Leading the company’s expansion will be veteran Birmingham home builder David Bonamy, who was most recently president of Cottage Builders, Inc. In his career, Bonamy has overseen construction of 25 residential communities and approximately 3,800 single-family homes in the Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala. metropolitan areas.
Now, Bonamy will be tasked with building of hundreds of homes in the coming years in multiple submarkets of Birmingham. “Once we hit 500 units in Atlanta,” CEO Charles Schetter says, “we felt that we’ve gotten good critical mass in our core market and that made it right for us to begin to reach out.”
While Atlanta-based Smith Douglas was evaluating sites in Birmingham for possible development, Bonamy tagged along to offer advice. “It became real apparent, real quick through a lot of his comments and insights that he really knew that market and was really somebody that we wanted to target to lead our operation there,” COO Greg Bennett recalls.
Bonamy says there isn’t anything especially unique to the Birmingham market, but it takes an institutional knowledge to properly understand its 10-to-12 submarkets and the buyer profiles in each one. “The homes that we build at Smith Douglas should transition very nicely to the Birmingham market,” he notes.
“[We] felt we could replicate some of the things they’re doing in Atlanta and other markets… in Birmingham quite nicely and at a good pace,” he adds.
Like any builder entering a new market for the first time, there are obstacles. Schetter outlined a to-do list for the company to get done, saying, “It’s getting preferred relationships built through the trades, it’s getting a land pipeline in the right submarkets, it’s matching the product properly, and then it’s overcoming the lack of brand recognition.”
Smith Douglas will begin construction in multiple Birmingham submarkets in the first quarter of 2016, Schetter says, and the first homes will go on the market in the same time period. “For the next six-eight months,” he says, “our energy is not only to expand our Atlanta position but to make sure we have a successful launch [in Birmingham].”
The company will look to build 400-to-500 homes in Birmingham over “a period of time.” “We know that Birmingham can scale to that level,” Bonamy says. “In our segment, we have a great opportunity to grow to that.” According to Bennett, their goal is to deliver homes at prices at or near the resale market value, which is something they’ve had success with in Atlanta.
“Birmingham is a natural fit for Smith Douglas Homes where we can leverage not only our local team but our adjacent subs and really make it a good, early move for us,” Schetter says. “I’m not sure Birmingham, necessarily, would be the right market for just any builder, but for us, it’s kind of an inevitable expansion of something we’ve looked at for a long time and feel that we’ll be well supported, not only by the trade base but also by having a lead like David, who has been at the levels we expect to get to.”
With Birmingham soon to be the next endeavor for Smith Douglas, new markets aren’t far off. “Our vision is to be a dominant Southeast builder in six-seven markets and be market leader in each of those six-seven,” Schetter adds.