City Homes brings a youthful perspective to the Twin Cities homebuilding scene.
By Tim O’Connor, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
When it comes to managing clients, many companies have strict procedures and they will not deviate from those procedures regardless of their clients’ needs. They often have a set process for responding to a request or resolving a complaint. That might lead to a standard set of results, but it can often leave a client feeling empty about the experience.
Because it’s a newer homebuilder, City Homes doesn’t have those restrictions in place. It favors developing authentic rapport with its customers. “Client relationships and taking care of our clients are important to us,” Principal and General Manager Rebecca Remick says. “We want to be flexible and adapt to what our client needs and adjust our process around those needs. “
Understanding its clients on a personal level helps City Homes deliver better homes that fit their lifestyles and needs. “We try to get to know them, how they live, what’s important to them,” Project Director Katie Stenger says.
One of the company’s goals is to eliminate the stress and anxieties inherent in the year-long homebuilding process and replace it with excitement. “I think we are a younger company than some of these companies who have been around for multiple generations,” Remick says. “We offer a fresh approach and we have a lot of fun with our clients.”
City Homes started in 2009 when a group of contractors, designers and business developers came together to create affordable homes for the Twin Cities market. “We wanted to build a quality home that people could trust,” Remick says.
At the time, the recession and the subprime mortgage crisis had made land relatively cheap. City Homes’ first projects were in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood. It has since moved to Morningside, a nearby suburb with opportunity for infill developments that could be rented out until the company is ready to tear down and rebuild.
As its volume of projects increased, so did the quality and price points. In 2014, City Homes purchased a 3.2-acre estate with one home and developed it into a cul-de-sac, called Sidell Trail, with seven homes all valued at $1.8 million and above. The last of those homes was recently completed, signifying City Homes’ transition to a luxury and artisan homebuilder. Because of rising land, materials and labor costs, the company now mostly works in the $1 million and higher range.
City Homes’ reputation has grown alongside its workload. The company started out doing spec homes, but now that it’s recognized locally for its quality work, prospective homeowners are asking for ground-up building services. “We are now one of the top home builders in the area being sought after for someone’s custom home build project,” Remick states.
In designing its projects, City Homes does not have a staff of interior designers or architects. Instead, the company pairs its clients with designers it knows will match their budgets, personalities or styles.
The process has led to impressive results. City Homes houses are regularly featured on local artisan home tours and the Parade of Homes, and in 2017 it won a Reggie Award in the $1.2 million and above category from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. The award honors excellence in design and construction for entries in the Parade of Homes.
“We take into account each client’s style,” Remick says. One owner may prefer a modern home with clean lines while another finds comfort in the cottage style. City Homes has a pool of architects it regularly works with but when requested it will collaborate with firms chosen by its clients.
Designing for the Client
City Homes’ newest development is Edina Flats, a 19-unit project consisting of four buildings in Edina, Minn., a suburb southwest of Minneapolis. The development looks to replicate the neighborhood feel of the surrounding community with single-level units that will appeal to the aging population of baby boomers, many of whom are looking for homes that will that fit their changing lifestyle.
“Our target clientele is not ready to go into assisted living, but they want to make it easier and downsize and not have to take care of their 5,000-square-foot homes as empty nesters,” Remick says.
Apartments and condos with one floor are easier to maintain and move around in. “Single-level living is something we want to get involved with,” Remick explains. “People want to downsize. They want to eliminate the stairs. We feel this will be in high demand in the future.”
Delivering high-end luxury homes is going to become more difficult as the competitive real estate market makes land more expensive and therefore more unobtainable to fit within clients’ budgets. “People come to us and have a budget, and they have what they want built for that budget,” Remick says. “The challenge is finding a land price and total house project cost that will work for their budget.”
To solve that challenge, City Homes is working with local real estate agents to identify affordable potential plots in desirable neighborhoods. Its also getting more creative with the way it uses the space. Formal areas within the homes such as dining rooms are going away in favor of more functional spaces that are used every day. That allows City Homes to maximize the usability of its homes for its clients and makes a home build more obtainable, ending with a happy homeowner.
Sidebar —- Exceeding Expectations
“City Homes exceeded my expectations,” client John Tastad says. “There are always issues that arise when purchasing a newly constructed home. [Senior Construction Manager] Todd [Allen] was outstanding. He identified items during our walk through that I didn’t notice (small cracks, nail head in sheetrock) and fixed them. He also waited until after I was moved in so the painters could touch up any marks left from the movers. Lisa [Benning] in the office always responded quickly and followed up to make sure items were completed on time.”