A fundamental shift in how Copperleaf Homes approaches homebuilding has led to ongoing growth.
ASIDE FROM A diversity of aesthetics and design options featured in Copperleaf Homes’ projects, there are a few strategies that make Copperleaf Homes stand out from other custom homebuilders.
One, CEO and President Steve Neary says, is the company’s thinking.
“We made a philosophical decision as a company in 2006 that we would be a homebuilder that would build completely custom, unique designs at any price point,” he says. “That really transformed who we were as a company. I think we stepped back and thought if we were a homeowner at $500,000, what was available in the market? At the time, the only thing really available was a production house. We said, ‘Why couldn’t you have a custom home at $500,000?’”
That beyond-limitations mindset launched the company into consistent growth – around 15 percent each year since – with expectations to continue to burst company records.
“We went from averaging eight to 10 builds a year to this year closing 48 unique custom homes in our market here in Colorado,” Neary says. “We made a change. That took a huge commitment on our part to be able to do that. We went through a year or two of pain and struggling, figuring out how. It has paid enormous dividends.”
Copperleaf has two offices in Colorado – one in Colorado Springs and one in Denver– and just opened an office in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area of Arizona. Within a month, the new branch had a sale pending and a model on the way.
The next goal is to close 100 homes in 2018 and double that figure in 2020.
“With our organic growth in Colorado, we have been on a great glide path,” Neary says. “Every single day, we analyze what we’re doing. If there is a better way to do it, we will. We are looking for ways to make homebuilding fun, to have more thought per square foot.”
The company’s average home build is around $850,000 a house, with about 25 percent above the million-dollar mark and 25 percent below $700,000.
Making Budgets Work
To be able to offer truly custom residences – and stay within $500,000 or $600,000 when requested – Copperleaf worked with architects, long-term partners who helped Copperleaf begin a unique program.
“We came up with a program where our architects will sit down with prospective clients and prepare a concept drawing for free,” Neary says. “This is immensely different from most custom homebuilders. Before we ask our prospective buyers for a penny, we will sit down with an architect, draw a plan that shows elevation and floor plans – with dimensions – and then we will get them firm and hard pricing that won’t change. That is all prior to them spending a dollar with us.
The company also aims to be transparent with buyers – or any partner involved in the process.
“We’re very comfortable with who we are and how we operate,” Neary says. “We share a lot of information with our buyers that our competitors don’t. That builds an environment of trust, right off the bat. If they don’t like what they see and we haven’t gotten what’s in their heads and hearts on paper, then we don’t deserve the build.”
Copperleaf employs software, Builder- TREND, to put everyone on the same page.
“Everything we do – scheduling, purchasing, communication with buyers – goes through that process,” Neary says. “Buyers can log in and see pricing, scheduling – completely live – online, any time.”
Home buyers also have a Copperleaf internal project manager who works with them from concept to key. The company assigns an interior designer to each buyer, as well as a construction manager in the field. Copperleaf’s owners – Neary, Executive Vice President Tim King and Corporate Manager Jim Seibel – also make themselves available to homebuyers at any time.
The Right Partners
By building and maintaining relationships, Copperleaf is able to offer unmatched customization and quality, Neary says.
“I think we excel at having a very diverse architecture,” he says. “We work with two or three of the very best architects in the country. We are doing urban infill projects, multifamily infill, mansions in the countryside, Tuscan homes in neighborhoods.”
Examples of notable architectural firms available to Copperleaf home buyers are Woodley Architectural Group and KGA Studio Architects.
“Really, it’s whatever the buyer wants,” Neary says, adding that typical homeowners seem to be third and fourth move ups.
“They are very savvy,” Neary says. “They usually come in with 20 pages of things that they found on Houzz or Pinterest and want us to integrate those ideas into their homes.”
That’s where the interior designers come in to play.
“Anymore, there are unlimited options,” he says. “Everybody has a budget. It doesn’t matter if it’s $10 million or $500,000.”
Subcontractors, which Copperleaf calls trade partners, are part of that web of ongoing relationships. Neary estimates that 90 percent of them have been with Copperleaf for 10 years or more.
“We have a great understanding of what they’re capable of,” he says. “They have a great understanding of what we expect out of them.
“I think just those long-term relationships are so important,” Neary adds. “We kept a lot of these companies afloat through the downturn.”
Growing through the Great Recession highlighted the rewards of preserving those business relationships, Neary adds.
“We have great realtor relationships,” he says. “We have an honest way of doing business that is very transparent to our buyers.”