Founders of Colorado’s Richfield Homes sat out the housing downturn and returned with a plan to meet the needs of move-up and empty nest buyers
By Pat Curry
Monthly Briefing Editor
When business partners Will Edgington and Serge Goldberg sold their Dallas/Fort Worth home building company in 2007, their plan was to move their families back to their home state of Colorado, take a year off and “goof off with our families, hiking, biking, and so forth,” Goldberg said.
Then the housing market collapsed, and one year turned into five as they waited out the downturn. In 2012, the pair saw the activity level pick up with the volume builders in their area and started to investigate getting back into home building. One of their first calls was to Chuck Shinn.
“Chuck was super generous with his time,” Goldberg said. “He gave us the metrics of what he thought successful home building should be. He broke down numbers – spend this much on marketing, this much on finance costs, and what he thought the proper mix should be for a successful home building company doing the kind of work we wanted to do. That was really great.”
The company they started in 2012 in northern Colorado is Richfield Homes. In their first year, Richfield Homes built 14 houses. This year, the company is projecting 170 sales.
The two founders’ long-lasting business partnership is the key the company’s success, Goldberg said.
“I don’t think I could have done it on my own, and neither could Will,” he said. “We
have a combination of skills and personalities; I handle sales and marketing and the financials, and Will hands construction. I know very little about what goes on at each job site; he knows very little about financing and lenders. We communicate well with each other and rarely have a disagreement we can’t resolve in a logical way. We don’t have big disagreements. We always try to put the business first.”
Standing out from the competition
As with many builders, Richfield Homes has national builders in its markets. Rather than try to compete head to head with those builders for first-time buyers, Richfield Homes opted to target first-time move-up and empty nest buyers — and to include the most popular options as part of the base price.
“We wanted an approach with a higher level of included features than they would get from other builders so buyers don’t feel like they’re nickled and dimed,” Goldberg explained. “Our buyers are able to personalize their homes by choosing from the selections we offer. We have a nice design studio, which is great for them, and it’s a nice profit center for us. The margins are good.”
Another way Richfield Homes stands out from the competition is by taking time in the construction process for a groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s a super exciting time for our customers when their homes are getting started,” Goldberg said. “The home buyers love it, and it’s an economical way to get off to a good start. We have gold-painted shovels and hard hats, and our salespeople take photos of the event, which usually goes up on Facebook.”
The construction manager and the salesperson who sold the home attend the groundbreaking, and occasionally a warranty person. The brief ceremony is a “big morale booster,” but more importantly, it serves as a hand-off from the salesperson being the primary point of contact to home buyer working with the construction manager on the job.
A company-wide focus on customers
The company has long placed an emphasis on customer satisfaction, as evidenced by recent honors it has received. Richfield Homes is a winner this year of the Builder Partnerships Customer Satisfaction Achievement Award, an honor given to builder members that have built a customer satisfaction-focused culture that permeates the company. In addition, the award recognizes efforts to build processes that encourage suppliers and trade contractors to support that effort.
Richfield Homes also was honored with GuildQuality’s Guildmaster Award, which recognizes companies that consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences. To be recognized as a Guildmaster Award winner, a Guildmember must achieve a recommendation rate of 90 percent, as well as a certain response rate based on volume.
“We want our customers to have a really good experience,” Goldberg said. “We try to keep them up to date and tell them what to expect through the entire home buying process,” Each salesperson makes a weekly call to each person in their backlog, even if it’s to tell them nothing happened.
“We want them to like us and refer their friends, so we are big on responsibility and taking care of whatever comes up,” he said. “We want them to trust that they will be taken care of. As evidenced by our rewards and field quality survey results, we’re doing pretty well.”
To make sure they keep doing well, Richfield Homes does three surveys with each buyer: after contract, after closing, and after a year in the home. The owners see all the responses.
“If we get a survey with negative comments or bad scores, someone immediately calls that person to see what we need to do to make it right,” Goldberg said. “We learn a lot along the way. Most of the time, we’re able to turn into a positive experience.”
What’s next for Richfield Homes? While the company started as a finished lot builder, Goldberg said the area’s land situation has increasingly forced them into becoming developers.
“It’s one of the realities of land availability,” he said. “There’s pretty fierce competition for lots. Everybody is looking to tie up land while at the same time doing as little work as possible to turn it.”
The partners also are putting “a lot of effort” into building its management team.
“As the company is growing, even at this point, it needs to be less about Will and Serge and more about the company and its processes,” Goldberg said. “We’re building a management team to be able to handle all the different aspects of handling the business in such a way that it’s not dependent on myself and my business partner.”