Courtesy of DeLuca Homes

A few years ago, DeLuca Enterprises looked like it was dead in the water after being forced to relinquish most of its assets that had collateralized $119 million of its debt. But it rebooted under a new name, DeLuca Homes, and the Langhorne, Pa.–based builder is clawing its way back into the market.

DeLuca Homes expects to close about 60 homes this year. That number would fall short of the 100 units the company had projected for 2012 two years earlier, but is nonetheless respectable in a still-tepid economy. And while it has done remodeling work since its inception in the 1960s, DeLuca Homes has made remodeling a core of its operations over the past 18 months. Its DeLuca Signature division, which focuses on renovation projects fulltime, is on track to contribute between 25% and 30% of the company’s revenue this year.

Where home building in its communities has been “sporadic,” remodeling is “more predictable,” says Joe DeLuca, Signature’s president, who with his niece Kathryn DeLuca, the company’s director of sales and marketing, spoke with Builder on Wednesday.

Courtesy of DeLuca Homes

DeLuca says his company isn’t interested in trying to compete with contractors working out of their pickup trucks. “We offer architectural services and have experienced carpenters,” he explains. Despite its past tribulations, DeLuca Homes is still well-enough known in this area so that Signature hasn’t had to do much advertising outside of mailers to targeted zip codes. “Everything in the last year has been word of mouth,” says DeLuca.

“People come to us because of our name," adds Kathryn. "We’re extremely reliable, and that creates security for the client.”

Signature has tackled a fairly wide range of remodeling jobs, from sprucing up a powder room to a full basement rehab. It recently pulled permits for a three-car garage attachment that would also create more closet space for the house. And Signature’s showcase project so far has been a Southern porch it added to a home in Langhorne (see photos).

Southern Comfort. An example of DeLuca Signature's renovation work can be seen at a client's home in Bucks County, Pa., where DeLuca added a Southern porch. Remodeling is projected to account for at least one-quarter of DeLuca Homes' revenue in 2012.
Courtesy of DeLuca Homes Southern Comfort. An example of DeLuca Signature's renovation work can be seen at a client's home in Bucks County, Pa., where DeLuca added a Southern porch. Remodeling is projected to account for at least one-quarter of DeLuca Homes' revenue in 2012.

DeLuca says he’s sent out mailers to all of his former clients alerting them to Signature’s services. Signature also manages construction of on-your-lot homes outside of the builder’s communities, which has occasionally resulted in Signature getting remodeling jobs from people who purchase those homes and subsequently want to make changes.

The biggest difference between new-home construction and remodeling, DeLuca says, is the “larger commitment” his company must make to establish a personal rapport with clients. “There are multiple touch points, and you have to be accessible at all times.”

But the relative health of its remodeling business has “created excitement” within DeLuca Homes. “You know how difficult home building has been,” says DeLuca. “This keeps everyone in the company focused and challenged.”

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Philadelphia, PA.