The transaction completes Centex's previously announced exit from the Columbus area as part of its overall strategy to concentrate resources in core markets. Fischer retained 26 Centex employees including division manager John Jasper, who will run its Columbus operations.
Though the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Fischer president and COO Bob Hawksley called it a "win-win" and noted that his company's ability to pay cash and willingness to agree to softer negotiation terms, such as assuming some staff and maintaining the the existing communities' integrity, were instrumental in striking a deal.
In the agreement, Fischer purchased land and assets in four communities: Claybrooke Crossing in Grove City, Sheffield Park in Galena, Royal Elm in Blacklick, and McCammon Estates in Lewis Center.
Columbus has seen declining permit activity for the past four years and been pegged as a struggling market for many national builders with operations there that include, besides Centex, Beazer, M/I Homes, and Dominion. Both M/I and Dominion are headquartered locally.
But according to Hawksley, Columbus is a natural progression for his business, which runs on a unique model tailored toward Midwest operations
"We strongly believe this market will play to the strengths of our company," he said. "In Cincinnati, the average number of sales per community has been about 20--that's per year, not per month. To be successful, we have had to develop a business that operates that way."
With oversight from Centex, Fischer will complete construction on the 96 homes currently in Centex's Columbus backlog, then begin to implement "exciting plans" for the remaining 300 lots within the four communities. "We have the right to use their product and will also integrate our own. Centex was a nice fit because they are compatible with our product and with how we operate."
Once operations are integrated, Hawksley hopes to get all the company's product lines working, including their attached product, with an eventual expansion into another five to 10 communities in the market. At the same time, the company is exploring entrée into other new markets as well.
"We've been careful with the stewardship of our funds," said Hawksley. "We aren't driven by volume, but we are opportunitistic about growth. Our powder is dry and we don't need financing contingencies, so we are in a nice position to fill a void in this marketplace."