Accent Homes thrives in the Twin Cities, building on 30 years of custom home design/build experience.
TALKING WITH FOURTH-generation builder Bud Dropps, it’s clear he and his company have a strong sense of the building market’s promise and challenges – and the experience to overcome those. Accent Homes also has a deep understanding of just what families want to see in a home.
“I think anybody who is in the market for a new home should be looking for someone who has some longevity in the business and has survived some ups and downs and is still here – if nothing else, just from a service standpoint,” he says. “‘Can I get my home serviced for the entire working period, and do they have the financial backing to do that?’ We have that. People know we are here to stay.”
Accent Homes offers that certainty.
“Anyone who buys a home from Accent Homes can be sure that they will have an intact warranty period,” Dropps says.
The company remains family-operated, and Dropps proudly displays a framed photo in his office of his great-grandfather on the job in the early 20th century.
“We are known as a strong company that will be there,” Dropps says. “We offer service beyond what we need to, and we enjoy building homes for good people and try to secure the best lots.”
The company delivered 20 custom homes last year, with an average home price around $700,000 or $800,000 – though Accent Homes can take on more. Current projects for the company include two residences at $1.5 million and $1.2 million.
The company has been busy building on lots in the suburbs and regions outside of Minneapolis, but also has been doing infill projects.
“We build homes, right in the city, that look like they’ve always been there,” Dropps says. “It has all the energy efficiency and all the pieces that people want in a new home, but it looks like it belongs ? like it’s always been there.”
Convenience and Luxury
Another draw lately is single-family, association- maintained, detached homes.
“These are single-family homes, but someone mows the lawn and plows the snow,” Dropps says.
In North Oaks, Minnesota, Accent is building high-end lakeside properties for the Villas of Wilkinson Lake development.
The company’s design/build accomplishments there include award-winning properties. One house won Trillium Awards from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities as well as one of the association’s Reggie Awards and a regional distinction: a Red Diamond Achiever Award from Marvin Windows for the best use of the product in the Midwest. Altogether, the company has been honored more than 30 times with industry awards and accolades for excellence in design and construction, including 13 Reggie Awards of Excellence.
Though the company builds all styles of homes, residences at the villas are showpieces, and many are built with what Dropps calls “soft contemporary.”
“When you say the word ‘contemporary’ to a potential customer, they might think chrome, black, white,” he says. “But soft contemporary is a more natural feeling contemporary – one that uses more earth tones and shapes. There are still some clean lines, but think about a Frank Lloyd Wright home decorated with softer colors. That’s really our favorite spot. People feel good in those homes.”
Homebuyers appreciate the company’s unique offerings, often a blend of contemporary shapes with touches that lend a home a sense of authenticity.
“You might have rustic cabinetry – with knots, imperfections and character – in a contemporary home,” Dropps says.
The company works hard to employ active listening in the design/build process.
“That’s probably the key – listening to what the people are looking for,” Dropps says. “In fact, we’ll visit their current home to see how they live and what spaces they use, what they like about their current home and don’t like, then we incorporate that into their construction drawings. Our designer Jim Kuiken has a very keen insight into what our clients are trying to achieve in their new home. He is a really good listener.” One result of that intense listening is that the company becomes adept at spotting trends – big and small.
Families in Accent Homes’ market are looking for functionality, he says.
In a kitchen, for example, they’re looking for drawers – rather than doors.
“We do bathrooms and kitchens sometimes with maybe only a couple of doors, because drawers are so much easier to deal with,” he says. “You don’t have to bend over and look and see what’s in the drawers – and big, deep drawers.
“And they’re looking for great energy-efficiency with a tight, sealed home and good quality air in the home,” Dropps adds.
New international building code requirements are increasing some of that, too, meaning Accent and other builders must balance those stricter regulations while still ensuring clients get the home with the features they want most.
“The 2015 energy codes have very significantly increased the energy efficiency of a home,” Dropps says.
“It includes now a blower-door test, insulation inside and outside a foundation. They have increased the requirements for walls and ceilings, so everywhere where you can increase it, it’s been increased.”
That makes energy efficiency less of an edge, in Dropps opinion.
“We start at energy efficiency,” he says. “We all have to. We do it as a matter of course.”
State codes are playing a role, too. In Minnesota Building Energy Codes, any home over 4,500 square feet of aggregate space – finished or unfinished – now has to have a fire suppression system.
“It’s no challenge for us to have a fire suppression system put in, or any other code, but it does add a significant cost to a home,” Dropps says. “When you’re talking about $10,000 or $15,000 to put in a fire suppression system, a lot of people would prefer to use that for something different on their homes. We’re certainly not opposed to fire suppression systems, but we wish the homeowner had the choice.”
Trusted subcontractors are an important piece of navigating the changing market and requirements, too.
“We rely on relationships we’ve had for a long time,” Dropps says. That combination of a solid past, an ear to the ground for current homeowner needs and desires as well as trusted partners will make Accent Homes a mainstay – long into the future.