No home is an island, Paul Estridge believes. It is part of a neighborhood. He builds every house with that in mind.
His residential development and construction firm, Estridge Homes, creates whole neighborhoods of single-family homes in central Indiana – and there’s nothing cookie-cutter or crammed about them.
“Everything begins with the neighborhood,” Estridge says. “Our goal is to create an environment, a lifestyle, a community.” And an old-fashioned sense of town.
“We’re moving back to a pre-World War II architectural style – big front porches and steep gables – with extra trim on the outside,” Estridge says. “All sides of the house get equal attention, but especially the back, where we are emphasizing outdoor living.”
The homebuilder, based in Carmel, Ind., makes sure each of its neighborhoods has substantial landscaping, green spaces and public areas. And Estridge has noticed a strong trend toward smaller, cozier homes.
“I think there has been a reset in psyches that people don’t need that much space,” he says. “Our homes are rich in features and finishes, as opposed to just being big.”
The smaller home trend is being partially driven by empty nesters looking to downsize and simplify – although they’re still reluctant to get rid of all their stuff, so ample storage space is important. Estridge Homes has had to keep this in mind as it designs homes for this particular type of customer.
Estridge’s latest neighborhood development, in Westfield, Ind., a northern suburb of Indianapolis, is called Harmony. The community has a mix of home sizes and styles, appealing to homeowners of all ages.
“This is an intergenerational community,” Estridge says. “We’re seeing a large movement of parents to the same vicinity as their adult children who have their own children, and that non-homogeny is reflected in the homes in Harmony. No matter where a person is in life, we have the right home for them.”
The homebuilder recently broke ground on Harmony, which will include 800 homes when it is finished in an expected five to seven years.
Harmony is not the only neighborhood on which Estridge is currently working. The firm has about 25 homes under construction in various neighborhoods in the Indianapolis area, including Brookside, Oak Manor and Bridgewater in Westfield and Anderson Hall in Fishers, Ind.
Estridge plans to close on a total of 50 homes this year, and in the next five years grow to about 250 homes annually. That’s just more than half the number of homes the company built in its best year before the recession. However, Estridge deliberately plans to stay smaller because he’s on the second incarnation of his company.
Estridge has built 45 neighborhoods and more than 8,000 homes since joining his father’s custom homebuilding company in 1982 and then starting his own company, The Estridge Group a year later. After buying his father’s company, The Estridge Group, Estridge Custom Homes and Paul E. Estridge Homes did exceptionally well, especially in the 2000’s. But after the real-estate bubble burst – and Estridge’s bank was purchased by another bank that terminated construction lending – the homebuilder went out of business in 2011.
Estridge restarted his company in 2013, but this time capitalized it with funding from a diverse combination of equity partners and community banks.
The company was refreshed by more than financing, though. “When you’re using legacy systems and operations like we were, you get used to doing business the same old way,” he says. “After restructuring, we rebooted all of our ways of thinking about operations, the back office and technology.”
The company adopted a communications system that interconnects all suppliers and vendors, builders and salespeople, which allows everyone to receive real-time information about each home as it changes, including job schedules, purchase orders and customer selections.
“This system makes us so efficient that customers can really customize their homes any way they want,” Estridge says, “while our competitors are more restrictive in what they can do in order to stay efficient and profitable.”