The founder of View Homes talks about market-specific branding and expanding while staying one step ahead of big competition
There’s a marketing adage that says consistency is the key ingredient for successful branding. But branding isn’t merely a name, a logo, and select colors. For Randy O’Leary, it has involved aligning the View Homes brands with a mission to build houses for entry-level and move-up buyers and to deliver a dependable experience to customers.
O’Leary started by launching Desert View Homes, in El Paso, Texas, in 1990, and that brand expanded to nearby Las Cruces, N.M., in 2000. But rather than use the same name in southern Colorado, he entered that market in 2006 under the banner of Aspen View Homes, based in Colorado Springs. Last year O’Leary planted flags in northern Colorado, near Fort Collins, and in San Antonio under a third name, Horizon View Homes.
While the names differed, the reputation and execution remained consistent, as evidenced by such accolades as a Better Business Bureau Torch Award for ethics and business practices, by being a two-time winner of the Avid Customer Service Award, and by being named the first recipient of the National Housing Endowment Builder Achievement Award for outstanding community service. View Homes closed 1,060 homes and generated $273.5 million last year, coming in at No. 61 on Professional Builder’s 2018 Housing Giants rankings.
Q: What was the thinking behind branding the divisions as Desert, Horizon, and Aspen rather than expanding under one banner?
A: We recognized early on that each market is unique and there really is no one-size-fits-all product or strategy. Each of our markets has its own unique opportunities, product, and challenges, so it made sense for us to differentiate ourselves and our product to be market-specific. View Homes is a metaphor for seeing a long-term view; so taking this vision to each market and following that “view” has been a catalyst for our success. Desert View, Horizon View, and Aspen View directly relate to the locations where we build. It just makes sense.
Q: What were the criteria for picking the markets you expanded into, and how are the divisions there organized so they still deliver the brand attributes of View Homes?
A: Our View Homes mission is to serve our customers one family and one home at a time. Before we enter into a market, we determine if there is a niche for us with the underserved price point for first-time and first-time move-up buyers. Preserving our values and mission in each division allows us the ability to differentiate ourselves from other builders in each marketplace. We made it our mission to offer more of what customers are really looking for without charging them extra to get the most sought-after products. Whether it’s the home for a target monthly payment or a home with the most included features at a certain price point, we can deliver.
Q: What did you look for with these expansions to avoid direct competition with the large publics?
A: Initially, our business model provided for our communities to be outside the major market in “A” locations but not directly competing with the big boys. This gave us a big savings on land and, consequently, home prices below the major communities. Each market we build in today provides us with an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from the big boys and to offer something a little more than our buyers can get next door or right across the street.
Today, in some of our markets, we are in master planned developments and have a model right next door to a much larger builder. Although it can be intimidating, it’s turned out to be an advantage for View Homes. We can design the product and the price point and include features that make the most sense for that neighborhood. As a private company, we only have our customers and ourselves to answer to, so we can make quick decisions on product, offerings, and developments without having to worry how Wall Street would react. For us, it makes doing the right thing easy.
Q: With affordability in many metro markets harder to come by, are you finding it harder or easier to find/attract buyers who are willing to drive farther from city centers to find affordable homes?
A: We have intentionally focused a portion of our business to be outside of the major metros, but still in proximity to where people want to live. Most large metros have abandoned affordable housing due to land costs, labor, materials, financing costs, and inflation. Median home prices have crept far above the “affordable” range for first-time buyers, and even some first-time move up home buyers. View Homes made the decision early on not to abandon our target buyers and to focus on ways to continue to offer more home and more options at an affordable price, regardless of the product line or price point.
We recognize that buyers will make compromises to get more of what they want for a price that they are willing to pay, and our business model allows our buyers to do just that. Affordability at all price ranges does not mean that you must sacrifice basic design, high demand included features, or quality construction.
Q: How have you dealt with tight labor availability?
A: We have been blessed to have developed strong, long-term partnerships with our suppliers and vendors. Some of our trade partners have been with us for decades. We have learned that open lines of communication on innovation, products, application processes, and scheduling make View Homes a great partner. We seek out and attract vendors because we make sure to honor our relationships and to pay fairly and on time.
Q: What’s next for the View Homes brands?
A: We recently introduced a companywide Innovation initiative that is our ongoing challenge to change the home building industry and be an innovative leader in the process. We have introduced smart home technology into our homes but are also finding new and innovative ways to improve our home building processes, as well as the purchasing process for our buyers. Innovation can be seen in not just new technology, but in improving processes, reducing cycle times, increasing predictability. This ensures we can stay competitive, keep our costs under control, deliver a better product, and ultimately better serve our buyers for years to come.