Next month, a startup home builder in Omaha, Neb., called The Home Company, will begin digging out the basements and foundations for its first dozen houses. The builder, whose two principals had been longtime managers with one of this market’s leading builders, are shooting for 30 closings in 2012, 50 closings next year, and more than 100 in 2014.

Starting Fresh. Former HearthStone Homes exec Dave Vogtman has launched a startup builder in Omaha, Neb., called The Home Company, which will compete with homes that he says will have more amenities than his competitors' products.
Frode N Rosand Starting Fresh. Former HearthStone Homes exec Dave Vogtman has launched a startup builder in Omaha, Neb., called The Home Company, which will compete with homes that he says will have more amenities than his competitors' products.

The Home Company’s president is Dave Vogtman, who was HearthStone Homes’ vice president of relations before he left that builder in December to launch the startup venture with Nick Dolphens, HearthStone’s former production manager who is The Home Company’s vice president. In an interview with Builder last week, Vogtman said that The Home Company “is 100% privately financed with cash,” although he declined to identify its investors. His company has entered into a partnership with Boyer Young Development Company, which will provide lots in several of its 11 developments in and around Omaha, including some where HearthStone has been building.

The Home Company, based in La Vista, Neb., is attempting to wedge itself into a market where two builders—HearthStone (which applied for court-sanctioned bankruptcy protection last week) and Celebrity Homes—have ruled for decades. It is also entering a housing market that is finally showing signs that house sales and prices are leveling off from past years’ declines. The total number of homes sold in Greater Omaha last year, 13,717, was down 13% from the previous year, but the average selling price, $175,295, rose by nearly 7%, according to estimates from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. Unit resales of foreclosed homes shrank, and while new-home sales were off by 20% to 1,500 units, the average selling price of those homes jumped by 12.5% to $224,859.

Vogtman said his company has “a production mentality,” but its house plans have more of a custom look than its competitors.

The Home Company will go to market with three ranches, sized 1,260, 1,525, and 1,850 square feet. Its two-story house plans are 2,060 square feet and 2,700 square feet above basements. The builder’s selling prices will range from $160,000 to $250,000, which Vogtman said would be about 10% higher than its main competitors’ comparable models. But The Home Company’s houses will include “more modern exteriors and features,” claimed Vogtman, who conceded they might sacrifice some square footage for storage and other preferred spaces. “We’re getting away from the cookie-cutter look,” he said.

Initially, The Home Company’s relationship with Boyer Young will be like any other local builder buying finished lots. But next year, Vogtman anticipates that Boyer Young “will be developing ahead of us,” meaning that it would develop lots specifically for The Home Company’s growth. Vogtman also expects his company will introduce a more affordable product in 2013.

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Omaha, NE.