The co-founders of Trumark Companies share insight into industry trends and factors influencing homebuilding
Builder and Developer Magazine: What defines a successful build for Trumark’s standards?
Michael Maples and Gregg Nelson: Trumark’s mission is to enhance the lives of people by creating inspiring living environments. We do this by building homes that people truly want to buy. We work hard to captivate buyers through creative and innovative design with floor plans that function well and offer unique visual elements. Our models are designed to provide a glimpse into what life would be like in a Trumark home, and when we see buyers light up at the possibilities, that’s success!
Creating an exciting living experience is at the core of what we do. For example, The Collective is Trumark’s first age-qualified community that will be opening later this year. Located in Manteca, Calif., the entire community is centered around creating a vibrant lifestyle for this 55+ age group. As the master developer, we really focused on the community center as the focal point of the development and built the first center registered to achieve WELL Certification by the International WELL Building Institute. The Collective as a whole is designed to promote wellness and connectivity throughout the community by incorporating areas that draw people together such as various dog parks and dog spas, pickleball and bocce ball courts, and community walking paths that lead to the central spaces. Trumark has also created a neighborhood app that residents can use to communicate and stay up to date on community activities.
What changes in the market has your company seen in the past few years, and how has Trumark Homes responded?
MM&GN: We are tracking two large demographic bubbles – millennials and baby boomers – and today they are both reaching stages of life that are motivating them to consider their next housing option. Millennials who have largely delayed starting families and have preferred life in a downtown setting now may have one or two children and are eying larger, more functional options, closer to the suburbs. Trumark is building communities that appeal to this population by selecting locations that are still near urban centers (i.e. Newark, Sunnyvale, Alameda, etc.), close to jobs and entertainment but also offer more space and allow a young family to grow. This product type is typically a three-story townhome with an extra bedroom on the first floor for visiting friends and family.
Baby boomers also are looking to reposition financially for their next life stage, which for many means delaying retirement. In Northern California, we’re seeing individuals cashing out of their older, more expensive homes and seeking out new, more affordable options. We observed that many of the existing age-qualified communities in the area weren’t providing an exciting lifestyle, and we really wanted to offer the age qualified homebuyer a community full of opportunity to live an active and social life at an affordable price point, which is what we’re providing at The Collective.
What new approaches to building or marketing is Trumark Homes taking, and how have they been implemented?
MM&GN: We are simplifying the building envelope to make our cycle times faster and our costs lower, while simultaneously providing more flexibility inside the home, which matters more to buyers.
For example, we recently introduced TruFlex at Trumark’s Founders community in Chino Hills. TruFlex is a design concept that allows residents to easily make adjustments to the home when their needs change throughout their years of ownership. Things like a doorway have been framed behind a wall, allowing residents to adjust the shape of their interior at a lower expense.
Who is Trumark’s ideal homebuyer, and how is the company meeting their needs?
MM&GN: Attracting older millennials and baby boomers is really our focus right now. We love buyers that notice and value the attention to detail in the design and implementation of our communities, and that look forward to inviting their friends and family to join them there!
What feature, or features does Trumark Homes consider most important in homebuilding?
MM&GN: That varies from project to project. We try to understand the answer to this question before we start the design process on any new community. In some cases, for example, single-story living is crucial in our age-qualified community in Manteca, whereas in most of our urban-focused projects, the surrounding neighborhood is the major draw to potential buyers. In every case we work hard to maximize natural light and ceiling heights that add volume and drama to the living spaces.
What major changes do you expect to see through the rest of the year?
MM&GN: After a slowdown starting in the latter part of last year, homebuying has stabilized and returned to a slow and steady pace in most of Trumark’s active submarkets. Our team is always keeping a watchful eye on economic factors influencing the homebuilding industry. Currently, interest rates are trending downward, and it is catching the attention of potential home buyers who had gone to the sidelines last fall. As far as building costs, we’ve seen a domino effect where the decrease in demand for new homes in late 2018 reduced the demand for materials and labor, hence easing the pressure on costs. Aside from outside events, we anticipate a further strengthening in buyer interest as we enter the fall homebuying season.
What advice would you give to professionals on how best to compete in the housing industry?
MM&GN: Homebuilding is not an easy business, especially in California. Everything is difficult from land acquisition to the project entitlement process, in addition to the high costs for land, materials and labor. However, this creates barriers to entry for the competition and the rewards are immeasurable when we complete a final sale and close out a completed project, and see the elated new residents enjoying life in a Trumark home and community. Persistence, tenacity and creativity are what we try to reinforce on a regular basis. These are values that we embraced in our early days as a company and we still place great importance on today. As a team and as a company we are always looking for ways to get things done, and for someone looking to succeed in homebuilding, a consistent, focused approach to building a quality home for people to enjoy is going to lead to success.