From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up Honoring the Construction Ecosystem

By Jay Gonzales

To count the multitude of vendors, contractors, suppliers, financers and administrative and regulatory functions involved in building a home or a commercial building is almost an exercise in futility.

From where it starts with the land acquisition and preparation, to where it finishes when an owner is handed the keys, construction of a home or building is its own ecosystem.

“It’s a big process even at the least expensive level of housing,” said Jeff Grobstein, region president for  Meritage Homes, one of the national builders in the region. As the developer, Meritage is the general contractor on its projects and therefore organizes and manages all its construction.

“The number of hands that touch a home during the process is almost unbelievable,” Grobstein said. “The number kind of blows you away. There are so many hands, so many touch points in every single phase.”

Jeremy Sharpe, president of Sharpe & Associates, the developer of  Rancho Sahuarita south of Tucson, compares a developer to a quarterback executing a game plan with critical calls from the very start.

“With the master-planned community, the developer acts as a quarterback,” he said. “They’re coordinating infrastructure. They’re working with the public sector within the realms of their entitlements. They’re coordinating the water, sewer, road infrastructure.”

Then comes construction, which is where a builder like Meritage Homes comes in with subcontractors, material suppliers and, critically, labor – a component of the process that has been in short supply, particularly since the COVID pandemic.

“There’s been a gap in vocational training,” Grobstein said. “To attract people to come in and do that work, even if they’re non-skilled, and then hope that they stick with it, has caused costs to go up quite a bit.”

It all ties to keeping the construction process moving by coordinating the materials, making sure labor is available, so that the precise timing of everything makes construction as efficient as possible because lost time is lost money.

Stephanie Peacock, a general contractor for Eren Design and Remodel, said timing is everything. With about 20 subcontractors involved in her projects, she said if the timing is thrown off by weather, late completion of a phase of a project, even an illness by a subcontractor, everyone is affected.

“You’re constantly kind of juggling,” Peacock said, noting that about half the projects have some kind of timing issue. But eventually, there’s a reward.

“Honestly, our clients are pretty phenomenal people,” she said, adding that the satisfaction in a project comes from “just helping them with something that they can’t do themselves.”

Aside from the physical construction are the financing, accounting and inspections that add to the ecosystem. Title companies handle the paperwork and coordinate all the processes that need to be assembled to legally turn a property over to the buyer.

Most buyers finance their homes and work with a lender like NOVA Home Loans or one of hundreds of others that are in any market.

Tom Heath, VP and senior loan officer at NOVA, uses another football analogy to describe where financing fits in the ecosystem. There are so many parts to financing, he said, a mortgage company has to make sure the players are in the right positions to avoid game-changing mistakes, especially when timing is critical.

“You can have a really talented wide receiver, but if you put them on the offensive line, they’re not going to do very well,” Heath said. “If you’ve got the right people in the right positions then it should go pretty smoothly. From a consumer standpoint, it should almost be uneventful.”

Chris Edwards, owner of Tucson Appliance, enters another part of the ecosystem, more often in the middle of the process if a new-home buyer wants to upgrade the appliances provided by a builder or if an existing homeowner wants new ones.

“Appliances are an important part of the entire house,” Edwards said. “Some people actually build around the kitchen. The cabinets and the aesthetics of it are very important to them.”

Even in his relatively small part of the process, Edwards said he’s well aware of the massive coordination it takes to complete a construction project.

“It’s a collaborative timing issue,” Edwards said. “They have to do the floor, then they have to do the cabinets and then they can do the plumbing. Then they put in the appliances. The way the architects have these planned out is just like clockwork. It’s amazing the way they put them together.”

For ticket information on “The Power of Real Estate Summit” on April 19, 2024 at the Tucson Convention Center, please click the link below:


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