sees silver lining in home building market
May 12, 2007
Not since the early 1980s, when the new home industry was mired
in recession, has there been so much glum talk among developers
and home builders.
layoffs, declining construction employment and the sale of excess
land reflect a drop in home sales blamed by some industry economists
on sub-prime mortgages, swollen inventories and a potential buyer
market thinned by the historically high sales volumes of recent
are those who view a somewhat better picture.
sales would benefit from less negative screaming," said Christopher
F. Coleman, founder and president of The Dearborn-Buckingham Group
based in Northfield. "Not every year can be a record year for
sales, and this 'Chicken Little' philosophy becomes a self-fulfilling
is a successful niche custom builder currently focused on developing
186 upscale townhouses on in-fill residential sites in Lombard,
Des Plaines and Mundelein.
40 closings in 2006, and we'll do the same or better for 2007,"
he said. "Our target is sustaining a volume of 40 to 60 units
a year, and we consistently meet it."
He cited the
presence of national public companies, under pressure to perform,
as partially responsible for some of the industry's current problems
in suburban Chicago, which historically was dominated by independent
been in recent years that national firms became a significant factor
here," Coleman said. "Public companies must build 'spec'
homes to meet their numbers, while most private firms build a home
when a contract is signed."
dwarfed by housing giants, the independent entrepreneurial developer
can still make an impact in the Chicago market by building smaller,
more intimate in-fill communities," he said.
Group is an example of a small niche operation that succeeds despite
on in-fill townhouses because of a pent-up demand in select locations.
Large companies are only now looking for such sites," Coleman
said. "It's hard for them to make it economically feasible
to develop small properties. It's profitable for a small company
like ours because we're geared to smaller volumes."
is specializing in luxury townhouses geared to professionals, singles,
couples and what he calls the "newly empty-nester."
are relatively young people whose kids just got married or the youngest
is off to college," he said. "They are working and active,
but they want to down-size with something maintenance-free."
in Lombard offers 34 townhouses base priced from $362,900 to $413,900.
plans range from 1,730 to 1,750 square-feet with two to four bedrooms,
a convertible loft, 2½ baths, central air conditioning and
an attached two-car garage.
A full 9-foot
deep basement is available in either standard or look-out configuration,
depending on the home site. When finished as additional living space,
the basement can increase the townhouse living area to about 2,400
offer a finished basement option that includes a bedroom, a full
bath and a rec room," Coleman said. "One plan's flexibility
interchanges the downstairs family room and the second floor master
model unit showcases a selection of optional features.
is at Pleasant Lane and Old Route 53, a half mile south of North
Avenue and east of Interstate 355.
are under way on Touhy Avenue, between River and Mannheim Roads,
in Des Plaines. All but seven of 44 townhouses, priced from the
$390,000s, are sold at Buckingham Pointe. Sales will begin this
summer for the adjacent Buckingham Courte, where 18 new townhouses
will be priced from the $420,000s.
in June for 90 rowhouse-style townhouses priced from tehe $270,000s
at Belden Place, Allanson Road, a half mile west of Butterfield
Road, in Mundelein.
site will have extensive ponds and water features at the monument
entrance," he said.
plans will range from 1,800 to 2,000 square-feet with to four bedrooms
and 1½ to 3½ baths. A rear deck will overlook a motor
court, which avoids the "alley look" with a landscaped
"I am upbeat
about the market, the year, and our position," Coleman said.
"The key to our success is the stability and consistency provided
by our small, close-knit staff and the fiscal restraint which controls
is rooted in a realistic assessment.
inflation is in check, interest rates are stable, the Dow is up
and the Chicago economy is strong," he said. "If you're
providing a good value, are sensitive to the buyer and appeal to
his lifestyle, you will sell."
earned his bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1989,
a year after he had joined The Zale Group, suburban builders and
developers, as a marketing analyst. He advanced to director of marketing
before leaving in 1991 to become division sales and marketing manager
for an Orlando, Fla., home builder.
He moved again
in 1994 when he joined John Wieland Homes in Atlanta as regional
sales and marketing manager. In 1996 he married his college sweetheart,
Suzanne, also a Northwestern graduate. The couple returned to Chicago,
where Coleman made the decision in 1997 to start his own company
and began to build single-family custom homes on in-fill sites.