Every now and then it can be fruitful to look back to see how far you’ve come. Not living in the past, but rather taking a moment to appreciate the path—twists, turns, and all—on which life has taken you.

When we reached out to congratulate Ashton Woods for its selection as our 2023 Builder of the Year, the executive team was excited about the news and fondly recalled when CEO Ken Balogh appeared on the March 2011 cover of our now-defunct sister publication, Big Builder.

Twelve years later, Balogh is again a cover subject—a bit older, perhaps a bit wiser, and just as determined to lead his privately owned, people-centric company to new heights.

The firm moved up two spots to No. 12 on our latest Builder 100 list with 8,591 closings in 2022—less than 2,000 closings from being one of the 10 largest home building companies in the country. As a point of comparison, the firm ranked No. 25 on the list in 2011, having closed 1,197 homes in 2010.

That’s impressive growth for a company that doesn’t have “specific growth targets,” according to Balogh. Ashton Woods clearly has figured out how to forge a path forward, all while keeping its core beliefs intact. Read more about the firm from associate editor Vincent Salandro here.

Also in this issue, you’ll find our annual Builder 100 list, along with a profile on Meritage Homes, led by CEO Phillippe Lord, which is the latest recipient of the Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award.

I was fortunate to correspond with a dozen or so leaders of Builder 100/Next 100 firms in recent weeks to get a sense of how the year is unfolding so far. The majority of respondents are pleasantly surprised with performance that surpassed first quarter expectations, but they also are keenly aware of how quickly things can change.

Even with the strong start to 2023, obstacles remain. Many builders cited the usual suspects when asked about their top challenges, including labor, government regulations, supply chain issues, zoning limitations, affordability, lower consumer confidence, land acquisition, NIMBYs, and interest rate volatility.

However, as Zonda data shows new-home construction today represents about 30% of total housing inventory, compared with its typical 10% to 15%, the majority of firm leaders I heard from are cautiously optimistic about the overall home building sector in 2023.

This healthy dose of realism likely will serve those leaders and others in the industry well throughout the remainder of the year, no matter what it may bring.

Check out the digital edition of the May issue here.