For the second year in a row, builder eQ Homes has come out on top at the annual SAM awards recognizing sales and marketing expertise — including model homes — in Ottawa’s housing industry.
At an awards luncheon Nov. 12 at the Infinity Convention Centre, eQ was awarded trophies in six categories ranging from sales rep to best bungalow single. As the builder with the most wins at the event, eQ was also named the Grand SAM winner, taking a seventh trophy to add to the pile.
A delighted Tobin Kardish, who is eQ’s marketing and product manager, says the repeat as Grand SAM winner is “a reflection of the team effort that we have… We try hard and we work hard here, but we have fun at the same time. I truly think the work we put out there is a reflection of the work environment that we have here.”
Particularly when it comes to eQ’s model homes, three of which were winners this year, “there is a lot of thought that goes into our model homes,” he says, with each home having its own story, its own definition of the family living in it and each member’s family history and likes, based on the families that have moved into eQ’s homes in the past.
“The house starts to take shape and has a life and from the moment someone walks in, they feel like there’s something going on here, it’s a little bit more than a staged home.”
The SAM awards are held by the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association to acknowledge award-worthy sales and design staff, marketing materials and campaigns and, of course, the eye candy — designer-decorated builder show homes and the communities they are in.
Nine judges from the city’s sales and marketing industries and those who cover the housing industry (including yours truly) determined the winners in 38 categories from 107 entries.
What they saw
“They’re stepping it up,” says judge Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson Design. Returning to judge the model home and special achievement categories for the third year, Robinson finds the builders are getting more specific about who they’re marketing the models for. “They clearly have a budget to make these unique and different from the others.”
She noticed lots of bold lighting, strong accent paint or wall treatments and more wallpaper. “It’s showing a personality in the house.”
She also liked the mixing and matching of cabinetry. “It’s not all just white kitchens. There’s still a lot of white kitchens, but they’re being bold and either mixing finishes with a paint and a wood or mixing the colours.”
The builders’ design decisions made for some tough choices while judging, particularly in the largest single-family home category, says Robinson. “All of them were really good. I had a tough time figuring out which one was my favourite.”
Sophie Rust, who used to be the Ottawa Sun homes editor, was also impressed by the homes.
“They’d all been well designed and well thought out and the interior design, even though I felt a lot of it was quite similar to each other, it was still very well done and I think very appealing for buyers.”
She’s noticing a shift away from the reliance on grey as a neutral to a more natural and warm design with lots of wood. “Things were feeling a bit more, not rustic, but a bit more warm and sophisticated, but not in a super, ultra-modern contemporary way.”
She also found design choices “a bit safer. Especially when it came to palettes, everything was beige and gold and felt warm, and if colour was used it tended to be classic colours, whether dark greens, dark greys, navy and everything was still quite neutral but dark. If colour was used it wasn’t bright and vibrant.”
For Rust, the models that worked best were the ones that spoke to their target market.
“It shows that they’ve actually thought about who it is that they imagine is going to buy the home. So then design features or layouts (and) floor plan elements have been chosen to coincide with that.”
Beyond the models
But the awards weren’t just about model homes. Marketing campaigns and the people who make the sales also figured prominently, with eQ dominating builder sales categories and both builder Claridge Homes and marketing firm TRUEdotDESIGN doing well in marketing awards.
“What impressed me this year was how cohesive and compelling the campaigns were. Every element was thought out no matter the medium used,” says judge Karen Kavanagh, a professor at Algonquin College who co-ordinates the school’s advertising and marketing communications management program. She judged the marketing award categories.
“It was very difficult to judge the entries. In most categories, it was a matter of a point or two that separated the top and second places.”
Fellow judge Brian Jeffrey, who is vice-president of sales for All Things Home and who judged the sales award categories, also found it tough determining winners.
“It is always a challenge when you are dealing with seasoned professionals from each category,” he says, noting that a common theme among the entrants was “an interest in customer service and ensuring that their prospects were provided with all the information they needed to make a good buying decision.”
eQ picked up three of its wins for sales staff, winning best builder sales assistant (Alain Legault), best builder sales representative (Stephanie Vintinner) and best builder sales team (Vintinner & Legault).
“I couldn’t be more proud to have them on our team,” says sales manager Melissa Gauthier. “They are extremely talented. They care. They’re passionate. They have fun.”
Here are the 2019 SAM Awards winners
Best town home (under 1,800 sq. ft.): Richcraft Homes, for The Addison, a Boho-influenced home designed for an eclectic personality.
Best town home (over 1,800 sq. ft.): Richcraft Homes, for The Fairhaven, which mixes mid-century modern and contemporary fabrics, textures and patterns.
Best single-family home (under 2,000 sq. ft.): eQ Homes, for The Hamilton, done in mid-century modern influences with warm wood furnishings and pops of green, orange, yellow and blue.
Best single-family home (2,001-3,000 sq. ft.): eQ Homes, for The Blackburn, which boasts a Scandinavian style with “a much more natural, woody, warm design” that popped up in this year’s homes, says judge Sophie Rust.
Best single-family home (3,001 sq. ft. & over): Glenview Homes, for The Blakely, in a category that was a hard one to judge, says Jen Robinson. “I had a tough time figuring out which one was my favourite.”
Best bungalow (attached): Campanale Homes, for The Legacy, a Net Zero home at Callahan Estates in Arnprior that has become the fastest selling design in the community, the company says.
Best bungalow (single): eQ Homes for The Firestone, which is styled with calming blues and neutrals inspired by a Cape Cod beach vacation house.
Best condo (low-rise): Claridge Homes for The Tyler, a two-storey loft at the sold-out Tribeca condo project.
Best condo (mid- to high-rise): Mizrahi Developments, for the luxury project 1451 Wellington, which features a copper mansard roof complemented by pale limestone in a nod to Ottawa’s historic architecture. This project won three awards.
Best condo project: Mizrahi Developments, for 1451 Wellington, which is aimed at those “who want to downsize without sacrificing full-scale living,” the company says.
The 3 builder sales awards went to eQ: best builder sales assistant, Alain Legault; best builder sales representative, Stephanie Vintinner; and best builder sales team, Vintinner and Legault.
Best design centre consultant: Sorcha Finn, Cardel Homes.
Best renovator sales representative: Herb Lagois, president of Lagois Design Build Renovate.
A double win: Linda Oliveri Blanchard of Enercare won two awards, best industry partner sales representative and industry partner of the year.
Best industry partner sales team: Karina Ierullo & Laurie Asbil, Stone Design Concepts.
Best builder print ad: Claridge Homes, for Claridge Icon.
Best builder radio ad: Campanale Homes, winning the 4th year in a row. This year’s ad promoted its Urban Terrace energy efficient rentals.
Best builder digital display ad: Claridge Homes, for Claridge Moon.
Best builder social media ad campaign: Richcraft Homes, for The Bowery, which is now sold out.
Best builder video: Campanale Homes, for a video marking the company’s 40th anniversary and introducing its new energy efficient image.
Best builder logo: Claridge Homes, for Claridge Moon.
Best builder signage: TRUEdotDESIGN & Uniform Urban Developments, for Echo. “The simple and uncluttered ECHO outdoor signage reinforced their message of ‘downtown canal living,’” says judge Karen Kavanagh. Echo also won best builder brochure for Uniform and TRUEdot.
Best builder website: RND Construction, whose site pairs educational content on the importance of green builds with photos of past builds. The site is now reference material for Algonquin College’s green architecture students, the company says.
Best builder marketing campaign: Cardel Homes, for a delightful and memorable campaign using dogs.
Best builder sales centre: Mizrahi Developments, for 1451 Wellington.
Best builder design centre: RND Construction, which practices what it preaches. The building is “a beacon of green building technology and finishing materials for renovations, homes for sale and custom homes,” the company says.
Best renovator marketing campaign: Amsted Design-Build, for a video series explaining the design-build process. “This isn’t just geared at hiring us — it’s helpful content for the entire renovation process,” the company says.
Best renovator showroom: Amsted Design-Build, for its Glebe Living Room, a satellite office that also acts as a model home. Amsted’s Glebe Living Room also won best marketing innovation. “Across North America, a renovator making use of model homes is unheard of,” the company says.
Best industry partner social media ad campaign: Hobin Architecture & TRUEdotDESIGN, for a campaign marking Hobin’s 40th anniversary. TRUEdot won this category last year as well.
Best industry partner video: Enercare, for its Smarter Home software, with “several builders signing up to install these systems into all of their new homes after viewing it,” the company says.
Best industry partner website: Euro Tile & Stone & TRUEdotDESIGN, for a site designed “to match the beauty and feel of our physical showroom,” the company says.
Grand SAM: eQ Homes