Epcon Exec Discusses Past, Promising Future with Epcon Franchising
VP of Franchising Tim Rini explores history with Epcon Franchising and why we’re still growing
Tim Rini has witnessed a lot of evolution and growth at Epcon Franchising since first crossing paths with owners Ed Bacome and Phil Fankhauser in 1986. Tim was the real estate developer who sold Epcon the land for the homebuilding company’s second community, establishing a lasting relationship that would, by 2011, lead to Tim’s current role as Epcon’s Vice President of Franchising.
Throughout those nearly three decades, Tim says Epcon’s mission has not deviated from the original: to develop communities of low-maintenance, ranch-style homes that are popular with 55+ buyers — a demographic that Metrostudy projects will drive new home sales in the United States for many years to come.
The demand for active adult housing has never been greater, and the lack of home building franchises like Epcon creates a huge opportunity for Epcon’s prospective Franchise Builders. According to the May 2015 Builder 100 List, Epcon is now the 38th-largest homebuilder in the United States. Epcon is the 19th-largest privately owned home building company in the country (“2014 Top 25 Private Home Building Companies,” Builder Magazine, May 2015), and one of the few home building franchise companies that exist. As such, Epcon is positioned for continued growth as the size of the 55+ crowd expands. Metrostudy predicts that active adult buyers will account for 52% of new home sales between now and 2019.
Tim’s history as an architect, real estate developer, real estate broker, and property manager helped him acclimate to the home building franchise arena with ease. His knowledge of the industry gives him the ability to share his experiences with prospective franchisees who are curious about Epcon Communities Franchising and why they should consider becoming Epcon Franchise Builders.
“When anyone joins Epcon Franchising, they become part of a national home building network,” Tim says. “They are no longer the mom-and-pop builder that is just locally known. They are ultimately known across 28 states, and that type of credential can be greatly beneficial in their efforts to acquire land or financing.”
A homebuilding franchise system that’s unmatched
“Epcon can provide a great service,” Tim says. “An existing home builder obviously knows the business, knows the processes, but they are not necessarily already seasoned with the home product and the marketing nuances that are employed when building homes that appeal to a Baby Boomer buyer, an older buyer, or a nontraditional family buyer. There’s a lot to be learned from Epcon’s 29+ years of experience, and there’s a tremendous amount to be gained by Epcon’s product that has been designed through research and also through years of trial and error experience.
“If someone is an existing home builder, can they easily get into the market for the Baby Boomer that is coming to market?” asked Rini. “Absolutely! But, everyone who is a home builder knows that the first home you build always has to be tweaked — and you tweak it and you tweak it until you get it right.”
Epcon Communities Franchising benefits from almost 20 home products that have been rigorously tested and designed to help decrease the likelihood of getting bogged down by a long list of construction mishaps. This attention to detail is one of many reasons for continual growth within the home building franchise.
2015 is shaping up as a remarkable year for Epcon Communities. Already, our home closings are up 48% for the first six months of 2015 over last year, with a reported 465 closings in the first six months. Approximately 30 new Epcon Communities are in the planning stage, chiefly in the Midwest and Southeast markets. New Epcon Franchise Builders are also joining the Epcon franchise network in 2015.
Building quality that matters
An important aspect of Epcon’s vision that sets us apart from other home building franchises is Epcon’s commitment to delivering a high level of service to home buyers.
“Epcon’s QualityMarkTM process calls for every home to be inspected by a fresh set of eyes,” Tim explains. “Any construction error or any problem is corrected in that home before the home buyer sees it on their homeowner orientation walk-through. That delivers an excellent home that is move-in ready without a laundry list of corrections that need to be made.”
Designs to suit a diverse audience
Though the 55+, active adult demographic dominates the Epcon map, Tim says younger audiences are expressing great interest in our communities.
“As the Epcon brand is becoming more and more recognized, we are definitely getting a more diverse buyer with all age groups,” he says. “Because we’re a provider of two-bedroom homes, we are not typically the home of choice of families with children. But when you consider the young end of the home buying market and the older end of the home buying market, they have similar housing needs.
“We locate in more urban areas because the primary buyer of our home is an empty-nester. Empty-nesters today don’t want to be way out in the suburbs; they want to be near where the action is, near entertainment, near shopping, near the action and — not much of a surprise — younger people want the same thing. We have found over recent years that because of the excellent design, we are getting people of all age groups, couples of all types, single parents, and any lifestage buyer that requires only two bedrooms.”
Franchise Agreement updates and highlights
“Our 2015 franchise agreement has changed very little from prior years,” Tim says. “But there is a very significant change that we made several years ago, and we have maintained that. It actually makes things work a little better for our new franchisees coming in.
“A few years ago, the fee structure to become an Epcon Franchise Builder required the franchisee to pay virtually all of their fees up front. We’ve recognized that there’s no tougher time for cash flow than the very beginning of a real estate development project. We also realized that the cash flow created when a home is sold is the easiest time for a franchise builder to pay their franchise fees.
“What we have done in recent years is tremendously reduce the amount of upfront financial commitment that is required to become a Franchise Builder. We have exchanged that with a monthly franchise fee — it is much easier for a Franchise Builder to pay a little bit every month as opposed to a large lump sum. Then there is a closing royalty that only is paid when a home is closed.
“Our current fee structure is intended to make the fee payments much easier, much more palatable for a builder, and align some of the fees with the closing of the homes, so it’s much more convenient, much more sensible than the way it was set up before.”
Why franchisees choose Epcon
“I feel very strongly about the support that comes through for Franchise Builders on a daily basis with Epcon,” Tim says. “One of the major aspects of any franchise business is you work in support of each other. Not only is Epcon Communities Franchising a great resource to all the franchisees, but the Franchise Builders can depend on one another for help. Who, even on their best day in business, doesn’t have an issue or a problem? Or have the need to consult with someone who perhaps knows a little bit more than they do, or has already experienced that type of problem and resolved it?
Longtime Epcon Franchise Builder Steve Ackley discusses the excellent support provided to franchisees.
“A major benefit with our franchise system is we all depend upon one another. We all communicate with one another. Epcon Communities Franchising has always been dedicated to finding the top new home sales trainers in the country, and we bring that training and education to our Franchise Builders at a reduced cost. We also bring in nationally recognized building scientists, so that our Franchise Builders can improve their cycle time and improve the quality and energy efficiency of their homes.”
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