Joseph Design Build
Joseph Design Build thrives by building homes better than its competitors.
By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
Homebuilders often let others design homes for them, missing an opportunity to connect the design to what the clientele really wants. Joseph Design Build prefers do it all on its own, from design to construction and even sales and marketing. “We’re extremely involved in the architecture,” Partner Gabe Joseph declares. “Every single detail is well thought through because no one knows our clients better than us.”
It has paid off for the Austin, Texas-Based company, which has quickly become one of the largest infill luxury home builders in Austin. “A huge driver in our ability to grow quickly is [our] focus on design,” he says. Thomas Joseph started the company three years ago with plans to grow aggressively. “We’ve been in development, real estate and construction our whole lives,” Gabe Joseph says, adding that his father and grandfather also were homebuilders.
Once the business began to come together Gabe partnered up with Thomas and things really took off. The brothers saw many expensive homes were being built in the marketplace but not at the level of quality that Joseph Design Build could provide. “What we were finding was the local speculative builders were unsophisticated in the design and quality of the homes they were delivering,” Gabe Joseph recalls.
Many of these builders try to cut finish costs to compensate for expensive land, which impacted the quality of the final product. “By not doing that, we’re able to thoughtfully increase the cost of construction but dramatically increase the finished quality,” he says.
Joseph Design Build has done this through such features as designer elevators, hidden rooms and award-winning interior design. The company also sets itself apart by offering affordable options through density, Joseph says. “Zoning allows us to put two homes on every lot,” he says. “That combined with simply a better product allowed us to grow very quickly while still offering homes at both the high end and entry level for these downtown neighborhoods. We went from two houses in our first year to a $50 million company,” he recalls, adding that he and his brother have built approximately 1,000 units in the past 12 years.
Joseph Design Build is seeing trends in what its clients are asking for in their homes, which includes the incorporation of natural light. “So [we use] a lot of glass,” Gabe Joseph says, but adds that customers also strongly value their privacy. This requires the homebuilders to put together “the puzzle pieces” so their homes feel open and well lit, but also not like their spaces are being invaded.
“It allows you to focus on big glass that you wouldn’t do in a more architecturally traditional house,” he says. Clients also are interested in high quality finishes and less square footage. “What we see is our clients are moving in from the outer suburbs, trading oversized Mcmansion-style homes for the restaurants and amenities close to downtown,” he says.
He notes that the city of Austin is a particularly hot market, which has made it hard to find labor. However, “The biggest challenge we face in Austin is the permitting process.” he admits. “The municipal involvement is very intense,” he continues, explaining that it can take six to nine months to obtain permits. “It’s a much slower process to work with this city than other jurisdictions.”
But he asserts that Joseph Design Build can cope with the challenge. “You’re always going to have to deal with cities,” he says. “I’d rather have an abundance of clients and have it take a little bit longer to build [their projects].”
Joseph Design Build makes sure it stays in touch with its customers. “We have a back-office staff that’s really highly dialed in and proactive in keeping everybody informed and moving on the same track,” Gabe Joseph says.
The company strongly values the experience that it provides to its clients. “The two ways you do that is by having a better product, and keeping communication open and consistent with the client throughout the process,” he says.
Joseph Design Build also is very open to collaboration during a project, rather than resisting them. “We’re pretty open about letting people evolve the plan to get the best version of what they’re trying to accomplish with the home,” he says.
Joseph is proud of his company and its ability to produce something better than its competitors. “There are a lot of interesting materials you can put in a project, but producing a home that projects a higher quality than the sum of those parts is what interests me the most,” he says. “Clients come into our open houses and say, ‘This looks so better than the other three homes we saw today;’ that’s what we are striving for.” One way the company achieves this is through by promoting culture focused on quality.
Not only do the Joseph brothers visit project sites on a daily basis, but “the guys in the field know what we expect,” Gabe Joseph says. “We’ve really got a sense of what is and what is not a high level of finish quality and detail.” He sees more growth ahead for Joseph Design Build. “We’re picking up new clients all the time,” he says, adding that the company plans to stay in Austin as it extends into other categories, including commercial projects.
“I think that there’s an opportunity to branch out into that in the Austin area,” he says, but notes that the company wants to keep its work small while executing it well. “I think you can do 50 homes a year and not lose a step in terms of the finished product.” Joseph Design Build also plans to expand on the design side and hire more architects. “We’re doing a lot of it, having fun with it and we’re getting a lot of requests for it,” he says.