Palo Verde Homes founder Edgar Montiel left his corporate career as an engineer to launch the homebuilding company of his dreams.
EDGAR MONTIEL easily could have stayed employed as an engineer for some of the most recognizable companies in the United States, where he earned a great salary and benefits to support himself and his growing family. Like countless entrepreneurs before him, though, he felt the pull toward his true passion and decided to take his chances launching a business so he could do what he truly loves every day.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but today, Montiel’s Palo Verde Homes – a homebuilding company that focuses on the El Paso, Texas, and southern New Mexico regions – is one of the top 200 homebuilders in America. Montiel says that
dedication to customer service is what has helped Palo Verde grow from four closings in 2007 to a projected 150 closings this year.
“At Palo Verde Homes, we are passionate about construction, architecture and providing excellent customer service,” Montiel says. “We value every customer’s opinion, which is why we survey all of them at closing so that we can constantly evaluate how we are doing.”
Montiel, a mechanical engineering and MBA graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, launched Palo Verde Homes in 2007 after spending over 10 years in the automotive and IT hardware manufacturing fields, where he worked as a production and product launch engineer. He learned his craft with major companies like IBM, General Motors and Delphi.
Despite the vast differences homebuilding has from Montiel’s previous careers, he says the common factor is putting something together on time, on budget, with high quality that is functional and pleasing for its end-users. Whether that’s IT infrastructure for major corporations, a chassis for an automobile, or homes for a variety of clients, Montiel’s strength as a builder still shines through.
“Putting a home together is no different than building a million-dollar server or automobile, other than maybe there being no robotics or CNC machines out in the field,” Montiel says. “I have always had a passion for putting things together. As an engineer, I am trained to read blueprints, specifications, work with customers, manage projects, create and balance budgets and work in team settings.”
For the first four-and-a-half years of Palo Verde’s existence, Montiel says he ran the entire operation.
His one-man show included designing floor plans, obtaining financing, evaluating materials, selecting subcontractors and suppliers, scheduling, negotiating, selecting colors, resolving warranties, meeting with all perspective buyers,
accounting and quality control.
No job was ever too small or too good for him. If he needed to pick up trash or grab a broom and start sweeping a job site, he did it.
“Things like designing your first website, designing your company logo, setting up the corporate entity, finding the
right attorney and accountant, and establishing your reputation as a business owner do not sound too hard until you actually have to do them yourself,” Montiel says. “In the moment, and for those first four-and-a-half years, it was super hard on my family and me.”
With the strain of running this fledgling business on his own, Montiel often doubted his decision to leave his corporate career to start his own company. However, he quickly learned plenty of hard lessons about being a small-business owner, and many of the partnerships he forged in those early days are still in place today.
“There wasn’t a day that I didn’t question my decision to leave the great job, salary and benefits that I had before,” Montiel says. “However, looking back on it today, I appreciate it and would do it all over again because it forced me to learn every detail about the business.
“It also forced me to develop amazing professional relationships with our contractors, suppliers, bankers and land
developers,” he adds. “The seven-day weeks working 10-to-15-hour days made this company into what it is today.”
Montiel credits his wife, Carissa, for staying by his side during those difficult early years of the business. Back then, Carissa had her own full-time career, which she balanced with raising the couple’s two children while Montiel got Palo Verde off the ground. Today, Carissa runs Palo Verde’s custom home division and is the company’s lead
“I remember sitting at open houses with her on folding chairs on the weekends those first few years,” Montiel says. “Our kids, who are now three and five, have not missed much, either. I remember my then two-week- old son helping my wife and I decorate our first-ever Festival of Homes house. Fresh out of the hospital and there he was sitting in his car seat for hours while we assembled furniture and decorated.”
Keys to Growth
As the company grew, so did the workload, so Montiel finally decided to get help for his growing business in 2011 and he hired his first employee. Today, Palo Verde Homes is 11 employees strong with an additional two seasonal employees during peak spring and summer months. He believes that having a good team and empowering them to do their job is vital to the success of any enterprise.
“One of the things that I am most proud of is how lean and efficient our organization is,” Montiel says. “We build more homes with less overhead than most of our competitors. I trust everyone on our team and believe that every single one of them is capable of running any department in our organization. They are that good.”
Montiel credits his sales team and the service that his staff provides during and after the sale with Palo Verde’s success.
“We truly have a great product but if our sales team does not know how to point out all of the great features and
materials that go in to all of our new homes we won’t sell a thing,” Montiel says. “We truly value every single one of our customers which is why we are there for them after they close on their home. We do our best to make them feel like part of the Palo Verde Homes family by following up with each and every one of them shortly after closing and throughout the year.”
Following the Trends
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Palo Verde places such a huge emphasis on green building considering the word green is right in its name – (“verde” is Spanish for “green”). In fact, Montiel says the company is only one of two homebuilders in El Paso that build all of its homes to Energy Star 3.0 standards. The company has been recognized as an Energy Star leader by the EPA since 2010.
Palo Verde Homes also maintains a strong presence on social media networks to connect with potential homebuyers. Through networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Palo Verde has been able to stay connected with its current customers, prospective buyers and industry colleagues.
“I believe that the use of social media has become a vital part of our business,” Montiel says. “In addition to staying connected, it helps a business establish its identity. Something like 86 percent of customers visit the Internet before they make a major purchase, so why wouldn’t you want to market everywhere possible?”
Palo Verde Homes specializes in building spec and semi-customized houses, but the company has built at least one fully custom home every year it has been in business. It currently has four custom homes under contract, the most they have ever had at one time. According to Montiel, the custom homes have ranged in price from $400,000 to over a $1 million.
In order to stay within budget and on schedule with these projects, Palo Verde Homes often reaches out to other custom builders in the El Paso area to gauge their experience with the market. The homebuilders in this region often share ideas and numbers with each other to determine how to approach such projects.
However, Montiel admits nothing beats personal experience with such projects of his own to determine how to proceed with his next custom homes.
“Nothing beats costing experience from prior projects,” Montiel says. “Therefore, I feel that the longer we are in business and the more homes we build, the more accurate our estimating will become. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it.” Custom homes always have their own style and flair to them, but they typically come with their unique set of challenges, as well. This is one way that Palo Verde Homes learns how to improve upon its production building operations, according to Montiel.
“We love custom home projects and customers because they challenge us to think outside of the box with special requests,” Montiel says. “It is easy to get into a routine when you are producing standard floor plans with predefined features. Custom homes present opportunities to learn about new features, materials, work with
unique suppliers, practice new or varied installation techniques, and work on different types of soils and terrain.”
Involvement and the Future
Currently, Montiel is the president of the El Paso Association of Builders. He serves on the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank’s Emerging Leaders Council with 10 other young professionals from the bank’s region which encompasses all of Texas, northern Louisiana, and southern New Mexico.
He is also a true believer of giving back to the community that helped you grow and succeed. Palo Verde has contributed to the local Boy Scouts of America Yucca Council, the Boys and Girls Club, UTEP Athletics, UTEP Engineering Department, Kelly Memorial Food Pantry and many other organizations.
“I feel that God has blessed us and our business, therefore it is important for us to pass those blessings on to others,” he says. “We would like to continue gaining market share in our region and growing the Palo Verde Home’s brand. We are also considering growth in to other markets and possibly in to commercial development in our region. We will be dedicating time to value engineering our product and processes.”