Since 2008, the National Association of Home Builders has been conducting an annual census of its members, gathering both company and demographic data, including how many and what type of homes they build, their annual revenue, how much education they have, and how old they are. Some of these metrics fluctuate more than others, but one stays pretty much the same: age. The latest survey, taken at the end of 2017, shows 57 as the median age of all NAHB builder members; for the two years prior, it was 56. Surprisingly, there were fewer builders between the ages of 25 and 44 (19 percent) than there were members age 65 or older (21 percent).
Granted, this wasn’t a survey of all of the country’s builders; it was only builders who are NAHB members, and those members may well skew older than the total builder population. But, with more than 37,000 builder members, the association’s roster represents a decent sampling of the total.
I mention this survey as a prelude to the several articles in this month’s issue that address the subject of young people in home building. Two of them involve the industry’s ongoing efforts to tackle the labor shortage. Both this month’s column from the NAHB and our Executive Corner interview with Ed Brady, CEO of the Home Builders Institute, detail those organizations’ focus on bringing new recruits into home building, casting a wide net, with training available down to the high school level.
The other article, our annual Forty Under 40 awards story, reveals the incredible strengths younger housing industry professionals possess. It serves to remind us that although there aren’t as many (relatively) young people in the home building sphere as we’d like, a number of them are chalking up some amazing accomplishments.
Each year we receive a flood of nominations for the Under 40 class; almost all of the nominees could be judged winners, and it’s difficult to winnow down the group to 40. Equally difficult is deciding which of the winners’ successes to list in their brief profiles. Many of those in the 2019 class, while still in their 20s and 30s, have already had such illustrious careers that we can’t fit their major achievements in the article’s allotted space.
Take Matt Riley, for example (bottom row, farthest right in the photo collage, above). Here is a synopsis of his career, a story unto itself: Matt began working at a Top 30 builder in on-site sales and was consistently ranked top salesperson across all markets. He moved into sales management and was responsible for 25 percent of all annual sales.
In 2009, he switched gears and companies, diving into the role of overseeing sales and marketing. By 2010, he started working to replace traditional marketing at the firm with digital counterparts, turning the builder’s website into a new version of a model home and creating the first of several online sales teams, which resulted in more than a 75 percent increase in sales between 2012 and 2017.
Upon moving into the Raleigh, NC, market in 2012, Matt created one of the industry’s first all-digital sales centers, using touch-screen technology and web-based apps to deliver one-of-a-kind floor plans that customers could create and update in real time. The platform also connected to the CRM, to increase buyer capture rates and reduce costs due to its paperless system. Next, he took to market one of the industry’s first smart home experiences as a standard feature across all homes and price points.
Currently, Matt is on to the next step in his career—as a consultant to builders on technology and online digital sales and marketing—work that is the main focus of his section in this month’s Forty Under 40 article.
Many of the other Under 40 awardees have similarly notable backstories. And while we may continue to struggle for a long time to get the large number of new workers we need, we can rest assured that the future of the industry is in good hands.