The new mantra of the retiring baby boomer has become “affordability.” In a conservative lending environment for retirement homes in Florida or Arizona, Northerners from states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois are choosing the low real estate taxes in Crossville, Tenn., the absence of a state income tax and the region’s moderate climate. Helping them with that choice is Zurich Homes, which specializes in European-style custom homes with high-end features in a moderate price range.
“We really see ourselves as a niche builder that is developing a product that caters to this 55-plus buyer,” President and owner Isaac Zuercher declares. “They tend to be more demanding and know what they want. They have a whole list of things they need us to try to accommodate when we sit down and design a home.”
Zurich Homes meets with customers at the beginning of the homebuilding process. “We work through that whole process in a collaborative manner,” Zuercher says. “We have about eight different floor plans that we’ve developed that really cater to our demographic. We also offer a completed original design through our on-staff architectural designers.”
New to Nashville
The company – whose homes are known for their French country-style architecture – has an architect/designer on staff who draws up all its plans, most of which are single-story structures with bonus rooms in place of basements. In-house project managers supervise approximately 40 subcontractors that build the company’s homes in Crossville, Tenn.; the master-planned retirement-style community of Fairfield Glade near Crossville; and Nashville, a market into which the company has just ventured in the past year.
Zuercher considers Zurich Homes’ competitive advantages to be its integration of the architectural design process, its finishes and its relationships with its subcontractors. “We’re known for building an upgraded level of finishes within the homes, as far as crown molding, exposed beam details and granite usually throughout the entire house,” Zuercher says. Additional features include high-end tile work, showers that are recessed into the floor for aging-in-place accessibility and all-brick or stone exteriors.
Zurich has an independent inspector perform blower door tests on each of its new homes to test their air infiltration. The company also has duct leak tests performed on the HVAC systems after installation. “Our average home scores on the Home Energy Rating System as at least 20 percent more efficient than something that is built to code,” Zuercher maintains.
The homes use heat pump hot water heaters, high-efficiency windows, blown cellulose insulation in all exterior walls and encapsulated vapor barriers in crawl spaces between the ground and the floors. “This enables us to run ductwork within a conditioned space under the house,” Zuercher points out. The homes also are wired for computer networks.
Zuercher and his father, Stan Zuercher – who is head of construction – founded Zurich Homes in 2005, and Zuercher emphasizes that all the company’s employees are responsible for its success. “I couldn’t do any of this without the effort of all the people on our team that work towards that common goal, which is taking care of our customer,” he emphasizes. “It’s about our traditional subcontractors, who are out there performing their trades and giving it their all every day for us. They are the guys who get it done.”