07/10/2016 - 12:29

Boutique builds a package deal

07/10/2016 - 12:29

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SPECIAL REPORT: Boutique builders are finding their bespoke approach is helping insulate them from the widespread slowdown of activity.

CUSTOM: Dean Humphrey, at one of his company’s recent builds in Cottesloe, says activity is still ticking over at the top end of the market. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Boutique builders are finding their bespoke approach is helping insulate them from the widespread slowdown of activity.

With many of Perth’s big-volume builders jostling to win work, custom homebuilders say a hands-on approach has helped them maintain work at the top end of the market.

Humphrey Homes managing director Dean Humphrey said while many housing companies were dealing with a decline of about 20 per cent in activity, his Cottesloe office was still fielding plenty of calls.

“I don’t know if it’s the fact that people feel like we’ve hit the bottom of the market or there are some reasonable deals around for buying properties, but there are still people building, and we’re getting as many inquiries at the moment as we ever have,” Mr Humphrey told Business News.

“It’s very tough out there, but for us, because we operate out of the area that we work in, we have been lucky enough over the years to build a fairly good reputation, so the phones are fortunately still ringing.”

Mr Humphrey said inquiries for renovations were as strong as for new builds, with clients responding to Humphrey Homes’ provision of architectural design services as well as the build itself.

“What our clients tell us is they like the fact that they have one person and one team to establish a rapport and trust with,” he said.

“And by knowing the same people are doing the design and the building, they know the dots are being connected between the design and the building stage, and they’ve got one team of people accountable from start to finish.

“It’s a very efficient way to do it, because when we’re designing, we’re already thinking about the best ways to build it and more things happen in parallel.

“Most of our clients are professional people who don’t have a great deal of time, so the fact that this is a more seamless, efficient process appeals to those clients.”

Romano Homes managing director Peter Romano said he established his building company two years ago, right around the same time building activity started to wane in Western Australia.

But Mr Romano said the builder, which specialises in high-end homes ranging from $750,000 to $3 million, had nonetheless been able to secure three new builds in 2016.

“It wasn’t the best time to start, but we’ve gotten a few starts,” Mr Romano told Business News.

“Because we only do two or three homes a year, the slowdown doesn’t really affect us in a positive or negative way.

“The people we have as our clientele, it’s not so much if they want to build, it is when they want to build.

“They have the finances, generally, so in terms of the downturn’s effects, you hear about it all the time, but it hasn’t stopped me from getting a job.”

Mr Romano said he targeted the niche market of million dollar homes simply because it would be impossible to compete with the larger building outfits, which had significant benefits from economies of scale.

“There’s no way to compete with the project builders, especially for small builders like myself,” he said.

“But the difference we offer is in-house design; we do interior design and landscape design all as a package.”

Mr Romano said inquiries from potential clients had increased significantly since the builder completed a City Beach house two months ago, a project it was now using as a show home to demonstrate its capabilities.

“Business is strong at the moment, we’ve got some strong leads and we’re hoping to continue and get a good name in the industry,” he said.

“We’ve got about half a dozen clients at the moment looking for blocks. We’ll assist in that process as well, but from that point of view, the purchasing of property at the moment is what people are holding off on to get the better deal.

“Whether it’s hit the bottom or it’s plateauing or it’s going to go down further I’m not sure, but they want to get the best deal for property, then they’ll determine the budget they’ve got.”

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