When Texas-based homebuilder David Weekley decided to expand to the Midwest, the company initially launched operations in Chicago, Indianapolis and Nashville. More recently, it tapped industry veteran Ian Peterson to lead an entry into the Twin Cities. Peterson has held executive roles with several of the nation’s largest builders, including Centex, Pulte and Ryland. Since March 2015, Peterson has been the Twin Cities division president for David Weekley Homes, which had more than $1.3 billion in sales in 2014. Here’s Peterson’s perspective on the market:
Q: David Weekley is the largest privately held builder in the nation. Does being a private company have an advantage in any way?
A: Absolutely. Our customers can have the faith and confidence in a fiscally sound homebuilder that has been in business for 40 years. We stand by the homes we build and even include a 10-year, industry-leading multilevel warranty that means we’re there for our customers long after closing. This also means that we have great partnerships with our vendors and are truly able to offer our customers the best products for their home, and at the best prices.
Q: Why did David Weekley, which has limited experience in cold climates, think this was a good time to put on a parka and venture north?
A: Compared to other markets, there aren’t a lot of major builders here and we felt the match of David Weekley Homes and Minnesotans was perfect. Overall, the Minneapolis market has a lot of great demographics: low unemployment, diverse economy, many corporate headquarters or regional offices, good balance of wages to housing affordability, and the Minneapolis market has our same culture and ethics — it’s a Midwestern salt-of-the-earth kind of market.
Q: The Twin Cities was once dominated by midsize, locally owned companies. Today, however, large national builders are dominant — is there room for another?
A: We believe there is room for David Weekley in this marketplace as this market is extremely focused on the customer and delighting the customer, and that is at the core of David Weekley Homes. Our floor plans are uniquely different from the other large builders in the market and our flexibility to alter the floor plans to the customer’s needs and desires sets us apart. Allowing the customer to choose how they want the home to live, and the unique design selections that we offer, provides another differentiation.
Q: With so many companies vying for developable land and skilled labor — both in short supply — what’s your strategy for establishing yourself in this market?
A: Early on, we were approached by Lennar to build with them in their Medina community, which we are doing today. It is a great example of how relationships and a name brand such as David Weekley work in Minneapolis. Additionally, we have been working with several of the other large national builders in the marketplace in teaming up and going into developments together in the near future, as they too see the value in having David Weekley in their communities.
Q: David Weekly is known for performance testing every home and guaranteeing how much energy each uses, is this something new for the tundra?
A: No, our performance testing is not something new. We believe in rigorous testing and that, the more eyes, the better to ensure our homes are as tight and energy-efficient as possible. As a company, David Weekley Homes participates in the Environments For Living (EFL) program in each of our 23 markets, as just one of many third-party inspections. Through the EFL program, our customers are given a three-year heating and cooling energy usage guarantee that indicates the average yearly maximum energy usage for heating and air conditioning. If our customers exceed these maximums, they may be eligible for a reimbursement through EFL.
Q: You’ve worked for several large builders in this market. What is the most significant change in how builders now operate?
A: Our market is unique in that most everything is done through relationships and creating those relationships, fostering those relationships and enhancing those relationships through the commitments you’ve made. We’ve always used the analogy that we are in a marathon and not a sprint and it is actions over time that builds the trust which enhances the relationships. The relationships carry throughout the business from acquiring land, to partnering with trade partners to build the homes, to partnering with Realtors to sell the homes, to partnering with our home buyers and in our giving back to the community. These relationships that drive the business is the biggest change I’ve seen in the market where they become broken or overpromised and not fulfilled and the trust goes away.