Partners In Building, based in Houston, will move its program into Nashville with a 120 lot acquisition.

For a while, every up-and-coming honky-tonk town with a film studio, a wifi hotspot, and a local roots rock band claimed dibs as the "New Austin." Austin was so South By Southwest; it was so hip and trendy it could defy the hard-right laws of Texas; it imported people from Silicon Valley and became a "new geography" poster child; it was STEM; it was downright hippie-long hair counter-cultural. Now, it looks like Nashville is the new Austin, which, once upon a time back in the Willie Nelson Outlaws days of the early 1970s, was the new Nashville.

Partners In Building's plan to bring distinctive hybrid custom-production model to Nashville--the nation's 19th largest home building market, per BUILDER and sister company Metrostudy's Local Leaders data--spotlights a few important take-aways for home building and its current spotty-choppy-lumpy-and-iffy recovery trajectory. Partners In Building principal and founder Jim Lemming is a former Ryland division president, a hard-charging, entrepreneurial home builder--one of the breed who picked the darkest days of the the Great Recession to hang up the shingle on his then new company. Each of his homes is an extensive two-way conversation, which amounts to a robust knowledge base of preference and aspiration data that has led to innovative designs, particularly in areas that make customization accessible. So, it's no surprise to see the model grow.

  • No. 1 in the take-away sweepstakes is that Nashville and Austin are--economically speaking--kindred outliers in producing 3%-plus annual job growth across multiple industrial and new-economy business sectors, including music and tourism.
  • No. 2 take-away: Partners In Building is the third Texas-based builder to enter the market in the past year, with David Weekley setting up a beachhead last November, and fast-growing LGI Homes snagging tracts in July.
  • No. 3 take-away: America's largest home builder by volume, D.R. Horton, has upped its own ante in the market, moving into the top 10 Nashville builders as it plays out its market share blitz in its operating arenas, according to Metrostudy regional director Eugene James, who this morning presents his Nashville market briefing.
  • No. 4 take-away: The lot-supply constraints in places like Nashville set themselves up well for a build-on-your-lot model such as Partners In Building, allowing it to stay out of the crush of expensive lot-grabbing among other builders as it targets move-up and semi-custom customers in one-off locations.
  • No. 5 take-away: The Partners In Building model, which emphasizes personalization in its build-to-order process, a point of differentiation from higher-volume competitors in the new-home arena. Taking higher-end custom home features, and adapting them to the budgets of up-and-coming move-up buyers has proven to be an effective "counter-punch" strategy in markets full of production builders.

We've seen parts of the architecturally stodgy mid-Atlantic move favorably toward more contemporary residential designs already popular on the West coast and, increasingly, the Denver and Albuquerque markets. Will Modern Hill Country style make it in Nashville?

Only the cats know for sure.