Steve Parker is in his second year as president and CEO of Morrison Homes, a top-20 home builder based in Alpharetta, Ga. Part of publicly held George Wimpey PLC of Great Britain, Morrison focuses on single-family homes and serves buyers in a half dozen Sun Belt states from Florida to California. Parker joined Morrison in 1996 after 10 years with Arvida Development. Parker and his wife Kerry live in Alpharetta with their 11-year-old son, Max. They also have two kids currently in college and a daughter who is a schoolteacher in Ohio. The following are excerpts from an interview with BIG BUILDER in June.
BB: How are your Sun Belt markets holding up amid the national sales slowdown?
SP: Our three Texas operations are exceeding 2006 expectations, while operations in Florida and Arizona are off approximately 15 percent to 20 percent from the same period last year. [However,] we believe that we are in a short-term lull and, in a very short time, we will go back to normal competitive selling times.
BB: What kind of year-over-year figures would please you?
SP: Well, in 2006, we are projecting to exceed our 2005 closing numbers, 5,200, [and] total revenues, $1.6 billion.
BB: Do spec inventories need to be rethought?
BB: What happens after a soft landing in the new-home market?
SP: We have confidence in the markets we build in because the business fundamentals [are] there: strong population and employment growth. We believe that pent-up demand will drive the market after the slowdown passes. Demand will be driven by buyers who are biding their time waiting for better incentives or lower prices, and the second-home market will stay strong as baby boomers continue to move [to] the Sun Belt.
BB: What kind of incentives figure in your effort to boost sales?
SP: It is a combination of things and is market-driven: options, price, and amenities.
BB: Your Sacramento, Calif., division is building so-called “zero-energy homes” designed to drastically cut energy bills. How much does that add to the cost of a home, and what's the market?
SP: We have been offering the package as an option, but we plan to offer it as standard in one of our new communities this fall as a test. The cost to the consumer is approximately $20,000. Due to the uncertainty of energy costs in California, we believe that we will have a marketing edge.