Bernie Glieberman, founder, president, and sole stockholder of Crosswinds Communities, started his home building company in 1971, after working in his family's building business. Since then, Crosswinds–headquartered in Novi, Mich., a Detroit suburb–has developed more than 10,000 homes. He and wife Sandee have two adult children: their son owns a ski resort in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and their daughter is a schoolteacher. In his free time, Glieberman collects antique automobiles and currently owns a 24-carat gold-plated DeLorean (pictured with Glieberman above) along with four other classic cars. He spoke with Big Builder senior editor Judi Hasson in January.
BB: Is it tough being the sole shareholder?
BB: 2006 was a hard year for everyone. What's 2007 looking like?
BG: I see some activity all around the country. Florida has not picked up yet, [but] the rest of the country is. It's better in California. Arizona is picking up, cleaning up inventory. The Washington, D.C., market traffic is way up. Inventory is down. Listings are down in most of the markets.
BB: What are you doing differently?
BG: We were feeling [the downturn first] here in Detroit. Being in the toughest market in the country, we went into the conservative mode before everyone else. When the other parts of the country got weak, we just translated it elsewhere. Discounting, changing specs to houses, changing lots sizes, changing product styles ? we learned [in the Detroit market] that once the market goes like it did, you better change the product as quickly as you can.
BB: What is your business philosophy?
BG: We are not taking risks on land. We are being very conservative. We're still purchasing, but taking a very conservative approach. We don't have a lot of land; we did not buy a lot of land in the last year and a half. We have some sites in Michigan. We have a big land position in Arizona and a pretty decent-sized land position in California and Texas. We have not walked away from one option. The stuff we own [is] at very good prices.
BB: What kind of campaign are you conducting to appeal to potential home buyers?
BG: We're getting off the discounting. We're going into campaigns of value and neighborhoods to live in, emphasizing location and schools. We're changing our prices because people are now smart enough to know to look at value.
BB: What advice would you give to your colleagues?
BG: To the publics, I would say that, as long as they keep the balance sheets in line, they will be fine. They are going to benefit the most from this.
BB: What's your weakest market?
BG: The weakest market would have to be Michigan. I don't mean that we're doing the worst. If you look at the amount of sites we have, I think it will be the least amount of activity. Can we make money? I think we can.
BB: Why stay in Michigan?
BG: We have many sites, and it will be profitable. We'll always have a position in Michigan. We have a reputation and our name is very well known. There is not much competition with the publics. I can assure you the publics are not coming.