2014 BUILDER 100 Company Profiles


The Olson Co.

Location: Seal Beach, Calif.
Year Founded: 1988
2013 Rank: 163
2013 Closings: 188
Growth Since 2012: 66%
Metrostudy Says: The Olson Co. is the most significant builder of urban infill housing in California. They specialize in introducing product to unique, often built-out urban areas while staying focused on gentrification and changing demographics.

During the housing downturn, executives at The Olson Co. watched as overall unit count shrank from a high of 787 in 2006 to 126 in 2010. As the market hit bottom, company  executives looked to the firm’s past for inspiration.

Founded 26 years ago as a builder of high-density urban communities in California, the company expanded in the 1990s into luxury suburban and urban developments outside of its core Orange County market. Post-recession, company leaders decided to return to Steve Olson’s original vision of in-town, affordable, transit-based housing for first-time and move-up buyers in urban Los Angeles and Orange County, and the strategy is paying off. Last year the company grew 66 percent doing what it does best: building small-lot attached and detached townhomes in more than 90 cities including Fountain Valley, La Verne, Alhambra, and Fullerton.

“We’ve adhered to our original strategy of building affordable homes in areas that are within walking distance to schools, retail, and parks to reduce our buyers’ commute time,” says CEO Scott Laurie (pictured). “As prices moved up we’ve moved up our prices, but we still try to be the low-price leader for new housing within the marketplace.”

The company leverages its long-standing relationships with local municipalities to help acquire land parcels in desirable areas. “We always go in to a city saying ‘How can we solve your problems?’” he says. “The way we separate ourselves from the competition is that we are full-service, from entitlements and rezoning through buildout.”

The builder has nabbed 15 Eliant Awards for home buyer satisfaction in the past three years by keeping close tabs on what buyers want in a new home. For instance, Olson includes solar standard in some areas and all projects are certified to LEED for Homes. Developments with feng shui elements are a hit with Asian buyers, who make up to 76 percent of buyers in some areas. “When you look at what we do, we have a very good understanding of who the buyer is and where we should and shouldn’t be building,” Laurie says.

Source: Builder 100 data

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.