Pringle is still part of the name of an active adult home builder near Orlando, Fla., but its ownership has changed, and, like many builders, what’s left of the company is a shadow of its former self. Yet its president, Steven Nordstrom, prefers to think of the company’s current condition as a springboard for new opportunities for the future rather than the consummation of a horrible home building market.
“We are lean and frugal,” said Nordstrom. “It’s very invigorating to be building a business compared to playing defense. What we have created is agile, and we are excited about the future.”
After all of Pringle Development’s assets were turned over at the end of October 2009 to a new set of owners, a group of private Texas investors, the company became Pringle Homebuilding Group. Nordstrom would not identify the investors, saying they prefer to stay private. However, Lake County, Fla., public records show that a William D. Albers of Texas was “a member” of the group that received the company’s assets.
“They prefer to remain behind the scenes,” said Nordstrom, who found the investors through his personal contacts. “These are private investors who have a great belief in the demographics of Central Florida and the business model [of Pringle]. They have full confidence in the management team.”
“The transaction took eight months to a year from the time we had the idea that it might be a way for us to recapitalize the company,” continued Nordstrom, who took over the presidency of the company in spring 2008 with the directive to find a way for the company to survive the downturn. “We went through many turns and starts and stops.”
The former Pringle entity was employee-owned. The employees’ equity in the company was wiped out with the transfer. “Nobody in management has an equity stake in the new company,” said Nordstrom.
Pringle Homebuilding Group has less than 20 employees and has moved out of its former sprawling Eustis, Fla., offices to a smaller spot in nearby Leesburg. At peak, the company employed more than 200, and when Nordstrom took over the helm in 2008, there were still more than 100 employees. The company is expecting to sell roughly 50 homes this year, nowhere near the 200 to 250 it sold in 2008 and the nearly 600 it sold during the peak.
Some other things have changed as well. The company no longer develops land. In fact, it no longer owns land. It sold off some of the land, and after workout negotiations with the successor to the defunct Colonial Bank failed, the bank took back the remainder of the land assets.
It is still building in two communities in Lake County northwest of Orlando, Legacy of Leesburg and Lakes of Mount Dora.
What hasn’t changed is the company’s business model for selling to active adult buyers. The company uses extensive marketing to generate leads that it spends months, sometimes years cultivating. It also allows customization of its standard models and gives buyers 16 months after buying a lot to start construction on their home.
“We still function in the same way with the same business model that the previous company did,” said Nordstrom. Though there is a possibility that it might target other buyers in other geographies as well.
“We are looking to expand, not just geographically, we think there is opportunity for other demographics,” he said.
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for BUILDER and BIG BUILDER magazines.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.