Courtesy Empire Communities

Last October, successful Canadian firm Empire Communities made its first foray into the American home building market. Over the past year, the company set up shop in the Houston area where it opened model homes in four communities, launched a townhome project, and offered 1-acre luxury properties in a suburban development. Empire executives anticipate opening an additional seven new models in six communities in 2018.

James Miller
Courtesy Empire Communities James Miller

Here, BUILDER talks with James Miller, president of Empire's Texas division, about 2018 and beyond.

--When and why did you begin building in the U.S.?
Our homebuilding operations began in September 2016. We chose to focus on Houston because it offers the ability to secure building positions and begin operations quickly, a fundamentally sound long term economic climate, and is the No. 2 homebuilding market in the U.S.

--How has this first year been?
Very busy! We have opened four model homes in less than 12 months, and secured an additional four positions for 2018. We have also started to assemble a great team and are developing systems that should allow us to scale quickly.

--How do U.S. home buyers differ from their Canadian counterparts?
There are more similarities than differences. Buyers in both markets appreciate value and quality, along with seeking a buying experience where the builder engages them on a personal level. And both are extremely knowledgeable on the builder and the overall market before they first visit the sales office.

--What are your plans for 2018?
We plan to open another four models and close about 150 homes, explore opportunities in other Texas markets, and continue to improve the Empire buyer experience.

--Did Hurricane Harvey set you back?
There were short term setbacks immediately following the storm as Texans were helping their neighbors. Buyers appear to be back in the market now. Other long term effects of the storm are still to be determined.