Patrick L. O’Toole is the former editorial director and publisher of Professional Builder, a 77-year-old publication that is read by 112,000 builders each month. Previously, O’Toole served as editor and publisher of Qualified Remodeler magazine. He started his career as a reporter for the Associated Press in Chicago. He holds a B.A. from Miami University and a masters degree in journalism from Columbia College.
Here’s to the next 75 years
When this magazine was launched as Practical Builder in the spring of 1936, the outlook for Americans and the rest of the world was far bleaker than what we face today. Back then we were in the throes of an extended economic downturn that would only subside after World War II ended nine years later. Since that time — 1945 to the present — housing and the American Dream have been inextricably linked. This magazine and the generations of editors and publishers that helped guide it no doubt played a role in disseminating the kind of quality information that the industry came to rely on as it grew and prospered.
We are now in a period where economic malaise has laid the industry lower than at any point in decades. This fall, we slid to a monthly single-family home sales pace below the number of homes (300,000) that are torn down or that otherwise go out of service each year. With one million new legal immigrants coming to the United States each year and with the Echo Boom generation ready to move into the housing market, builders around the country see opportunity amidst the obstacles. In a genuine entrepreneurial spirit, builders around the country are finding ways to bypass banks and gun-shy appraisers to get the funds they need to start building again. If there is anything a good builder knows, it is how to match price and product to a given market.
The question is how to stay in business long enough to be given those opportunities again. With that in mind, our cover story this month is short on nostalgia and long on moneymaking ideas that you can use in your business today. These ideas came from you, our readers, as well as a panel of the best minds in the home building industry.
Here’s one I like a lot from Bill Saint of Classica Homes in Charlotte: Help your clients sell their homes, so they can buy yours. The logic is solid: We have the labor and the construction knowledge to repair existing homes. We know how to “stage” a home like a model home. Those are skills that can make all the difference in a market that has in many places ground to a halt. This is just one of many ideas we offer this month.
In many ways, our original name, Practical Builder, is appropriate not only for the times, but the information we now offer. Beyond our moneymaking ideas, we introduce a new section with pragmatic design solutions to help you stay on top of trends that will help sell more homes. Directed by noted home designer Larry Garnett, our new department, House Review, is loaded with practical design ideas. This month, Garnett puts forth several designs for infill sites.
The industry faces many obstacles in the coming months and years. We feel all of them will be overcome with the kind of ingenuity and effort that made this industry and this country great.