Josh Miller, a drafter designer of new construction with Nordaas American Homes, led a tour through every room of a custom-built house, pointing out cabinets, tables and furniture before soaking up the tranquil view of the countryside from one the windows.

But this house has yet to be physically built.

Thanks to virtual reality, it’s one example of how this Minnesota Lake company, which is celebrating 70 years, has remained ahead of the curve in an industry that fluctuates from external factors like the economy and changing regulations.

“When I started, everything was a flat quarter-inch line drawing and blueprints,” said owner Michael Redig. “Now everything is computer drafted. They’ve gone as far as adding virtual reality; you can put your headsets on, go through, around and over your house.”

Haakon Nordaas, a Norweigan immigrant who founded the company in 1949, hired Michael Redig in 1972 as a sales representative. In 1989, when Nordaas decided to retire, Michael Redig and his wife Pat purchased the business. Now with a staff of 21, they have sales reps covering territory in half a dozen states throughout the upper Midwest.

Their retail showroom in Minnesota Lake is full of every imaginable feature a new homeowner would want, from flooring, furnishings and décor to fireplaces and countertops. Next door is the lumber yard; and nearby they give prospective clients a tour of one of the homes they built.

“People come from out of state and we have a guest house they can stay in,” Pat Redig said. “Then they can tour a Nordaas home.”

Their son, Todd Redig, worked in the lumber yard when he was in high school. After college, he became a sales rep for eastern Iowa. The three together are owners, and he’ll acquire the company when his parents retire.

“I’d like to see it make 100 years,” Michael Redig said. “And he’s got three little guys.”

While some customers have a clear-cut idea of what they are looking for in a custom built home, others are starting from scratch. When clients come to visit Minnesota Lake, the first thing Todd Redig does is bring them through the showroom, lumber yard and then a model house that his parents also happen to live in.

“It’s an extension of our showroom, but they live in it so they have to clean it every single day,” Todd Redig said with a laugh.

Start to finishThe process, which begins with financing, design and ultimately construction, can take several months to several years. To illustrate the differences, he explains how they are working on a small 900 square foot cabin on one end of the spectrum, but they are also working on a 9,000 square foot mansion. It all just depends on the customer.

“Some clients want to do it all,” Todd Rediq said. “They want to frame it, they’ve got their brother to do the shingling and a friend to do the siding. We give the homeowner that flexibility. If they want to be actively involved with the project, go for it. We’ll do the supplies and the design. Then you have another customer over here that doesn’t recognize what a hammer is. They need a lot of assistance. It varies on the customer and the project.”

The modern farmhouse look is increasingly popular, with white siding colors complemented with dark colors for the trims and roof. Energy efficient windows, doors heating and cooling systems are also frequent requests, as is making homes handicapped accessible.

Word of mouth and referrals play a big role in their success, but the family said hiring young, computer savvy designers plucked right out of college have given them an edge with tailoring design to the customers. It all begins with concept sketches and flat line drawings, followed by 3D design.

Customers put on headsets and can get a feel for what the house would look like up to scale, allowing dimensional changes and altering the placement of windows and doors as they go. By the time construction begins, customers know exactly what they are getting.

“They’re putting furniture in, lighting in, the cabinet schedule in,” Todd Redig said. “So you literally are walking through the house and getting a sense of what a king-size bed and two night stands is going to feel like in this 14-by-15 foot bedroom. You get to make any of these modifications or tweaks before we’ve even started construction.”

Todd Redig said diversification has played a significant role in keeping the business profitable even during challenges like the housing boom and bust between the mid 2000’s to 2012. While Redigs weathered the storm, competitors folded after building homes before they were bought. By spreading out the business beyond design and construction to include remodeling existing houses and retail at the showroom and lumber yard has been instrumental in their success.

They say every year brings new challenges and rewards.

“It changes every single year,” Todd Redig said. “Maybe one year our new construction and new home builds are down but our remodels and renovation side of the business are up. It’s been nice a nice little blend that way to carry us through these ups and downs.”

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