Randy Bacchus got his real estate license in 1992, became an agent at Edina Realty's White Bear Lake office in 1994 and a few years later founded Bacchus Homes, a building and remodeling company.
But after 14 years on the other side of the transaction, he's back to the sales side of the business. Recently, with new construction on the rebound, he became director of the company's Builder Resource Group, where he'll focus on helping agents, sales managers, builders and developers market and sell new houses.
Q: Did you come to the industry able to swing a hammer?
A: I've done those things, but that's not my forte. I got into real estate right out of college and my expertise is more on the business side of things. My dad was a builder and my grandfather was a builder, but that's not the reason I got into real estate. It was the opportunity to grow, be in charge and to be the keeper of my future and to be my own boss.
Q: Edina Realty has long had a Builders Resource Group, but your predecessor had lots of other responsibilities. You're focused on working with agents who work with new construction. What's your goal?
A: We're reigniting this division. While it existed in the past, because of economic reasons the business tapered off, so now it's about growing that business back. My role is to be the go-between, or conduit, between agents and builders.
Q: Typically, homebuilders have their own sales reps. Outside of those people how many agents focus on new construction?
A: Right now, I'd guess just 5 to 10 percent of the active agents, but in the past that share was much greater. Right now we're in the rebuilding phase of the business because there are more opportunities to help [sales] agents help their clients.
Q: Today, the Twin Cities market is dominated by large national homebuilders. How has their presence in this market changed the buying process?
A: They've made it very easy. Ultimately, they want to sell more homes, so the process has gotten pretty streamlined.
Q: The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors says new home sales in the Twin Cities metro were up nearly 30 percent last year, and are on track for stronger growth this year. Where are the hottest areas?
A: Building is happening all over the Twin Cities, but we're seeing a lot of new construction in Lakeville, Woodbury, Lake Elmo and Prior Lake. It's spreading out.
Q: Several builders say that new upper-bracket houses are selling the best. What's driving that trend?
A: People are feeling more comfortable, those who have been waiting to move up have decided to pull the trigger. And it's not that the entry-level market is down — sales of houses in the $250,000 to $400,000 price range still represent almost 50 percent of the market, but five years ago sales above $500,000 just weren't that common. People are confident and excited.
Q: Many new houses never get listed on the Regional Multiple Listing Service [MLS] because they're custom homes. But there are now more than 2,200 new homes for sale on the MLS, suggesting that there are more spec houses out there. Is that true?
A: We are seeing some models getting built, but still not to the degree that we had in the past.
Q: What does everybody want in their new house today?
A: Square footage is important, but it's no longer the driving factor. People are making their homes more of a destination they can enjoy when they get home from work. That means more landscaping, more automation and other conveniences. And I think we're seeing lighter finishes and a lot more openness so that you can entertain, including bigger islands and kitchens.