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August Friday Morning Breakfast

Posted By Heather Garbarino, Friday, September 14, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2018

Residential Development: The Times Are "A-Changin"


A popular industry saying goes, “Retail follows rooftops.” The Valley’s motto could well be: “Retail and office and industrial follow rooftops.”


With the Great Recession and the bursting of the housing bubble in the rearview mirror, the Valley’s homebuilding industry is on solid footing once again. Valley Partnership’s August Friday Morning Breakfast featured a panel whose companies combined have accounted for 17 percent of homes sold in the past 30 days.


They included Greg Abrams, Vice President, Land Acquisitions, Planning & Entitlements, PulteGroup; Jeff GundersonSenior Vice President of Land Acquisition, Lennar; Ryan Huffman, Executive Vice President of OperationsRichmond American;  and Dennis Webb, Vice President, Fulton Homes. Moderating was Jim Belfiore, President, Belfiore Real Estate Consulting.


This spring, homebuilders sold more than in any spring in more than a decade. In the process, new home prices are finally appreciating. Part of the recipe for this slow but successful recovery is the addition of the “turnkey” product by multiple builders bringing the first-time and returning homeowners back to the market.


In referring to turnkey homes – either spec housing or ready-to-go custom homes – to each builder it means something different.


“We have always been a strong spec builder,” Webb said. “We can deliver in 30 to 60 days the buyers still have options they can add. Our upgrades are among the highest in the country. These are not yesterday’s floor plans. These are new communities; mini masterplans.”


Richmond American is typically not a spec builder, Huffman said. Its turnkey segment highlights customization for what a home buyer might want.


“Most of our business is driven by entry level or move up buyers,” Huffman said. “These are people all waiting the last few years to get back into the market. It’s now moving faster. Our Seasons collection is a good example. Those homes include spec level features.”


Lennar has a much different vision, Gunderson said. That homebuilder takes the “everything-included approach.”


“For 20 years our philosophy has been to really try to understand our customers,” he said. “This allows us to operate more efficiently. You can get exactly what you want in a house for that price. This gives us a good understanding of who our buyer is.”


With his company one of the bigger builders in the Valley, Abrams said the strategy at PulteGroup is to manage production levels in its communities.


“The big thing is maintaining a consistent work schedule,” Abrams said. “We know when they (construction crews) leave. We build a consumer-inspired planned community. We make sure they are selection the product and options they really desire. This comes from a lot of national research and focus groups. It is something you can really see in our homes.”


Options have moved beyond pools and kitchen appliance upgrades to RV garages and luxury packages. Infill locations are becoming extremely popular. And yes, labor woes continue be an issue.


Still, the panelists remain upbeat.


“We’re all bringing in more buyers,” Webb said. “It’s a busy market.”



The August breakfast wrapped up with special guest speaker U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. Photo courtesy of SRP.


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