As the third-largest Arizona-based homebuilder, Miramonte Homes of Tucson, Ariz., has remained committed to building distinctive, quality communities throughout southern Arizona since 1993. Co-owners Chris Kemmerly and Steve Quinlan – who share the title of CEO – bring more than 50 years of real estate experience to the building process and have been honored with multiple awards for quality and design.
Kemmerly, a third-generation homebuilder and graduate of the University of Arizona, began his career in real estate working for a prominent homebuilder in Chicago. He returned to Tucson in 1992 to start his own business and quickly gained a reputation for creating first-rate custom-built homes. The company received the Custom Builder of the Year award in 1995 and again in 2001, as well as the Best in American Living Award from the National Home Builders for its work on single-family homes.
In 2004, Kemmerly sold Miramonte to Standard Pacific Homes, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders. He ran the corporation’s Tucson office for almost three years before he ventured out on his own again. Quinlan – who has been involved in the Southwest real estate industry for more than 30 years – had been an original partner/investor in Miramonte Homes and an equity partner in various Kemmerly projects since the mid-1990s. In 2008, Quinlan and Kemmerly collaborated to repurchase Miramonte Homes from Standard Pacific. They assumed day-to-day management of the company in 2009.
Through the years, Miramonte Homes’ portfolio has grown to include a mixture of high-density, multifamily and urban communities, as well as high-end custom homes and commercial real estate. Miramonte also manages land development for its own communities as well as for large, national homebuilders. Recently, the company became involved in rental projects and is in the process of building a series of luxury town homes. Its diverse capabilities enable Miramonte to succeed despite market fluctuations, Quinlan says.
“Arizona is a challenging market,” he admits. “We are competing against foreclosure properties right now, so pricing is absolutely critical. We are able to pick up some smaller subdivision lots that are bank owned. The benefit is that they are probably too small for most of the nationals to look at, and there are just a few other privately held, smaller builders that are still in business, so there hasn’t been much competition on those lots. We’ve also developed good banking relationships over the years.”
Most of its direct competitors, on the other hand, face overvalued land and the inability to gain credit lines from banks to complete construction. However, Miramonte Homes’ unique building strategy has worked in its favor despite the difficult economy.
“Building a number of units simultaneously keeps the construction side of homebuilding really busy, and the busier it is, the more efficient it is, and the more efficient it is, the more cost-effective it is,” Quinlan explains.
“Our relationship with our trade partners is of utmost importance to us,” he continues. “We have worked with many of them for a number of years and have a tremendous respect for the role they play within our company. We search out and foster relationships with those trade contractors who are recognized for their superior construction practices and outstanding customer service. We believe that our success is directly linked to the strength of our relationship with our trade partners and often look to them for their expertise in value-engineering and product development feedback.”
Miramonte Homes prides itself on its craftsmanship and attention to detail, Quinlan adds. The company’s use of contemporary indigenous architecture is not only a trademark, but also a celebration of the Southwest’s culture and heritage. The company’s key partners include DC Concrete Company and Koedyker and Kenyon Construction.
The executives at Miramonte Homes saw the writing on the wall 12 months before the housing market collapsed. “By mid-2007, it was pretty obvious what was going on,” Quinlan says. “We thought by now the market would have shifted back and so we performed our business plan with that expectation. The good news is that it’s actually cheaper to buy a house in Arizona than rent a house, so the interest rates make it attractive, but buyers are nervous and there seems to be no urgency on their part to look at buying today.
“New construction can only compete with the foreclosure market for so long,” he notes. “At some point, excess inventory for foreclosed properties will be swept up by the market, and once that happens, we will return to a more stabilized market. This tends to vary within the southern Arizona market. There are some areas of Tucson that are experiencing tougher times compared to other areas, so it is very much a localized submarket phenomenon.”
Fortunately, he says, Miramonte Homes is organized to make quick decisions on the local level. “We actually have four former division presidents from publicly traded national homebuilders that work for us, so we have lots of talent and very experienced individuals,” Quinlan adds. “It’s a great group of people, and I think that’s what makes all organizations strong and successful.”