Alleanza Custom Homes is a bastion of luxury construction for the Houston area’s elite homebuyers.
IT WOULD BE EASY FOR BUILDINGS in the luxury custom space to pad their margins beyond recognition with nary a concern for their clients. Shawn Sidoti takes the opposite approach as the owner of Alleanza Custom Homes, offering top-quality homes throughout the Houston area.
“We’re best known for building custom homes that are second to none,” Sidoti says. “We tell people when they prospect to find the best value out there, look around to other custom homebuilders. They’re finding other custom homes that are as nice, but not better built or with better designs or features.
“We compete with the other high-end custom homes out there, but we charge a reasonable price for it,” Sidoti adds. “We’re not the cheapest builder, but compared to what we do, we’re the best value in the market.”
Sidoti wouldn’t have a successful custom homebuilding firm if it wasn’t for the decline of the energy industry. As he prepared to graduate from Texas A&M in 2002, Sidoti had a job waiting for him with Enron. However, the company’s financial scheming was exposed in 2001, forcing Enron to claim bankruptcy and layoff its 29,000 employees. With graduation on the way and a wedding following shortly thereafter, Sidoti needed a job, and fast.
To stem the tide until another job in the energy industry became available, Sidoti reached out to Royce Homes, who also offered him a position he ended up turning down. That job was still available, and Sidoti found his new passion.
“I was building homes with every intention for it to be a short-term deal until I got a job in the energy industry,” Sidoti says. “But I got into it and fell in love with it.”
From 2002 to 2007, Sidoti built homes for Royce Homes before branching out on his own. First, he built a home for his young family.
Then, he built a spec home next door. Both homes proved popular in the Houston area, landing Sidoti enough referrals for additional side projects until his client list was large enough to officially launch Alleanza Custom Homes as a full-time venture in 2011.
Today, Alleanza Custom Homes focuses on Houston’s “Inner Loop” and Meyerland neighborhoods, delivering six to eight homes annually. Recently, the company has entered Sugar Land, Texas, an affluent Houston suburb where high-end custom homes are always in demand.
The Internet has brought innumerable sources of inspiration to the masses from across the world for homebuyers looking to customize their dream abodes. Companies like Alleanza Custom Homes benefit from the multitude of sources available online, taking advantage of potential clients’ lists of must-have items laid out for them.
“The Internet – specifically sites like Houzz or Pinterest – is the biggest change in the industry that we’ve seen,” Sidoti says. “There is so much idea sharing out there through Facebook, YouTube and all these different things out there. Everybody is marketing, so there’s some unintended effects of that.”
The first effect Sidoti has noticed is the large number of images homebuyers bring with them to design consults to specify exactly what they want in their homes. The downside to this trend, however, is the untamed expectations of clients with a specific budget, and companies like Alleanza must do their best to manage those expectations.
“If somebody tries to build a home with nothing but those pictures, they’re building an all-star team, and that comes with an expensive payroll,” Sidoti says. “There’s that balance that has to be found between wanting to use photos for inspiration and doing so within budget.”
The other effect the Internet has had on the custom homebuilding business is copying ideas. Sidoti says he ran into another builder recently who told him he relied heavily on the Alleanza Custom Homes’ website to help design his own clients’ homes. Instead of taking offense, however, Sidoti says he is happy to see construction standards being raised throughout the industry. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, is it not?
“He’s been all over our website blowing up our pictures to replicate it, and I do it on other people’s pictures,” Sidoti says. “It creates an evolution in the industry for better work. Ten years ago, ideas done in a custom home, you didn’t see it unless it was on a home tour. Now, those pictures are everywhere, so the evolution goes on and the product gets better across the board.”
Alleanza Custom Homes is building a new home in Houston’s prestigious West University neighborhood that is bound to be replicated repeatedly.
The company has torn down a 1920s-era, 4,000-square-foot, brick mansion located in the shadow of Rice University to build a sleek, modern, 5,000-square-foot home in its place. According to Sidoti, the design features big, clean lines with massive windows and sliding glass doors, polished concrete floors, and vast amounts of exposed steel.
This project represents the first time Alleanza Custom Homes is working with decorative and structural steel of any kind, so the company has had to rely on Intexure Architects for guidance.
So far, Sidoti has learned about the tight tolerances this material requires to not only execute the aesthetics desired by the client, but also ensure the building is structurally sound.
“The steel has to do its job structurally, but it also has to be positioned correctly right down to the quarter inch to stay in the right spot,” Sidoti says. “This requires a lot of precision before the steel is placed, because you have to anticipate where all that other items – trim, sheetrock, cabinetry, etc. – are going to be. When you put in that steel, it has to be on the money, or the finished product will look awkward.”
Bigger and Better
As clients begin to call upon Sidoti for their second Alleanza custom home, he believes his company is ready to take the next step to bigger, more luxurious projects in the Houston area.
Alleanza Custom Homes’ largest project thus far has cost about $2 million, and Sidoti is aiming for homes in the $10 million range.
“I think we’re qualified to take these upper-echelon projects, so I’d like to see us get some of the projects around Houston that are the highest end of the high end,” he says. “I’d like to break into the top 1 percent of those projects, and I think it would be an excellent fit for us.”