Small Builder, Big Advantage. Part 2: Providing Market Differential

For prospective home buyers exploring the housing market, the journey can be a crowded and bumpy one. Whether they’re eyeing a new place to grow the family, pursuing a particular lifestyle, or searching for a forever-home, the new-build options can be overwhelming. So how can home builders differentiate their product in such a competitive market?

Create Market Differential Through Design

Ultimately, buyers want to know that they’re getting thoughtful attention to the necessities and extras that are unique to their lifestyles in both their individual residences and their greater community. Therein lies the power of a boutique local home builder, says KGA Studio Architects’ partner and director of design, John Guilliams. Not only are smaller builders in a great position to focus on identifying the local market, but they can also be very flexible and creative in circumnavigating site-specific challenges. Obstacles such as poor soil conditions that prevent basements or landscape features that hinder construction may require innovative solutions that reflect the desired lifestyle of the region. Instead of ignoring a site hurdle or shoehorning it into a “this is how it’s always been done” playbook, boutique builders can showcase their ingenuity in catering to different markets. “How do you show prospective buyers how you’re overcoming that obstacle? You have to know what the challenges will be,” Guilliams says, “and come up with a solution you can explain to your buyers.”

Turn Obstacles into Amenities

Case in point: At the Berkley Shores community in northwest Denver, designed by KGA for locally based Highland Development, a portion of the site was covered by a small lake that was sorely neglected and overgrown. By cleaning it up and adding walking trails and a park on one side, we transformed it into a community amenity. “The land had been under contract with two national builders, but neither could get their product to work with the numbers,” Guilliams says, pointing out that the builders had ignored the marshy area and subsequently ran into road blocks with their usual plans. Instead, Highland Development, with our design input, turned the prohibitive feature into a lifestyle asset. “It’s about trying to think of ways to get over the problems, resolve those, and stay competitive.”

This small, overgrown lake went from an obstacle to an amenity by cleaning it up, adding a park and walking paths, and designing homes that face the lake on one side, creating a rare opportunity for lakefront living in Denver.

Pay Attention to Regional Design Details

Moreover, small builders can capitalize on their “ability to recognize certain things that are popular in your market,” Guilliams says. For example, a project in Boise might include plans for spacious garages that accommodate a Winnebago—a popular recreational amenity in that part of the country. A development in Wisconsin will most likely feature sizeable mudrooms and careful elevation considerations at entry points to account for snow buildup. And in Florida, layouts might skip coat closets in favor of more living space. “Regionalism is about understanding what buyers are looking for in your area,” Guilliams says. “Here in Colorado, people tend to be outdoors-oriented; they have more outdoor hobbies, so we start to develop floor plans to meet those needs and cater to that. For example: oversize garages, so people can put up their paddle boards, bikes, and kayaks.” In other words, smaller builders can take cues from these types of geographical conditions and use these regional quirks to their advantage for diversifying their product—and ultimately achieving greater appeal.

Offer Flexible Options and Customization

This type of adaptability and flexibility means more opportunities to provide a semi-custom experience for home buyers, which is another great way to differentiate yourself as a boutique builder. Vivant in Parker, Colorado is a perfect example of the customization—combined with the regionally desirable extras of 1.5-acre lots and sweeping mountain views—a small builder can offer. Vivant is a collaboration between KGA, Denver interior designer TRIO, and local developer-builder Joyce Homes, on Douglas County’s last approved development with home sites of this acreage. This unique partnership between builder, designer, and architect allowed all parties to invest the resources into both identifying the market (a 4,000-square-foot house isn’t hard to come by in metro Denver, but one on more than an acre of land is a rarity, making that a coveted niche) and providing a variety of floorplans to meet market demand for nuance and customization.

Get a sneak peek at some of the homes at Vivant, in Parker, Colorado.

Boutique builders can also provide that desired semi-customization in a timelier fashion at a cost bracket closer to production price. Founded in 2015, Epic Homes is a local Colorado builder that wanted to offer buyers something different. KGA partnered with Epic on its inaugural series of floor plans for its debut in Leyden Rock, a popular master planned community in Arvada, Colorado. Five separate single-family models, from 2,400 to more than 6,000 square feet, ensure that buyers can effectively and seamlessly customize their home to fit their unique needs. “In Leyden Rock, we were able to showcase what really makes Epic Homes special,” says Chris Presley, President and Founder of Epic Homes. “We created unique home designs that combined practical use of space while achieving a ’wow’ factor that was unlike anything in the market. We combined that with our willingness to offer greater customization and personalization than many builders in the market, and were able to deliver a truly one-of-a-kind home that our homeowners love.” The enormous success of the community helped put Epic Homes on the proverbial map, gain access to desirable communities such as Anthem Reserve and Trails at Crowfoot, and boost demand for their homes.

The Invite is our newest model for Epic Homes, pictured here at Trails at Crowfoot. The Invite features a 2-way fireplace that can be enjoyed year-round, indoors and out.

Bottom line: Home buyers in distinctive markets gravitate toward flexible options. Boutique builders have the agility and attention to detail to provide a level of customization tailored toward regionally specific lifestyles.

Don’t miss our next series installment: “Small Builders, Big Advantage: Executing A Quality Lifestyle.”

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