Buffalo Bungalow’s co-owners are always available to their custom home clients.
By Jim Harris, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
Buffalo Bungalow’s owners do not keep standard business hours. “Most of our business is done after hours,” says Derek Sullivan, who co-owns the homebuilding and development company with his wife, Laura Sullivan.
The Sullivans keep in regular contact with their clients at all times of the day via text message, e-mail, on phone or in person. “We’re available when our clients are,” he adds.
The Buffalo, N.Y., custom builder and developer typically builds three to 10 homes a year averaging in price from $350,000 to $500,000. Since the company is not volume-driven and solely managed by the Sullivans, it can directly offer planning, building, design and finish services to clients. “We often become friends with the people we build for,” Laura Sullivan says. “That’s how involved we are in the process.”
The couple share common interests and backgrounds with many of its clients, who are mainly millennials and generation Xers between the ages of 25 to 45 who are interested in buying their second or third homes. “We’re the same demographic as our customers, so we’re relatable to them and understand the styles and trends in the market right now,” Derek Sullivan says.
Knowing what its clients want in a new home has earned the Sullivans’ company recognition in the industry, including winning a Building Service of the Year award from Houzz.com three years in a row. “I’m not just some guy at a desk; I’m there for our clients,” he adds.
Simple Yet Modern
The Sullivans started Buffalo Bungalow in 2009, but had been involved in home construction since 1995. In 2001, the couple started a company that specializes in placing structural concrete footers for new homes. This experience makes them highly relatable to the company’s core base of roughly 21 subcontractors.
“I’ve worked with 70 percent of our subcontractors since day one, which is unheard of, and a testament to how we run this business,” Derek Sullivan says. “I’m a subcontractor, too, so I know what our painters, for example, are going through. This creates a different dynamic than the lion’s share of other builders out there.”
Buffalo Bungalow and its project partners recently applied their knowledge and experience to the first of what the company expects to be several homes in the modern farmhouse style. The company is known for building homes heavily influenced by the craftsman style of architecture, but it branched out with the Farmhouse, located in East Aurora, N.Y. “The modern farmhouse and craftsman styles are very sleek, nice and simple,” he adds. “These are not styles that will be a fad.”
Completed in December 2017, the two-story modern Farmhouse features a white and black exterior with board and batten siding as well as dry stacked stone and all glass garage overhead doors. The home’s interior features an open-floor plan with a design that fuses modern industrial and antique styles using materials such as shiplap and reclaimed wood. A centerpiece feature of the home is a two-story-tall corrugated steel fireplace, Laura Sullivan says.
Buffalo Bungalow next year will build at least two more new modern farmhouse-style designed homes. “No one else in our neighborhood is building homes like this,” he adds. “The traction we’ve gained from doing the one farmhouse has been unbelievable; we’re really rolling into 2018 with [the style].”
Center of the Action
In addition to their custom home projects, the Sullivans next year will begin work on their first multifamily development in Buffalo. The city in recent years has seen a resurgence the likes of which it hasn’t encountered since the 1950s.
Laura Sullivan recently started another company, Anchor Property Development, to pursue urban projects. “We are from Buffalo originally, and want to be a part of what’s going on there,” she says.
The Sullivans own several properties in downtown Buffalo known as Larkinville where it plans to build a three-story building with two 1,400-square-foot loft apartments and retail on its first floor. Demolition of an existing property on another Larkinville area site concluded in December, and construction of the new building is planned to begin in the spring.
“We will be recreating the building that was demolished, which stood there for nearly 100 years but was too dilapidated to be saved,” Derek Sullivan says.
The new building will include materials such as recycled brick, black awnings, gooseneck exterior lighting and subway tile. “When we’re done, this building will look like it’s been there 100 years, but will have the feeling of a new building,” he adds.
The Sullivans in 2018 also will continue to pursue side projects including outdoor kitchens and small storefronts such as a learning center project it completed in 2017. “If it’s a fun and cool project, we’ll do it,” Derek Sullivan says. “We’re not money driven, so if a project is not fun for us, we’ll pass.”