dream home was complete he had $90,000 in equity, we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re on to something here.’ DIY Custom Homes was born. The first year we did one house, the next year we did three, and this year we’re on track to completing ten.”
Eddie continues, “We are not the typical builder. We don’t have add-ons and upgrades. We charge a flat percentage of cost to build. Our customers choose their own materials, set their own budget and allocate those funds how they choose on the things that are important to them. Our clients love it”
DIY Custom Homes projects are popping up throughout the greater Houston area. “We have projects in Magnolia, Spring, Crosby, Dayton, Mt. Belvieu, Beach City,” exalts Christina York, DIY’s bidding coordinator.
Eddie admits to coming from humble beginnings. “When the mortgage boom died, I began flipping houses and got really into the construction side. That’s when I started EMS Home Remodeling. I was working for a mortgage company. When they closed down during the recession, I found myself doing remodels in Katy. In the beginning most of our work was just painting. I had a four-foot ladder, a bucket, a roller, a brush and some flyers and did all of the work myself for the first ten years. It has just grown and grown,” the entrepreneur says proudly.
Christina’s background is in sales. She attended college in Las Vegas where she studied fashion as well as interior design. She has many years of experience in sales, honing her skills in customer service.
Eddie and Christina, who recently became engaged, have been together for almost three years. “He proposed the day before Christmas Eve. We had set the wedding date for this year, but ultimately decided to postpone the wedding until March of next year in order to take care of our Harvey clients.” Cherished at the center of their universe, they have four animated and ambitious young men. Josh and Fred (both 14 years old), Brayden (13), and Caiden (11). “We couldn’t be more proud of who they are becoming. Someday we hope they will inherit the business, after college,” Christina beams.
With the Baytown area hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey, Eddie and Christina have seen their share of customers who needed to put their lives back together. “We have over fifty Harvey houses going right now,” Eddie states. “We performed demolition and dry-out on seventy-six houses so far.”
Eddie anticipated the destruction that Harvey was about to unleash. He had the presence of mind to acquire dry-out equipment from a company in Florida before the storm hit. “We had enough dehumidifiers and fans to dry out twenty houses at a time. We gave everyone fantastic prices.” They didn’t begin any repair work for one month after Harvey hit, to ensure that every home they worked on was completely dried out.
Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in people, with neighbor helping neighbor. Despite having flooding in both their home and office, Eddie and Christina placed priority on their customers. They concentrated only on the local community, to make sure that their neighbors were taken care of. “We’ve had calls from Katy, from Kingwood, Channelview and the League City area, but we only worked local. We couldn’t have helped as many people had we been spread out,” Christina says.
We really went beyond the call of duty to help people,” Eddie explains. “Some houses we demoed for free, because people didn’t have the money. We donated a lot. We made contributions to our local churches. Churches that were helping people out, we went in and installed new floors for them. One handicapped woman had her ramp swept away in the storm. We built her a brand new ramp at no cost. We are donating $500 to Cove Volunteer Fire Department for every complete Harvey remodel we did in Legends Bay subdivision. We gave as much as we could, and you know what? Seventy-five out of the seventy-six people we helped demo and dry out came back and paid.”
Although they have plenty of remodeling business because of the hurricane and will continue specializing in kitchen and bathroom remodels, Eddie and Christina have a clear and simple vision for the business. “We want to continue to build more custom homes. We really enjoy building people’s dreams, from the ground up,” Christina declares.
“This year DIY has grown to the point that we’ve had to bring on an additional project manager as well as additional office personnel to free up more of my time so I can focus on DIY Custom Homes,” Eddie attests. The office staff has grown to eight people, including their Remodeling Project Manager Joe Klicman, with nearly 20 years of residential construction experience in all fields. “We are currently seeking another project manager to assist on the DIY side,” says the entrepreneur. He welcomes resumes from prospective project managers who have a minimum of four years experience.
“The thing I pride myself most on is the quality of work,” he explains. “That’s the biggest thing for me, not so much the profit margin. I don’t do very much advertising. It’s all word-of-mouth and social media.”
EMS Home Remodeling specializes in kitchens and bathroom remodels, but offers a multitude of other services. “From the slab to the roof. No job is too big or too small,” Eddie says succinctly.
Christina and Eddie feel that their business is set apart from their competition because they are established, insured, members of Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau. They belong to the Greater Houston Builders Association, Texas Association of Home Builders, and the National Association of Home Builders. They are members of the Baytown and Chambers County Chambers of Commerce. “But for me, it’s the quality and service that mean everything. There’s no substitute for quality and service. We won’t settle and neither should you. We’re not the cheapest contractor out there, but we also don’t cut corners. High quality work at a fair price,” Eddie states.
As with any business, Christina and Eddie have had their share of unusual requests. “Dog rooms,” Christina says, smiling. “Like that little room under a staircase, they turned that into a dog house. We tiled it out, put in quarter round, crown molding, put a gate on there.” Certainly a clever concept, creating a room for one’s pet.
Eddie recalls another unusual request from a customer. “Somebody wanted a hot towel warmer underneath their granite countertop to put towels in. We cut a hole in the granite, attached a towel warmer and plugged it in, so that when they put the towels in, when they got out of the shower they could lift this lid and pull out a hot towel.” What an ingenious and welcome novelty in winter.
Their showroom is located at 8011 FM 3180 in Baytown. Business hours are Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM. They can be reached at 832-883-3333.
Their two entities’ slogans say it all:
“There’s no substitute for quality and service,” EMS Home Remodeling.
“More home, higher quality, less money,” DIY Custom Homes.
Whether you are in need of remodeling or a brand new custom home, Eddie and Christina can make not only Mom happy, but the entire family.
The dog, too, under that staircase.