Benssons Homes made its debut in the Houston suburb of Houston Heights back in 2004. Its first infill venture was a picturesque hamlet of 1,200-square-foot Victorian and Craftsman cottages, nearly all of which sold like hotcakes to single professional women. The local boutique builder has since cultivated something rather remarkable in the marketplace: a dedicated following of move-up single women buyers.
“Most of our earlier cottage sales were to young executive ladies,” observes president Steve Anderson, who owns and operates the business in partnership with his wife, Lynda, along with designer Sarah-Jayne Smith. “Now we are doing 1,902-square-foot carriage homes with bigger yards, but 60 percent of our sales are still to single women. The ones who are buying these larger homes are older—in their 50s. Generally all of our houses are sold before we get to drywall.”
The builder's design strategy may have something to do with its popularity with the ladies. The floor plans of its infill homes are simple and generally identical (often mirror images of each other), so the construction process is streamlined. It's when accessorizing begins that home buyers are encouraged to express their own personal style with semi-custom trim packages, built-ins, and interior finishes. And they don't have to haggle over upgrades to get what they want.
“One lady came with a chandelier her grandmother had given her, and we ended up speccing all of the interior detailing to fit with that heirloom,” Anderson recalls. “Once she figured out what kind of furniture would go in the dining room with the chandelier, we put in the wainscot, picked the wall, trim, and built-in cabinet colors [the tops were stained and the bottoms were painted], and then added hardwood floors to accent everything. Now, when you walk into the house, this antique light becomes your focal point.”
Recognizing that single women relish freedom from home maintenance, Benssons also goes the extra mile to minimize upkeep for its buyers. “All of our exteriors are Hardiplank, so we don't have a bunch of rotting wood for them to maintain,” says Anderson. “And although the manufacturer claims you no longer need to prime, we do it anyway because the primer extends the life of the exterior paint to seven or eight years, whereas otherwise you are repainting after three or four years.”
Project: Prince Street Carriage Homes, Houston; Project size: 20 homes on scattered infill lots in a three-by-six block area; Price: $298,800; Unit size: 1,902 square feet; Builder/Designer: Benssons Homes, Houston