In late November, Jay Lewis, one of the founders of Surrey Homes in Winter Park, Fla., unexpectedly left the company he helped start on Jan. 1, 2009 for the greener and larger pastures of Standard Pacific Homes, where he’s running its Orlando division.
Lewis had worked for large production builders before, as M/I Homes’ Orlando division president, and as a division manager with NVR. And he certainly had big plans for Surrey Homes, which he envisioned as eventually becoming one of Orlando’s top five builders in market share.
StanPac did not make Lewis available for comment about his decision to leave Surrey. In a short email to Builder Lewis described his decision as “difficult,” but his opportunity with the Irvine, Calif.–based StanPac as “fantastic.” (Through the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2011, StanPac’s communities in Florida had increased by 38% year-over-year to 36, according to its filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. On Sept. 30, StanPac controlled 6,554 lots in Florida, up 31%. But its deliveries in the state, at 293 homes through Sept. 30, were down by 16%, and new net orders were off by 17% to 411.)
Lewis’ replacement as Surrey Homes’ president is Jan Larson, who for 15 years was a managing partner with the accounting and consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Larson, who retired in early 2008, says that before joining Surrey he had been working as a consultant with a number of different companies. He has “lots of operating experience” but no direct home building experience. However, Larson notes that Christian Swann—one of Surrey’s owners and the person who hired Lewis—“was integral in creating this concept, and will be playing a bigger role” in its operations going forward.
Larson tells Builder that Lewis’ departure has been “amicable,” and that he, Swann, and other board members have already reached out to investors and trade partners to assure them that Surrey’s business strategy will stay on course.
Surrey’s competitive calling cards so far have been homes with a wide array of standard and energy saving features. “We also have a passionate group of employees with entrepreneurial spirit,” says Larson. Surrey is currently active in three communities in central Florida: Victoria Landing, where its homes range from 1,729 to 3,118 square feet and are priced from $169,990 to $254,990; Acuera, where estates range from 3,121 to 5,346 square feet and start in the $500s; and Belle Vista, where homes range from 2,487 to 3,103 square feet and are priced from $349,990 to $402,990.
Surrey Homes closed about 55 homes in 2011, and Larson expects closings to be “a multiple of that” in 2012. “I’m trying to get my arm around that number right now,” he said in an interview last month.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.