Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes
Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes ensures customer loyalty and happiness in a number of ways. By Jim Harris
It’s not uncommon for Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes’ owners and staff to be thanked for the work they do for their clients, even years after they have completed a home.
“I’m most proud of our repeated success with our clients – they write us very complimentary letters,” says Steve Zbranek, a partner in the Austin, Texas-based luxury custom homebuilding company. “Our team has the ability to make our clients happy over and over again and deliver outstanding custom homes for them.”
The company builds between six and 10 homes a year ranging in price from $1.5 million to $7 million on client-owned properties in the Austin Hill Country region. Zbranek & Holt’s clients include relocating families, high-end second home clients, local real estate agent referrals and others that learn about their services via the Internet.
Zbranek & Holt has earned accolades from not only its clients, but also its peers in the industry and local publications. The Austin Business Journal named the company Custom Builder of the Year for 2011, 2013 and 2015. The builder was also recognized twice as the National Master Builder of the Year as well as a Best in American Living Award winner and the Texas Custom Home Builder of the Year.
All of Zbranek & Holt’s clients are connected to the homebuilding process from the earliest stages. “We provide our customers with preliminary drawings so they can see how their home will look and fit on their lot before they spend any money,” Zbranek notes the company works with local architects and design firms to create these plans. “This gives our clients an opportunity to see what the final product will look like.”
Approximately 90 percent of the clients who receive preliminary drawings sign a contract to build their new home with Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes. Once a project begins, the company keeps its clients apprised of progress using their on-line project management system. “We tell customers that they can build a house with us on literally on their smartphone,” he adds.
The exteriors of the homes built by Zbranek & Holt vary from the traditional Mediterranean stone look to more modern architecture including glass and stucco motifs. Regardless of the exterior of the home, the company’s clients typically request large open areas rather than traditional living rooms or dining rooms. Commonly requested materials such as solid-surface stone and tile floors have become more commonly requested than wood flooring, Zbranek says.
Energy efficient, or green, building materials and features are also part of the Zbranek & Holt program. The company is an ENERGY STAR builder and has three Certified Green Professional builders and one Master Green Builder on staff. “We can build a home as green as our customers want,” Zbranek notes.
Zbranek started his homebuilding career in 1979, after a seven-year stint in the U.S. Air Force. He earned an Air Force Commendation Medal as well as an Air Force Meritorious Service Medal for his service.
For the first four years of Zbranek’s professional career, he worked as a superintendent and was promoted to executive vice president of the San Antonio division for US Home Corporation Corp. At the time, US Home was the country’s largest homebuilder; it was acquired by Lennar Homes in 2000.
Zbranek credits his experience at US Home Corporation Corp. with giving him the foundation he needed to start a custom homebuilding company in San Antonio in 1985. “People enter our business a number of ways, including through the trades or their family. For me, it was through US Homes’ accelerated homebuilding management program,” he says. “Being with a publically traded company for four years taught me the business side of homebuilding, and I credit those early years with the success of my subsequent 31 years in business. We have never filed for bankruptcy protection, and today our company doesn’t carry any debt.”
In San Antonio, Zbranek’s company built 35 to 40 homes a year between $450,000 and $1 million. His company was approved by the Veterans Administration to receive service grants to build and renovate new homes for disabled veterans. “This was very rewarding work and we were honored to help these families create homes that worked for them.”
In 2001 Zbranek moved from San Antonio to Austin and in 2002 founded Zbranek Custom Homes. The builder gained not only a new address but also a different business model as Zbranek reduced his production to six to 10 homes a year targeting the luxury market.
In 2008, Zbranek sold 50 percent ownership of the company to partner Tony Holt, a former executive with Dell Computer Corporation. “Tony brings a management style typically not seen in homebuilding companies,” Zbranek says. “We are a good match.”
In addition to the company owners, the Zbranek & Holt team includes three project managers each having more than 30 years of homebuilding experience. One has a home building degree from Trinity University while the other two are Certified Graduate Master Builders by the National Association of Homebuilders.
Zbranek attributes the longevity of the company’s team to its family oriented culture. “We have fun with what we do, and with zero debt there is not much stress here,” he adds. “We enjoy getting up every day and building great homes for really great people.”