Last week, Boulder Creek Builders had its first-ever all-company meeting for its 30 employees. That gathering was, no doubt, celebratory, as this Louisville, Colo.-based builder had just completed its most successful year.
Boulder Creek is capitalizing on its niche building patio homes and townhomes for downsizing empty nesters in markets along Colorado’s Front Range that didn’t teeter on the brink during the housing recession.
The number of people who visited Boulder Creek’s model centers last year nearly tripled, to 3,500 from 1,031 in 2011. Consequently, the builder’s sales revenue increased by more than 200% to $41 million, closing revenue jumped 264% to $31 million, unit sales more than doubled to 106 from 51, and unit closings increased by 81% to 78.
David Sinkey, Boulder Creek’s principal and co-owner, points to Boulder Creek’s “innovations” in aging and place and universal design as factors contributing to this customer surge.
“There’s always been plenty of demand for what we build,” Sinkey explains. “What restricted us was access to capital.”
So last year, the company—which dates back to a general contracting business Sinkey’s father started in the 1970s—explored new ways to get things financed. It now has solid bank relationships for construction and what Sinkey calls “a robust, well-cultivated group of investors” for land deals.
In 2013, Boulder Creek expects to increase its active communities to seven, from three. A few of the new communities would feature townhouses whose prices—starting in the $280s—will be lower than the $390,000 average that Boulder Creek has been fetching for houses ranging from 1,450 to 2,500 square feet.
This year, the company is projecting sales revenue of $55 million to $60 million. And if market conditions really take off, Sinkey says he has 32 other land deals “that are ready, and we could pull the trigger on.”
However, he is quick to note “we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves” in terms of expanding faster than its operational infrastructure allows.
To accommodate its anticipated growth, Boulder Creek a few years ago scrapped its “homegrown” ERP system for a new system that could handle more velocity. Last year, the builder also more than doubled its workforce. Sinkey says he’s been impressed with the quality of available talent that has gravitated to Boulder Creek from other companies, such as Dave Oyler, the former president of Melody Homes (once one of Denver’s largest builders), who left retirement to join Boulder Credit as its director of special projects.
Boulder Creek takes a different approach to marketing than most builders in that it relies on intimate, face-to-face meetings with potential buyers before it breaks ground for a community. Sinkey concedes this kind of marketing is more time-consuming than traditional ways of reaching customers. But “by the time we’re ready to open a community, we’ve come into contact with more than half of” the buyers, whom he says are “highly convertible” to owners at that point.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.