Acadia Homes & Neighborhoods, a three-year-old production builder, wants to be one of Atlanta’s leaders when that market returns to a normal rate of closings—say, 20,000 to 25,000 homes—compared with roughly 7,500 last year.
After increasing is revenue by 3,887% from 2010 to 2012, Acadia has been using 2013 as “an investment year,” says its president and CEO Gregg Goldenberg, during which it has beefed up its management team, its infrastructure and systems, and its land bank in preparation for more aggressive growth in 2014 and 2015.
It’s not like Acadia has been standing still, either. Its closings this year are on track to hit 240, which would be a 57% increase over 2012. It’s currently selling out of 17 communities, and expects that number to increase to 25 to 35 communities by this time next year, when Goldenberg projects Acadia will be closing homes at an annual rate of at least 400 units.
In August, Acadia cracked into top 10 on the Atlanta Business Journal’s annual ranking of builders by closings.
Field Support Acadia’s tagline is “A New Builder for a New Time.” Goldenberg and his partners, Jon Roby and Thomas Olson, attribute their company’s rapid rise in Greater Atlanta to several factors, starting with customer satisfaction.
To that end, in November the company is scheduled to debut its 4,500-square-foot design center that, says Goldenberg, will feature an audio-visual “experience” that shows customers different design motifs and products. “So we’ll know exactly what they want.”
Goldenberg believes the main function of Acadia’s corporate office should be “to make our field employees look smart in front of buyers.” This year, the company has focused its spending on improving its purchasing and estimating, as well as coordinating sales and construction. (Acadia runs these departments on KOVA Solutions’ management software.)
The builder added 36 staff members in 2012, including sales agents, construction supervisors, executives, and marketing specialists. And in response to Atlanta’s current labor situation, where manpower and experience are sometimes in short supply, Acadia continues to hire supervisory and quality control personnel. “We’ve been particularly vigilant on the framing and inspection sides,” says Goldenberg.
A Crowded Field Acadia is building in a market where the recession put many smaller private builders out of business, and opened the floodgates for public and big private builders to dominate. So instead of scrambling to buy “A”-quality finished lots at escalating prices, Acadia, says Goldenberg, has been purchasing raw land and entitling it. The builder also has taken over dormant communities and re-energized them. Acadia controls 1,200 lots and has another 1,500 under contract. And it hasn’t been afraid to buy real estate in places that some competitors might consider “B” locations, but where Goldenberg and his partners see underserved opportunities. “We see a lot of deals out there. We just have to make sure the lot prices are right.”
Land sellers include banks—from which Acadia recently picked up 153 lots in Atlanta’s northeast quadrant city Grayson—as well as traditional developers that are back making deals, some as brokers.
To attract buyers to its houses, which range in price from the $180s to the $800s, Acadia works closely with realtors. That relationship includes hosting continuing education courses—which realtors must take to retain their licenses—in the builder’s model homes or clubhouses.
Staying Independent At the moment, the housing industry is going to a period of intensifying consolidation. When asked about his company’s future, Goldenberg concedes that Acadia could be an acquisition target in the coming years because “what we’re creating here would add a lot of value to a national builder. We’re not a mom-and-pop builder; we’re reinvesting into the business.”
For the time being, though, Goldenberg says he and his partners remain “very entrepreneurial.” He adds that the company has “fantastic” partners on the capital side (which Acadia does not identify), as well as solid relationships with bank lenders.
John Caulfield is a senior editor for BUILDER.