A year of rapid growth lands Classic Builders on Builder’s “Fastest Growing” list.
Focused energy. That’s what you see when you visit with the team at Classic Builders in Ankeny. What started 13 years ago as a sibling group who wanted to build quality homes has become a well-honed team of 100 employees, multiple side businesses, and one of the fastest- growing home builders in the nation.
Every year about this time, Builder magazine announces its Top 100 and Next 100 lists of builders, rankings based solely on sales volume over the course of the previous calendar year. For 2017, only two Iowa builders made the Next 100 list, Hubbell Homes and Classic Builders. Classic was also number five on the magazine’s “Fastest Growing Up and Comers” list.
Hubbell, which entered the real estate business in 1856 and the land development business in 1993, has appeared on the Builder Next 100 list numerous times, dropping in 2017 from 133 to 154.
Classic has been on the list a handful of times, rising steadily each year. But at a time when many large builders are struggling to maintain their share in the market, Classic has continued to grow, finding new niches and adapting to the changing market in unique ways.
“We really focused on price points this past year, having product for all different types of buyers—entry-level to move-up to ‘right-size’ homes for baby boomers,” says Seth Moulton. “That was probably the biggest reason for our jump in sales, having product at different price points.”
The need for new construction under $250,000 has been a concern for several years, a concern that some builders have found difficult to address due to high construction costs. Classic has dealt with that issue as well.
“Building homes in that entry-level price point is hard,” Moulton acknowledges. “But we’ve been able to adapt in ways that help us compensate in different areas. It’s about efficient floor plans, having access to the right materials—quality, affordable materials, not skimping but getting the best quality for the money.”
Another factor in Classic’s success, according to Moulton, is the company’s involvement in areas across the industry. “Developing the ground, having access to the real estate company, and volume building all help us with our overall pricing. The efficiency with which we can build our homes and having top-quality subs that work with us regularly allows us to be consistent both in price and quality.”
The company’s willingness to take on new businesses when it sees a need has also helped support its growth. In addition to their existing real estate and development divisions, the Moulton brothers started a granite business (which they’ve since sold) and a concrete and foundation business. And they’ve created their own scheduling app to help team members, subs, and homeowners communicate and track projects.
“We can be a one-stop shop for any customer that’s out there. We take pride in the real estate side, listing homes at the right price and getting them sold in a timely manner, then transitioning into a new home. On the home building side, we love working with outside realtors, too. This year, outside realtors sold about 60% of our homes, which is a testament to our company, too, and we would love to continue to grow that relationship,” Moulton says.
Classic’s ability to meet those lower price points has enabled the company to tap into the underserved entry-level market, which fueled its rapid growth in 2017. But Moulton says it was the company’s internal systems that made that possible. “Honestly, this year was probably the first year we did not feel the true growing pains we’ve felt all the years prior. We’ve got our management systems in place and a structure that’s working smoothly.”
The company has grown steadily throughout its 13 years in business, but 2017 saw an 80% increase in sales, a jump from slot 143 to slot 126 on the Builder list. Classic has had to keep customer satisfaction a focus to maintain that level of growth.
“Our company really strives to work on our processes,” Moulton explains. “Through our people, our design coordinators, our warranty side, our client care, we try to make the building process as perfect as it can be. We really manage the quality-control side of the business, and we have a standard that we hold our people and our subs to, on every job, and that sets us apart from some other volume builders.”
Moulton says Classic wants to continue to grow, but he doesn’t see the Builder lists as a target. “We send in our numbers, they verify everything, and we find out like everyone else. Des Moines is a strong market, but you never know how you’re going to stack up against the rest of the country. And that isn’t what motivates us. We want to grow because we have a passion for what we do.”
That passion is clear in the company culture, the energy that’s evident from each employee, and in the excitement that’s communicated over new projects (see “What’s Ahead”).
“If there’s anything I want to stress, it’s this: We would be nowhere without our employees and the management structure we have. We would never be at this level without this group of people. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for this team,” Moulton says.
Classic Builders has projects going throughout the metro, including Altoona, Ames, Bondurant, and Grimes. In its hometown of Ankeny, several Classic developments offer homeowners a variety of options.
“We have three new developments in north Ankeny alone,” says Seth Moulton. “Trestle Ridge Crossing is a mixture of single-family homes from $220,000 to $250,000. Brinmore will be primarily $220s up to $280,000. And we’re really excited about 36 West. It’s going to have a mix of products, including a villa concept modeled after the tiny-home concept. All the homes will be around 1,000 square feet with finished basements and attached 2-car garages, all for under $250,000.”
Moulton says the company’s goal is to offer a variety of different products that aren’t competing with each other. Rather, each one gives the company the ability to address every housing need across the market, from the various needs of entry-level customers to move-up buyers and homeowners looking for that empty-nest home.
For more information about Classic’s projects, visit the website, ClassicBuildersIowa.com.