2014 BUILDER 100 Company Profiles


Tim O'Brien Homes

Location: Milwaukee
Year Founded: 2007
2013 Rank: 172
2013 Closings: 162
Growth Since 2012: 31%
Metrostudy Says: The markets served by Tim O'Brien Homes are experiencing growth in population and jobs. For example, employers in metro Milwaukee are expected to hire more employees during second quarter 2014, which will rank the area as second best in the nation for job growth. In addition, Madison is home to the state government and the University of Wisconsin, a major research university. It's been ranked as the largest Wisconsin city for job seekers with the lowest unemployment rate at 4.1 percent.

Tim O’Brien Homes has carved out a sweet spot in its Midwestern market that most builders only dream about. Its affordable, high-performance homes are a hit with buyers, even in this conservative area of the country. All of the company’s dwellings are tested and certified to two local green building programs and come standard with high-efficiency furnaces, R-50 fiberglass attic insulation, WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures, and Energy Star–rated windows.

Despite all the green goodies the company packs into its homes, salespeople avoid using words like ‘sustainable,’ ‘environment,’ or ‘global warming,’ which can have confusing or even negative connotations with buyers. They also have had to work hard to convince consumers not to focus on sales price alone. “We have had to get away from price-per-square-foot buying and talk about value,” says president Tim O’Brien (pictured, seated, with his leadership team). “We help people to understand that buying a home isn’t just about the first cost, it’s about operation and maintenance costs, too.”

To that end, the sales team focuses on the one thing all homeowners agree on in this frigid locale: saving money on utility bills. This message resonates with customers so strongly that they are willing to pay 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent more for a Tim O’Brien home in light of the savings potential.

The company’s success stems from catering to two fast-growing cities in Wisconsin—Milwaukee and Madison—and working hand in hand with a development firm owned by two Tim O’Brien Home founders to procure finished lots. The company also nabbed some of the area’s top talent during the recession and has retained it by fostering a team-driven workplace environment where employees are encouraged to share ideas.

The firm’s popularity has not gone unnoticed—several competitors have begun offering houses with similar specifications—but O’Brien isn’t worried. He is confident that the company that bears his name will continue to prosper, thanks to its reputation as an innovator of quality-built, money-saving homes. “Our challenge is to find ways to differentiate ourselves but not price ourselves out of the market,” he says.

Source: Builder 100 data

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Milwaukee, WI, Madison, WI.