For residential construction projects, when an architect meets with a client it’s often over a set of blueprints on a kitchen with a barking dog, crying kids and ringing phones as distractions. But Ray and Lesley Joelson have come up with a twist on that kind of meeting with EZPlans, their Woodland Hills architecture firm. An EZPlan architect shows up at a client’s home in a specially designed Sprinter van with comfortable chairs and computer screens to show off the designs using 3D renderings. “It lends an enormous amount of credibility to our business,” Lesley Joelson said of the three mobile design vans the company owns. The Joelsons are not architects but instead are entrepreneurs who saw a need to change how architectural design services are offered. The couple had previously owned and operated Global Microsystems, a distributor of information technology and broadcast products. EZPlans, which started in 2013, serves a coverage area from Santa Barbara to San Diego for homeowners looking to do remodels or additions and professionals such as real estate agents, contractors, developers and home flippers. About 50 percent of EZPlan’s business comes from the professionals who are often repeat customers, Ray Joelson said. “We have contractors who bring four, five jobs a year,” he added. EZPlans has done about 500 projects since it started. Along with the San Fernando Valley headquarters, it has offices in Phoenix and San Diego. Its network of architects currently stands at 14 but Ray Joelson wants to grow that number. In fact, Ray Joelson said he is looking for a $2 million investment that will allow the company to scale up and expand to 125 cities across the country. “I’d like to take this model nationwide,” he said. The company has taken inquiries from architects from all over the country, including Seattle, New York and Miami. Being part of the EZPlans network would bring these practitioners clients. EZPlans negotiates with the architects to put together agreements on the pricing of the projects they would do. “It is a very interesting and different model,” Ray Joelson said. And it’s a model that can tap into the approximately $66 billion architectural services market in the U.S, according to Grand View Research, a research and consulting company in San Francisco. It is also a model that Ray Joelson said is not easily duplicated so, he and Lesley and are not concerned about competition. After all, it has taken five years to develop the process and protocols they use. “I don’t believe any other architectural firm has built the necessary infrastructure with the support of the vans, the network of architects, the pricing model, the menu of services and the way we have presented ourselves to the marketplace,” Ray Joelson said. Set prices Transparency in pricing is one way EZPlans differentiates itself from other architecture firms. The fees it charges clients are published on the company’s website – base packages start at $4,750 for a single-story home and $7,450 for a two story. There are also optional add-on packages starting at $3,950 for interior or exterior enhancements, contractor bidding and construction administration. Ray Joelson said that EZPlans staff prides itself on not doing any upselling of the optional packages and only doing work that a customer wants or can afford. The company thought long and hard about the prices it would charge – a combination of what would work and what the market will bear, Ray Joelson continued. He said the prices are not on the high end but not the cheapest either compared to similar services. “Frankly I think we are somewhere in the middle,” Ray Joelson added. Jason Reitz, owner of Rock Realty Group, a West Hollywood boutique residential brokerage firm, who has personally used and referred EZPlans to clients, called the vans a great sales enhancer. “The look on the clients faces when they walk outside is priceless,” Reitz said. “It is really a great and fun toy.” Ray Joelson said that he starts the meeting by introducing the company’s services and design capabilities and showing the different types of architecture it can handle in the homes it has worked on. “What we are doing is building credibility with our clients by showing the past work,” Ray Joelson added. The process is then broken down into five steps. First comes the measuring of the home and within 48 hours a drawing is sent out showing the scope of the work to be done. Next comes more formal designs followed by construction plans of a generic 3D rendering of the home that show roof lines and window changes. “They love seeing those models. You can turn it around, you can see how the windows look,” Lesley Joelson said. “It really helps people visualize what they are getting.” Then comes the permitting stage of the project, with EZPlans staff getting the necessary approvals from the city. Lastly, there is bidding for the project, with post-permit services offered as an option in which the company assists in finding a contractor. “We try to make it clear what you are getting for the fee,” Ray Joelson said. There is also a portal at the EZPlans website where clients can log in and see at what stage their project is in. The architects can also log in and update the steps so the client can see what has been done and what is coming up. Reitz, of Rock Realty, said EZPlans is one of the “arrows in my quiver” on the front lines of selling real estate. “They have a great concept, which is talented, affordable architecture,” Reitz said. The talent part of the equation comes from Glen Salcedo, the chief architect. Lesley Joelson said it was fortunate that her husband was able to bring Salcedo to the company. It is perfect match of Ray’s business experience and Salcedo’s expertise in designing high-end homes and working with architects that include William Hefner of Studio William Hefner in Los Angeles and Brian Biglin of Biglin Architectural Group in Westlake Village. “The two of them brought this concept to life,” she added. Salcedo knows all the genres of architecture inside and out, Reitz said, adding that he has seen Salcedo’s work on French Normandy, traditional Hacienda, modern and contemporary homes. “He is like an architectural chameleon because he can do any type of style and he cares about the clients,” Reitz said. Then there is Ray Joelson who brings the vision to the concept and Lesley, whose talents lie in getting permits expedited. “When you put the three of them together, you have a triumvirate that is talented, caring and powerful on projects,” Reitz added. Affordable architecture The Joelsons started EZPlans in Woodland Hills because that is where they live. The Valley has been a big part of their business because of the older homes here that do not meet modern living requirements, where the kitchen has become the focal point of the family. “You cannot fit people into these little galley kitchens,” Lesley Joelson said. “A lot of our work now is taking down a wall and making a great room where the whole family can congregate.” Salcedo, the chief architect, said that the training architects receive in school motivates them to find wealthy clients. So historically, the profession has left regular people in the Valley alone, leaving contractors who are moonlighting to pick up that work. “There is zero consistency in the service, zero consistency in their fees and zero customer service because they are focused on their full-time jobs,” said Salcedo. Auxiliary dwelling units is a big part of EZPlans’ workload for Valley clients. These include converted garages or a guesthouse added for rental purposes or because homeowners’ parents or children need a place to live, Lesley Joelson said. These units are allowed throughout the state by a law that went into effect two years ago requiring all cities and counties to adopt rules to make them permissible. Accessory dwelling units are seen as a way to help reduce the housing shortage and create affordable places to live. “So many calls to our company are for those services,” she added.