A Sit-Down Chat with Compelling Homes: Q+A, FAQs & More!

Get to know Compelling Homes! Sit down and grab your popcorn for a one-way video chat with Rusty and Denise Green to learn more about the people behind Compelling Homes, what we do, how we utilize the design-build process, and more. Check out our Q&A series below that answers some of our most commonly asked questions!

Video Blog A Sit-Down Chat with Compelling Homes Q+A, FAQs & More! | Compelling Homes


We're all living in some pretty hectic times – between juggling a work/life balance, getting the kids to school on time, and making sure you don't spill coffee on your shirt during the commute (guilty), it has been increasingly difficult to remember that we're not just communicating with someone on a screen; there are real people behind those screens. 


We love sharing our knowledge here on our website - we enjoy giving homeowners tips, tricks, and advice to either inspire or inform about all things remodeling - but we want to be sure future clients feel like they know us. So, we made some videos addressing more about our company, the people behind it, and the work we do.


Sit back, relax, and enjoy these clips (or read the accompanying transcripts). When you're ready to embark on your remodeling project, whether big or small, give our team a call. We already can't wait to meet you.



Who we are & what we do: 

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Rusty: Hi, I'm Rusty Green. I’m with Compelling Homes. I'm president and visionary of the business.


Denise: And I'm Denise Smithson Green. I am the general manager and project coordinator for our company.


Rusty: Together we make up the leadership team of Compelling Homes, which is a Des Moines, Iowa, based home remodeling business. We’re a design-build firm. That's all we do, is just take homes apart and put them back together again.


Denise: Yeah, when we were first starting out, we thought we wanted to do new construction homes. And we did it for a few years and then decided that what we were really excited and passionate about was remodeling people's spaces, doing additions, kitchens, master baths, basements — kind of just making people's space a little bit better for them.


Rusty: So, one of the things that we like to say is, it kind of fell out of our mouth one time, is we're not going to change our customer’s behavior. We're not. You've established habits. What we're gonna do is we're going to tailor the home around your behavior to make it fit better.


Denise: Yeah, and one of the things we're really proud of — or a few of the things we're really proud of — is in 2018 and 2020, we won the I Wish I Would Have Thought of that Award, which we were voted on by our peers for the Tour of Remodeled Homes. And we had created some unique spaces that the other remodelers in our Home Builders Association were like, ‘I wish I would have thought of that.’ And then last year, we were super excited, we were voted on by the public that attended our remodeled house and we received the Pella People's Choice Award so we were very excited to be recognized for some of the work that we've been doing in the community.


Rusty: We're having a lot of fun, that project was just a smash. So, that's kind of who we are and why we're here.



What type of work does Compelling Homes do? 

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Rusty: Compelling Homes falls into a bucket where we say we do kitchens, basements, bathrooms, and home additions, right? Well, here's kind of the twist on that. A lot of companies can say that they do kitchens and bathrooms, but what part of it do they do? Is it just the millwork, you know, or is it just repaints, or whatever it may be? Compelling Homes does a holistic, top to bottom, left to right, total transformation of those spaces.


Denise: Yeah, one of the things that we get called out a lot for is [our customers] start with the kitchen and then they’re like, “Well, while you're here, can you do the fireplace and, oh well, maybe do the powder bathroom?” And by the time we're all said and done, it's like the main floor.


So, our term that we've coined, that we think is just kind of fun is, we call it a main floor scramble. We kind of just take everything out and then put it back together in a new format, making it more workable and making how people function in their spaces even better than it was before.


Rusty: That's exactly right. I was just thinking, one of the most common requests are, you know, “Can you walk in the front door, let's change the stairs, the kitchen, the fireplace, you know, while you're here, let's go to the master bathroom and the master closet.” Whoa! And that's when we turn into the, “Oh, can we knock that wall down?” We get that all the time, right?


So, very rarely do we end up doing just a kitchen, right, where it's cabinets out, cabinets in — I mean, we certainly can. But a lot of times, back to that behavior, you know, they walk in like, “I want a place to put the keys, the homework, the book bags, the soccer cleats, all the things.” Well, we need a space for that, so that wall has gotta go, right?


Denise: As far as our process, a little bit about that, I think one of the things that make us unique in our market is we have three designers that collaborate on every project we do. We come in, we listen to the customer, and then we take what that customer said and create a space that works for them. And there's three of us that work on it and each of us has, I think, our strengths that we bring to the table for that so that you really get this very whole approach to how you're going to live in your new space.


Rusty: Literally, I like to draw on the wall. Those of you that know me know that I pencil and draw it right on the wall — it's a lot of fun — or on paper, and then spatial planning and then finally into lighting, color, texture profile, all the parts and pieces that make Compelling Homes who we are.



What is working with a design-build remodeler like?

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Denise: Oh my gosh, do we have so much fun with our customers!


Rusty: We really do. From the day we walk in the house, we're trying to figure out how were you living, how many dogs do you have — love dogs — how do we put this house together to match the family and how they're living in it?


Denise: Right, and we get to know people on such a personal basis that a lot of times, by the end of it, they’re our friends that we have over for dinner. And it's just a lot of fun.


Rusty: The whole thing starts with understanding [that] design-build is really the basis here. But that's a term thrown around a lot: design-build. So, to talk about design-build is to identify what it's not. And that is like the traditional building format where you'd hire an architect or hire a designer that's not part of the budget team, the number side, the practicality of how do we apply realistic money and budgets and timelines to a fabulous design.


So, one of the examples I like to use — and this is great — is [that] Compelling Homes could show up, measure the space, design the Taj Mahal — soaring ceilings flying buttresses, heated everything's, all the bells and whistles — you fall in love with it, and we go, “Oh, by the way, it's $38 trillion, you in?” Which is not the right way of doing it, right? Having fun with the customers, you find out what’s important, what makes them tick, right, and what ticks them off. And then, what is their budget? And then we can design that to the budget now.


That’s always an ebb and flow, back and forth. So, to find out what’s important, I don’t mind being put on the spot [and asked], “What’s this cost? What’s this cost?”


Denise: Yeah, it's just listening to the customer, but also creating a space that's going to work not just for their lives but for their budget. When we go shopping with our customers, after we kind of get through that initial concept where we show you the picture, [and see] do you like it, you know, is it within your budget, and then we go shopping.


I think [Rusty] just [does] a great job of keeping that customer on task and saying, “Okay, I don't mean to be the money guy, but...” [You’re] keeping them on budget, which makes them feel a lot more confident in the choices they're making and the decisions they're making.


Rusty: That’s actually right. So, through that process, you may see something from a provider or a vendor, in which case I get to go, “Oh, you know, guys, hang on a second. Our budget is $800 and that's $1,400 bucks. Is there another option?” That is where, having Denise on board, she's phenomenal at the opportunity to go, “Well, have you considered this?” And then that's how that process gets from beginning to end. And that’s kind of in a nutshell — very in a nutshell — design-build.


Denise: And one of the things that I will say is we always tell our customers there might be the one thing. You know, we’re here to try to keep you on budget, but there may be that one thing that you just fall in love with.


Rusty: [Denise] and I did it [with] our stone countertop on our island. It’s nice.


Denise: We fell in love with it. And so yeah, sometimes you get to make those decisions, but those are your decisions as a customer, not our decision to make.


Rusty: In a nutshell, that’s design-build.



So, if you’re considering a remodel but have thought to yourself, “I have so many ideas in my head, but have no idea what to do with them,” what’s your next step? 

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Denise: We have customers come to us and they either are in one camp or the other, sometimes in between. But it’s either, “Oh my gosh, I have all these ideas in my head and I have no idea what to do with them,” or, “I have no ideas, and I don't even know where to start. What do I do?” I think we had one this past week that was like, “I don't have any idea, like, do I need to come up with ideas before you come in?” Call us.


Either way or in between, it's totally fine. I mean, that's where we have the three designers that collaborate about what we hear you say. We come in and ask, what's working, what's not working, what do you love, what do you not love about your current space, take lots of notes, we take pictures, and then we come back to our office and collaborate about what that space is going to look like or what the potential can be, and it gives us a place to start. Then when we show you the first pictures of your house.


It's like either you love it or hate it, but it's not usually that — it's somewhere in between. It's like, “Oh, I really don't like this, but I love this.” And that really just gives us our place to start. So, then we start going, “Okay, well, you don't like this, but what about this?” Because [Rusty has] a saying about when someone tells us no.


Rusty: Oh yeah, we have to give you something to say no to. And that's okay. So, when we put something on paper, we talk about an idea. And honestly, it's a lot of fun for me to walk into a house and go, “Oh yeah, we can just knock that wall down and put the bedroom over there, just put the powder room over there, and put the 12-foot island in, pendant lights, and cut a window in. Let's do it, right!” Because with the bricks and sticks and the methods and the means, it's kind of easy. Not to downplay it, but it's surgery, it's all construction.


Denise: And I think that's because that's what we do every day. We live in it and most people don't, so it's hard for them to visualize what it can be.


Rusty: Like Denise mentioned, when you say no to something, you're actually allowing us to put things in front of you that you can say yes to. So, no is a completely acceptable answer and I also like to say a complete sentence. You know, we could put this together and say, “Do you like this?” “No.” Perfect, no need to justify or explain. That's all we need to know, then we can start taking the design-build process in a different direction.


Denise: You [always] say bespoke. And, you know, the definition of is bespoke is like customizing something to fit that particular person. So, while we want it to be something that is classic, timeless, it's going to age well, we also want it to be very personal to who that person is.


I love the customer that came to us and said, “So, I saw this thing, it's a drawer that’ll warm towels and Wolf Appliances  makes it.” And I'm like, “What? How have I not heard about this?” But it's not really a towel warming drawer, it is a warming drawer for food that they have made it to where it also works for towels. So, we're putting that in their master bathroom.


Rusty: Doesn’t that sound fabulous? You step out of your shower and grab your drawer with your warm towels in it. Sign me up for sure.


Denise: So, if you don’t have ideas, we’ve got lots of them. We’re a great place to start. And if you have ideas, great, we're still a great place to start because we'll just make that a reality.


Rusty: Yeah, throw them out there, let’s chat.



What’s the ROI on a remodeling project and why is that the first question we get asked?

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Denise: I think that everybody, when they're looking to do a remodel, they want to know if the money that they put into their home is worth it. They want to know, “If I go down the street and buy a house, is it going to be comparable to what I'm investing in my home?”


That's the first question people ask a lot of times is, you know, “Am I gonna get my money's worth out of it?” And, you know, I always say don't go looking right now because right now if you put $100,000 into your home, you're not going to find another home — unless it's been remodeled recently — that's going to be worth even close to that; because it takes time to get back that money, that return on your investment. So talk a little bit more about that, you've got good information.


Rusty: Sure. So, one of the most basic methods of talking about that is Compelling Homes is not a repair company. We're not fire, hail insurance, flooded basement — we're not. That's a repair.


So, if your basement floods and $25,000 of damage happens to your basement and you got to fix it back, your house isn’t worth $25,000 more [because] that's a repair. So the tangible part of will you get your money back has everything to do with time. And for reasons that it takes me an hour to explain, we coach people to ask are you going to stay in your home for — I'll put her on the spot — how many years, Denise?


Denise: Seven years. 


Rusty: Seven years. That is kind of a magic number for some people that are far smarter than I am. But here's the basics: will you get your money back? Are we doing a lovely interior finish where the finishes on the inside are agreeable to the masses, but just custom and bespoke enough for you? Then the answer leans towards yes. If we're doing a helicopter landing pad, a swimming pool, and a black and white, checker backsplash tile, no, you're not getting your money back. 


Denise: You're probably gonna lose money.


Rusty: Potentially. Yeah, exactly. So, after seven years, things start to make a lot more sense in regards to how much time has gone by, what your investment was, and what your home’s worth. And I study that information because I like to sleep at night. I don't like to sell things for more than they're worth.


So, that's where that comes from. And the other part of it is, are you going to enjoy it? You’re going to get the enjoyment out of living the way you want, like in a custom-tailored suit, for at least seven years. Please stay in your house if you're gonna remodel it at this level for seven years. So that's part of that, “am I getting my money back,” on an ROI conversation.


Denise: And there are things that you can get your money back on sooner than like seven years, which is historically kind of where that magical number is. The front door, if you replace your front door, the next day [your home] is worth that much more.


Rusty: Absolutely. The next one up is a covered deck. If your home does not have a covered deck and you call us and, “Hey, I want to do a new covered deck and put a roof on, and the ceiling fan, and the TV, and all that.” Absolutely. [A covered deck] is tied for first place for instant ROI in the Des Moines area. [It’s] kind of bizarre. So that's a brief discussion on return on investment.



With all the options for home remodeler contractors in the Greater Des Moines area, why should you choose our team, and what sets us apart? 

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Denise: There's a lot of choices for home remodeling contractors in Des Moines and there are some good ones out there. And I think that we have some things that are very unique to who we are, and would make people want to do business with us. But before I go into what I think it is, what do you think?


Rusty: One of the biggest requests that we get on the phone, through email, the website, just face-to-face is, “Can somebody come out and just give me some ideas about what I can do with the house?” And I used to think like that's quite the load, you know, for anybody to carry, to walk out there and say we’re going to do this and that. And then I started doing it. I see your home as a canvas.


That sounds a little cliché, but having done this for 30 years, it's just lumber, drywall, framing, trim, electrical, plumbing, right? It's putting people around us that know how to move things around. So, I've kind of taken the handcuffs off of, you know, “you can't do that” or “not sure if that can happen.” Through experience and time, a lot of those constraints have been removed so it allows just the full-on creative side to walk in your house and go, “Yeah, we need to blow the backside of the house out and put the island in, you know wouldn't be cool if... and, you know, we can probably do this.”


So, the flow of coming up with ideas is natural. I don’t know any other way to say it. So, when you get us in the house for the first time, I love jumping in. After we listen to the first appointment — 30 minutes of listening — I love jumping into, you know, “we can do this,” you know, or, “how about that, let's raise the ceiling,” you know, “let's put the four-season porch on, let's do the whole main floor,” whatever it may be. That's where that process begins with Compelling Homes. 


Denise: I love that you called it a canvas. It's like a blank canvas because what we really say out in the field when we go on a lead  — and if you call us you're going to hear this — is it's like you just gave an eight-year-old [some] crayons. I mean [Rusty] just gets super excited about it. But that is the start of our design process and, you know, one of the things that makes us different is having three designers that contribute to and collaborate about your project.


I mean, we each bring our own strengths to the table and we talk about, you know, the design from a different point of view because we each have that different point of view. And we each have our strengths that we bring to the table. So, there are three designers that collaborate on your work.


I think that's something that sets us apart. I think another one is, we're a small remodeling contractor. We don't have a big team. We have people that we've worked with for a long time that will work on our projects but, we keep it small. We keep it personable, personal and personable. And I love that we get to know our clients really well. We say in the interview process we’re interviewing you just as much as you're interviewing us. And the reason for that is because it's a stressful thing to do remodels.


It's not an easy process for anyone to go through. And if we don't like each other to begin with, we're definitely not gonna like each other when we're done. But even our team gets super invested in our customers. I mean, one of my favorite stories is we have a customer that's pregnant, she's going to have a baby during the process — good lord, love her on that one. But, you know, our project manager came to us and was like, “I really feel like we should have a gift or some flowers or something waiting for her when she gets home from the hospital.” I mean, we really try to keep the person in mind behind the project and make it personable.


Rusty: At the end of the day, the methods and means are only half of it. That's, you know, “Where does the wall go? Where's the light switch go?” Yes, that's a part of it. But the other part of it is, this is not a project for anyone.


This is a project for you. So, we need to know you. We need to know how is this gonna fit you. Because if you're even considering doing this for resale or, you know, general kind of a blasé, “I just want to change a few things,” we're not for you. This is an extremely personal process where we really want to focus on how do we custom tailor every piece of this to match your behavior, match your personality, match your family, match your needs — which is why we don't build spec homes and kind of crank them out. It's because it's not personal. This is highly personal.


Denise: Yeah, I do think that sets us apart and makes us view things just a little bit differently. I mean, we're the ones that show up for the lead, we're the ones that show up for the design, we're the ones that take you shopping — oh my gosh, our favorite day!


We pick you up with your favorite coffee beverage in hand, and we've got ours, and we're ready for a full day of shopping. We take you out, we have a process that we go through that helps that decision-making go easier, and, you know, ultimately it's a fun day. And at the end of the day you've got a lot of your selections made and people start out, they're like, “Oh my gosh I'm so stressed,” or, “I'm so nervous.” You know, when they're like two hours in and they're like, “Oh my gosh, this was so easy.” It's a lot of fun, you know.


We put a lot of us into the relationship, the project, and our business. I mean, because ultimately this is what we do. This is fun. We love it. 



Where should you go to stay updated on our comings and goings, project photos, and more? 

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Denise: It’s been really fun to talk about our business and why we do what we do. And it’s good, first thing in the morning [which is] when we're doing this, to talk about and remind ourselves of why we come to work every day.


Rusty: I'll be honest, it's good to get [Denise] on film and not just me.


Denise: Oh, so, if you haven't been following us on social media go to Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us at Compelling Homes. You'll get to see a lot of [Rusty]. He does the “rusty cam.” It's great. Our customers love it. People on social media love it.


Rusty: I love this stuff right? So, I'm a dude with a selfie stick — I'll admit it. So, I walk through homes in various states of either demo, reconstruction, remodeling, or finished products. And it started because I had a client that wanted an update, so I shot a video and then sent it to her and gets online and then…


Denise: And now the “rusty cam” is famous.


Rusty: I don’t know about that, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. If you want to check it out it is #rustycam — it’s a thing.


Denise: It’s a thing. You know, go to our website we just updated it a bunch, we've been doing a lot of work, and we have not spent a lot of time updating our website until recently. So, we have a new inspiration gallery there [with] before and afters. We have blogs that we've been putting out about different projects and sharing information and education. Education is really important to us, educating our clients, so that's on our website compellinghomes.com.


Rusty: Oh yeah. So, 10 years in the making, right, we build pricing guides. And it's real information. So, you can go to our website if you want to know kind of what things cost, which is a big deal, and also what do you get for that.


We put together some pricing guides with real information — our production manager likes that phrase: real information — so you can go to our website, compellinghomes.com, and you can, download basement finish guides, kitchen finish guides, and bathroom finish guides.


There are some criteria there that'll help you just understand what do you get for how much your investment is going to be. You can get that at our website compellinghomes.com.


Denise: You can also give us a call. We'd love to come out to your project. Our phone number is 515-306-5893. That's one way to get a hold of us.


You can email us: rusty@compellinghomes.com and denise@compellinghomes.com or on the website we have a contact us form that you can fill out as well.


Rusty: Absolutely. I think those are all good ways to get ahold of us.


Denise: Thanks so much for joining.


Rusty: Make it a great day!