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Why Buffalo Bungalow Offers Boutique Service


Buffalo Bungalow’s latest projects include Knox Road, a two-story, three-bedroom home in East Aurora, N.Y.

There are homebuilding companies that put buffers between themselves and their customers, and then there is Buffalo Bungalow, which does the complete opposite. When it builds a project, “People deal with us directly,” Principal Owner Laura Sullivan says. “It becomes like family for the whole time we’re building their house.”

This best practice has helped the builder earn a strong base of repeat clients. “We’re always there to support them and help them with their decisions,” she says. “There’s nobody else in between us.”

Sullivan shares ownership in the Elma, N.Y.-based company with her husband, Principal Owner Derek Sullivan. Buffalo Bungalow specializes in homes for the residents of Buffalo, N.Y., and its surrounding areas.

But the company also has set itself apart in the market by taking the role of a “boutique builder” that is not driven by volume. Each year, Buffalo Bungalow will build a limited number of homes and projects that require its customers to book their projects up to a year in advance.

“We’re also very custom,” Derek Sullivan adds. “They can go anywhere they want for materials as long as it’s quality stuff to truly make their home their own.”

Pushing the Envelope

Buffalo Bungalow’s latest projects include Knox Road, a two story, three-bedroom home in East Aurora, N.Y. 

But the home represented a new step forward for the company. Unlike its other projects, Buffalo Bungalow decided to build the home in the minimalist Scandinavian-style, which other builders have avoided. “We wanted to push the envelope and really just separate ourselves from the pack,” he explains.

According to Laura Sullivan, this required the company to incorporate dark colors, such as black and gray, and a clean and minimal design that reduced the number of features one would find in an average home, such as kitchen cabinets. But Knox Road also added elements such as floating walnut stairs with a modern cable rail.

“It is quite the feat to get those designed and manufactured,” Derek Sullivan says. The home has earned acclaim for Buffalo Bungalow, as well as the interest of homebuyers, he adds.

“People have been wanting to do this, but didn’t have a model to reference,” Sullivan explains. “The dark grays and black are not typical on a house. It’s a daunting task to convince our clients to put those on a residence.”

Despite the challenge, Buffalo Bungalow expects to do many more homes in the same style. According to Sullivan, they are ideal for the company’s core customer base, which includes young professionals and homebuyers between the ages of 30 and 50. “They want that really cool, modern home in the city nowadays as well, so that’s what we’re going to start doing,” he says.

The minimalist style also gives Buffalo Bungalow the chance to provide its clients with more value. “It’s not necessarily a cheaper home to build, but it gives us the opportunity to not over-spend on silly stuff,” Sullivan explains. “We can give you a bigger bang for your buck.” Hence, its new vision of bringing these designs to the downtown area of Buffalo.

The homes also are a good fit for narrow development spaces, which are common all over the city Buffalo. “There’s no land, unless it’s an old, skinny leftover lot,” Sullivan says. 

“Doing these narrow city lots are a daunting task for some builders,” he acknowledges. “But we’ve done it and it’s going to be our new wheelhouse going forward.”

Strong Strategies

Buffalo Bungalow sets itself apart with other unconventional practices, including ignoring the work of its competitors. “I don’t know what the other guys are doing and I don’t care,” Derek Sullivan declares. “We just do our own thing.

“When Laura comes up with an idea, we’ll vet it out,” he continues, noting that this fits the company, which builds less than some competitors that build up to 80 homes per year. “I don’t know what the other guys are doing unless I happen to drive by one of their projects.”

The Sullivans, who previously worked many years as subcontractors, also maintain a constant presence on their jobsites. “We are there every day,” Derek Sullivan says, noting that its vendors appreciate their respect and expertise.

“It yields a better product,” he continues, adding that he and his wife have developed close relationships with subcontractors. “I call them ‘our friends.’”

Buffalo Bungalow also keeps costs low by forgoing a typical marketing campaign. Instead of investing in billboard advertisements and other marketing ads, Buffalo Bungalow has relied on the strong word-of-mouth from customers to spread the word. “We have great customer reviews,” Sullivan says. “It’s a boutique approach in service and it’s really paid off.”

Sullivan sees a strong future ahead for Buffalo Bungalow. But the homebuilder does not have its eye on growth. Instead, “We want to keep Buffalo streamlined,” he says. “We’re going to keep it small in quantity right now.”

Currently, Buffalo Bungalow has 11 projects on its slate and only plans to add four more before the end of the year as it brings the minimalist style further downtown. “It’s an untapped thing that they want down there,” Sullivan says.

“What’s going to help us is having this unique product that no one else is doing,” he continues. “We’re the black sheep of this industry. We’re going to keep it like that and it’s going to work out.”

Sullivan and his wife also have started introducing their children to the business, in the hopes of developing a future succession plan. “We’re hoping [one of them] will take an interest and keep this going,” he concludes.