How a Successful Custom Home Builder Added Production Building to Her Business through an Unlikely Source…Franchising
Kim Kreidler has nearly sold out two communities in Lafayette and West Lafayette, Indiana, with plans for several more
Kim Kreidler was already a successful custom home builder before she decided to become an Epcon Franchise Builder. The Indiana home builder learned the construction industry while flipping houses in the 1980s, then by working as a real estate agent alongside a builder.
“I learned how not to build,” she says of her early days observing others as they led construction projects. She felt that many home builders didn’t put enough thought into the lifestyle impact of design choices, nor did they provide customer service to ensure that homeowners were happy with their finished homes.
When she started her own construction company, she knew it would be different. She started Kalan Homes LLC in 1999 to design custom homes and deliver a better experience for buyers. Her hallmarks were attention to detail and thoughtful design — “things as simple as putting the linen closet near the bathroom, which is something a lot of male builders don’t even consider, but which is a big deal for women,” she says.
Becoming an Epcon Franchise Builder
As a custom home builder, Kim was building five to nine homes a year — everything from 1,600-square-foot starter homes to small mansions. Her business was strong, but she knew that a bigger opportunity was available.
“My business partner at the time said we were missing the boat,” Kim says. “He had spent time in Arizona and seen the huge demand among retirees for higher-density neighborhoods that offered a great lifestyle. He drove past an Epcon community in Dayton, Ohio, and said, ‘That’s it, that’s it, that’s it!’”
Epcon Communities Franchising Inc. is America’s 40th-largest homebuilder (“Builder 100,” Builder Magazine, May 2016), and one of the few home building franchise companies that exist. Epcon and its Franchise Builders develop communities of ranch-style, low-maintenance homes.
The homes are designed to pack a lot of luxury into a relatively small space, and open floor plans and high ceilings give the homes a spacious feel that belies their small footprints. Epcon and its Franchise Builders have sold more than 29,000 homes since 1986. The homes are popular with 55+ buyers — a demographic that is projected to drive new home sales in the United States for many years to come — as well as with young professionals and other lifestage buyers who are attracted to two-bedroom homes.
Kim started building her first Epcon community in 2004 in Lafayette, Indiana. She started her second community in 2008. Now in 2015 and beyond, she is in the process of developing a third community and plans to build several more.
The market for low-maintenance homes and communities is extremely underserved, Kim says. “We can’t get the lots put in fast enough to keep up with demand.”
The benefits of Epcon
Kim says Epcon Franchising’s corporate team provides a lot of help, such as invaluable advice about working with local officials to get approval for construction plans. “Every time I hit a wall, I call and talk to someone at Epcon and get an answer for how to get around that corner.”
She offers a lot of praise for Epcon’s investment in research to glean buyer insights and stay ahead of the housing market.
“They identify the demand ahead of everybody else, and that gives us an edge,” she says. “Nobody in Lafayette is doing what we do. Locally, I have no one on my tail.”
Kim also says she enjoys speaking with other Epcon Franchise Builders about their projects, the challenges they face as developers, and each others’ successes. There’s a lot to learn, which is advantageous, and there is also a big sense of camaraderie.
“Anybody looking at Epcon from a franchise point of view, they should know that it is an amazing group of people, and it feels like a family — not just a business. Sitting down with fellow Franchise Builders and talking about our communities is the best stress reliever.”
The heart and philosophy that drive Epcon
Kim says that Epcon understands that a great home is defined by more than its square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s defined by the way the homeowners experience their homes, how the rooms flow together, how light flows through the windows, how private patio space provides an entertainment space that beckons homeowners and guests into the evening air to play games and share stories.
Epcon understands that when people buy a home, they are buying a lifestyle — and Epcon works hard to deliver an incredible lifestyle to its residents.
That’s one reason why several Epcon Franchise Builders live within communities they created. Kim is among them. She lives in a Promenade model in Ravenswood in Hickory Ridge. She sees neighbors and makes friends while enjoying the community clubhouse, exercise room, pavilion, walking trails, and swimming pool.
She says that the lifestyle resonates with buyers.
“A lot of our buyers say, ‘This is the first time we have ever lived in a home the right way,’” Kim says. “They are so well designed. Livability is missing in a lot of homes. Most builders can technically build a house but don’t think about how people live in them as a home. I worked with my salesperson this weekend, and three people came in on Saturday and said they were so glad they came in and saw the model home. They had no idea it could be that nice — and all three were looking to downsize from much larger homes.
“They are tired of the yard work. They are tired of being hostage to their homes,” she says. “If they want to spend six weeks traveling in the summer, they can do that without having to worry. People are also social creatures. The home is not the center of their lives. It’s the platform for their lives. They want to enjoy life and other people. Our homes make that easier.”