After 60 years and the construction of more than half a million homes, Pulte Homes founder William J. Pulte, 77, has decided to retire on March 31.

“I was 18 years old in 1950 when I started construction on my first home, making 2010 my 60th anniversary in the building business,” said Pulte in the announcement of his impending resignation from the company’s board of directors. He sold that house, built just outside of Detroit with the help of friends, for $10,000.

“Many people have heard me say that I never worked a day in my life because I so love what I do and the people I work with.”

That said, Pulte decided now is a good time to officially leave the company whose control he has been gradually ceding to CEO Richard Dugas. In 2009, the company became the largest builder in the country since it merged with Centex, a position it has held before in the years since the company went public in 1969.

“With 2010 marking six decades in the business, with our merger with Centex complete, and a great, proven leadership team in place, and, hopefully, with the worst of the housing cycle behind us, this feels like the right time to officially step away from the business,” he continued.

Having watched the company cope with the most challenging economic downturn in its history and emerge on top of the industry clearly gave Pulte the confidence to turn over his namesake company.

"One of the things that has thrilled me most over the last few years is working with the people who are now in place and running Pulte Homes. This is particularly true of Richard Dugas, who has become a great leader for this company," Bill Pulte said. "I plan to remain a large shareholder of Pulte Homes and have never been more confident in the leadership and future success of the company."

Pulte now builds in 59 markets, 29 states, and the District of Columbia. It remains headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Bill Pulte’s hometown. Soon the company’s name will change to Pulte Group, to reflect the multiple brands it has developed in the wake of the Centex merger.

Pulte’s position on the board will not be filled, reducing the board's size to 11 members.

Following his retirement, Bill Pulte will assume the title of founder and chairman emeritus and serve as a key advisor to the senior executive team and board of directors under a two-year consulting agreement, according to the company.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for BUILDER and BIG BUILDER magazines.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Detroit, MI.