market talk from top custom builders
We covered some of the country's best custom builders in the July-August 2011 issue of Custom Home magazine, and a couple of weeks ago I checked back in with a couple of them--Talli Oxnam of ILEX Construction & Woodworking in Easton, Md., and Michael Walker of Michael K. Walker & Associates in Sarasota, Fla.--to see how business was going. Here's what they told me.
Talli: "Our DC and Northern Virginia offices are picking up. I really believe the DC/Northern Virginia market is terribly unique; the transitioning and politics almost guarantee constant relocation and renovation. Our Charlottesville, Va., and [Hot Springs, Va.], offices mostly build vacation homes, and people build their vacation homes when things are doing better. There is a slow uptick in that market. For us, a big indicator is that the architects have more to draw. When they stop drawing, 6 months later we slow down. They're drawing again. Renovations of any size are much more prevalent. People are definitely taking what they have and making it better. I don't think the market is ever going to be what it used to be. I think the next 24 months will continue to get better. But people are still apprehensive, still cautious."
Michael: "Our market is the very upper end market. We've seen money freed up by our more affluent clients, more so than 2 to 3 years ago. Things that were on hold are slowly coming to fruition. I think people are feeling like they've sat on it long enough. Most of our clients are retired CEO's of very large companies--either that or they're getting ready to retire. 2 to 3 years ago, they got very conservative with what they were willing to put money into. They felt like it wasn't a good time to spend money. We have a project now that was all ready to go in 2008, but the client waited it out until late 2009 to pull the trigger. We started it in spring 2010, and we'll finish it pretty much by the end of this year. That project has been a mainstay for us. We also have a huge project that's just starting this weekend. We're now cultivating clients for things that will start next year, some very good possibilities. It takes a long time to cultivate these types of projects. We have turned a few away because the clients were not being realistic about what's required." --m.d.