In 1991, mortgage rates were hovering around 9 percent, but worries abounded that such “low” rates couldn’t possibly last and they would soon be back in double digits.
The Denver housing market seemed to be pulling out of a 7-year slump caused by overbuilding and a loss of jobs following the energy boom-and-bust, but others worried that another national recession was around the corner.
The average price of a home sold and closed in Denver finally broke $100,000 – about $174,000 in today’s, inflation-adjusted dollars – but some prospective buyers were reluctant to pull the trigger, fearing buying a home was buying into a blackhole that would suck away all of their money.
It was a year that every time the housing market was showing signs of life, there was some doom-and-gloom prophet predicting that the only light at the end of the tunnel was coming from a train about to run off the track.
That was the year that Pat Hamill launched Oakwood Homes.
20 years and 10,000 homes
“We have two things we are celebrating,” Hamill told InsideRealEstateNews this week. “This is our 20th anniversary and today we closed on our 10,000th home.”
Hamill surprised the buyers, Eugene and Maria Plymale, this afternoon with a gift basket in a festively decorated room at Oakwood’s headquarters. Hamill was joined by cheering Oakwood employees.
“We were very surprised,” Maria said afterward. “We didn’t know what was going on.”
The couple recently moved from Texas to live in the Morningview community in the Meadows in Castle Rock to be close to their daughter.
They were down-to-earth on how they would celebrate.
“We’re going to go get our stuff out of storage and move in,” Maria said.
Living the dream
“Today is a huge tribute to all the great work done over the years by the Oakwood team,” said Hamill, who went on to talk about what the closing meant to him personally. “I’m living my dream. I feel very fortunate to live in a community that has supported us so well.”
Oakwood Homes is one of a handful of production builders in the Denver area that has been under the same ownership for two decades. During that time, they have weathered high-interest rates, record foreclosures, slumping economies, but also prospered during times when Denver could boast one of the strongest economies and home building markets in the country.
Hamill said the worst appears to be over in the current downturn, the first national housing crash since the Great Depression.
“It is not nearly as bad as it was,” Hamill said. “For example, there are really very few foreclosures in Green Valley Ranch (where Oakwood Homes is a major builder.) Two years ago, we were competing against a lot of foreclosures and it was very tough. I think the market has stabilized and is definitely in a recovery mode. I have a sense values are starting to come back.”
Hamill also is a big fan and an early supporter of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
“Of course, I knew Michael from Green Valley Ranch and northeast Denver, but Michael represents all of Denver,” Hamill said. “I think that Michael sees job No. 1 as creating jobs and I think his whole idea of an “aerotropolis” around DIA is great.” An aerotropolis is an urban form concept to make airports the centerpiece of a job-creation hub, in addition as a place to catch flights.
Oakwood Homes builds homes that are down-to-earth, as far as price points. They start at about $175,000 to more than $400,000. Homes range in size from about 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet.
Oakwood is the No.1 selling private home builder in Denver, with a 12.6 percent market share.
“This year we are going to close about 300 homes,” Hamill said, which is lower than its average volume of about 500 homes each year during the past two decades. During its peak, in 2006, it closed about 900 homes.
Hamill credited the Oakwood team for the company’s success.
“First and foremost is our people,” Hamill said. “Secondly, it has always been our commitment to our customers, through our people. We have an excess of 20 percent of our buyers coming from referrals from other buyers, which is just unheard of in our industry.”
Was he was surprised to have sold 10,000 homes?
“No,” Hamill said. “But you know, our goal was never to be the biggest, just the best and being focused on doing the right things for our clients.”
Mike Rinner, of the Genesis Group, which tracks housing along the Front Range, said the 10,000th sale and 20 years in the business, are two important milestones.
“Absolutely,” Rinner said. “Pat has recognized all along how to meet the needs, both the financial and housing needs, of consumers. That created his longevity. He has done a lot of it with low-maintenance homes. They are affordable, well-built and low-maintenance, which is why he is still doing business 20 years later.”
Housing consultant S. Robert August agreed that 20 years in the business and 10,000 home sales are milestones to be proud of.
“I think it is great,” August said. “I think the strong shall survive. I think the secret to Pat’s success is maturing in the business. He went through difficult times and learned from them. He graduated from the University of Denver’s real estate and construction school and had the good fortune of working at the Arnold Cos., where he learned very early in his career what to do and not to do as a production builder, before he started Oakwood.”
For example, Hamill was an early adopter of technology to streamline and more efficiently construct homes, something that has grown at light speed during the past two decades.
“It’s amazing the access all of our people have to everything online these days,” Hamill said.
Hamill: Green-building not a fad
Oakwood also builds some of the greenest, affordable production-built homes in the nation. Earlier this year, with the help of DU students, Oakwood pulled out all of the stops in constructing a sustainable home and will be incorporating many of those features into production homes. He even guarantees utility bills for buyers of these homes.
“I think the biggest changes I have seen over the past 20 years are in the areas of energy efficiency and commitment to green building,” Hamill said. “We’re not wasting material and the quality of building is so much better than it has ever been. And hopefully, 20 years from now we will be building even greener homes.”
Rinner, of the Genesis Group, thinks there is a good chance that Oakwood will be building homes for the next 20 years.
“I think so,” Rinner said. “People are still going to need homes and people will still want to live in new homes. And Pat and Oakwood know how to do it right.”
To learn what homes are available in Green Valley Ranch, please visit this COhomefinder.com link.
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