Building its business around the motto ‘what would you do?’ to shape decisions based on the best interest of its clients.
Alterra Design Homes is a custom homebuilder that provides professional services including assistance in the home design process, lot selection and residential home building. The company’s real estate team assists clients who need to sell their current home. The majority of the company’s homes are built in the suburbs and rural areas surrounding Madison, Wis., and all of Dane County.
“Our most popular locations are the towns of Middleton, Oregon, Verona, Mount Horeb and Waunakee but there are other areas that are coming on strong,” says Ryan Werth, co-owner of the company. “We are currently building 15 custom homes, eight of which are in the Town of Middleton and Verona. These home sites are approximately one plus acres and are in rural settings where well and septic systems are needed versus city services.”
Home prices, including the lot, are between $300,000 to $700,000. The home designs are 100 percent custom and are client-directed, giving the company experience building homes across almost all architectural styles and price points. Werth finds that many of the company’s customers are trending towards craftsman and transitional designs. Jason Kratochwill, co-owner of Alterra Design Homes, says the company recently completed a home in Rocky Dell Estates in the town of Middleton, with a price less than $700,000 including the lot.“This home stands out because of its stunning hillside setting on a wooded country cul-du-sac,” Kratochwill says. “This 4,500-square-foot, fivebedroom, four-car home truly captured our clients tastes and lifestyle. This home has a main floor master suite and three bedrooms on the second floor, which also includes a bonus family room. There are three fireplaces, including one on the screen porch overlooking a wooded backyard. The basement has a state-of-the-art A/V theater system, beautiful wet bar and even a humidor/cigar area vented to the exterior.” Jerod Bennett, co-owner of Alterra Design Homes, says he has seen a recent trend in the industry for slightly smaller house plans that do not compromise features or quality. Other notable trends would be an even
greater focus on energy efficiency, creating lower level exposure (natural light) and finishing lower levels during the build out because of the cost savings versus waiting. Though lending is loosening up in recent months, it has tightened down significantly in the past five years for the company.
“We strive to build efficient plans that meet all of our clients’ goals and budgets,” Bennett says. “We are conscious of energy efficiency and put a focus on upgrading insulation materials such as spray foam and BIB systems that offer tremendous long-term savings but do not break the budget up front.”
Alterra Design Homes, which is located in Fitchburg, Wis., regularly meet clients at current projects and recently completed homes so clients can get a better feel for the homes that are built.
“We are fortunate to have great relationships with our past clients, many of whom are generous enough to let us show their beautiful homes to new potential clients,” Bennett says.
Bennett, Werth and Kratochwill started Alterra Design Homes in late 2008. At the time, the Madison area housing market was very slow and building starts had dropped dramatically.
“We saw a great opportunity to break into the market and provide a different kind of building company, one that would simplify the building process for our clients and make it an enjoyable experience,” Kratochwill says. “The cornerstones with which we started our company included creating a contract that would truly protect our clients’ budget, and following the company motto- ‘what would you do?’- which helped shape important decisions in the best interest of our clients. These two core principles along with hiring top-notch subcontractors are still what drive our company today.”
Before Alterra Design Homes, all three owners worked as successful real estate brokers for over 10 years. In 2007, they started a real estate team.
“In addition to selling real estate, we were all involved in different aspects of building including development, representing home builders and project management,” Kratochwill says. “Our 35 combined years as real estate brokers and knowledge of building and the housing industry were crucial to the early success of our company and continue to be a great asset. Our commitment to customer service and ‘big picture’ thinking is what drives our company.”
The three owners have equal roles in their company and are good friends who enjoy running their business together and bouncing ideas off each other.
“We try to keep things light and have fun; and most importantly, we share the same ‘big picture’ and ethical and straight-forward approach,” Kratochwill says. “Our clients generally meet at least two of us before or during their build and like the fact that we are very hands on and in the field every day.”
Werth believes the owners’ backgrounds in the industry are what allowed them to develop Alterra Design Homes.
“I think that it gives us a different perspective toward the building process, the market and customer service that helps us make the building experience positive,” he says.
The company’s overall structure and straightforward building contract is also geared towards protecting clients and their budgets.
“We take much of the risk during the building process and do not allowance items that are out of our client’s control, which can lead to extra cost for clients,” Werth says. “Marketing is a very important part of our company. We have a client appreciation party every winter where past, current and potential clients can mingle. It is a great event that we look forward to every year.”
The company has longstanding, loyal relationships with its talented group of subcontractors.
“We never make subcontractor decisions solely on price as quality and relationships are important to us,” Werth says.
This quality overflows to Alterra Design Homes’ clients from the first introduction to the follow-up.
“Our contract and building process is very client friendly and hands-on, and we take care of our clients after they move into their homes,” Bennett says. “Many of our clients have referred friends, family and co-workers to us because of their positive experience which is very rewarding.”
The owners would like to grow their company immediately, but without compromising the high level of quality and services it offers.
“We want to continue our course to be recognized as one of the very best custom home builders in Madison,” Werth says.