2014 BUILDER 100 Company Profiles
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The family-owned company increased closings by 41 percent in one year.
The California builder is fueled by superb land positions and a recent infusion of public money.
Years of careful expansion and land acquisition have led to a hefty payoff.
A conscientious Southern builder enters the ranks of the top 200.
The customer-oriented builder brings high-density infill housing to mainstream buyers.
Serving the mid-Atlantic region, the production builder has stayed on top by scaling down.
Sustainable features are front and center in the Wisconsin builder's homes.
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Year Founded: 2000
2013 Rank: 195
2013 Closings: 130
Growth Since 2012: 91%
Metrostudy Says: Level's upcoming communities in the Raleigh/Durham area will put the firm in a higher average sales price, so there could be a speed bump in absorption until its new 5401 North project is underway. The 1,000-site development should allow it to maintain and grow its market position while it adds to its Raleigh/Durham footprint.
Making it onto our list for the first time with 130 closings and $37 million in gross revenue, Level Homes enjoyed a successful 2013 built on a lot of careful research. For instance, the Baton Rouge, La.–based builder completes a two-step market analysis before buying land and a comparative market analysis before going to market. “As a growing company, we are in product development mode,” explains president Ric Rojas (pictured). “We want to buy land that suits our products.”
In assessing the price to offer for land, company executives compare products within a certain radius or school district, considering whether the firm’s product fits the buyers in the area. They then check and double-check prices for existing single-family homes. “The market can change over the six to 12 months you’re developing lots,” Rojas explains. “We want to go to market with the right product and right pricing.”
That kind of groundwork helped Level Homes when it expanded to Raleigh, N.C., last summer; 18 homes were presold before the model was completed. Also during the year the Louisiana division closed 75 homes, and the builder purchased its first land assets in Charleston, S.C.
In choosing where to expand its mix of move-up, entry-level, and luxury homes, the company typically focuses on markets with good job growth and economic vitality. Coastal Carolina has been resilient, Rojas notes, while a new area for the firm, Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the largest secondary home market on the East Coast. And even through the downturn, Raleigh saw some growth.
Although Rojas says he and his colleagues strive to provide a good company to work for and stay with, “the industry took such a big hit that we lost some talented folks.” Another source of pressure is being able to develop lots fast enough, he adds.
For 2014, Rojas expects growth of 130 percent in current markets, and in five years he wants the firm to be a strong regional builder without having to leverage assets. In keeping with the firm’s analytical approach to business, Rojas says Level doesn’t want to “just grow, but grow smartly, creating the brand in our markets.”