Ramsey & Walker, LLC
Building the customer experience
Business View Magazine interviews Brett Ramsey, CEO and Founder of Ramsey & Walker, LLC, for our series on the U.S. Home Construction Industry.
Ramsey & Walker’s mission is to be the most respected home builder in the Navarre, Florida area by providing superior service, fostering successful relationships, and building beautiful new construction homes that offer custom quality at a production price. Word of mouth in the local real estate market has earned them status as a preferred builder, where satisfied customers tell their friends, and they tell their friends, that Ramsey & Walker are simply the best. Teamwork is at the heart of every project – from conception, to construction, to financing, to final sale – because building the finest customer experience is what this exceptional company is all about.
Ramsey & Walker CEO, Brett Ramsey, speaks candidly about the business he founded and the entrepreneurial spirit that has driven the company’s success. Sharing the backstory, he recalls, “I founded the company in 2012. I was working for my stepfather, Darrell Walker, at the time. He owned a commercial construction company and after I graduated college, I went to work for him as an estimator and project manager. I told him I wanted to build houses when I got out on my own. And he said, ‘That’s a great idea, I’d love to join you.’ That wasn’t originally the plan, but it worked out really well. The first full year in business, we built six or seven houses and Darrell stayed on board until the end of 2018, when he retired.”
The company builds strictly spec houses; no custom or commercial projects. Ramsey comes up with a basic design idea, does a rough sketch using computer software, and sends that to a draftsman they work closely with to create a formal floorplan. That plan then goes to an engineer to get stamped, and then they can build the home. Why not do custom? Ramsey explains, “The custom home building process is very stressful for a homeowner. It’s most likely their dream home and they have a vision and want it to be perfect. But construction isn’t perfect. So by the end of it, they’re not happy with the process at all, and from what I’ve seen on the outside looking in, the builder gets the blame. We just didn’t want to get into that niche because it’s hard to keep those people completely satisfied.”
Until recently, they built houses on infill lots – scattered lots that were never developed or are in need of redevelopment. But now, the first Ramsey & Walker subdivision is underway. They bought a vacant piece of land, set to work putting in the infrastructure for roads and utilities, and their subdivision of 35 homes will be built out toward the end of next year. The decision to start developing for land inventory instead of buying infill lots came about because the company has grown to a size where it’s difficult to find enough scattered lots to maintain the volume. With the thriving real estate market and a large influx of builders buying up property, a land shortage is inevitable. “It wasn’t revolutionary foresight,” says Ramsey. “We just saw that in order to maintain our volume, we either had to develop subdivisions or go into different markets, which is always on the table, but we would prefer to stay where we believe we fit better than anyone else.”
Navarre is known as a bedroom community for nearby U.S. military bases. Not surprising then, that eighty-five percent of Ramsey & Walker’s buyers are either active duty military or retired military with VA loans. Sales peak twice a year, when an influx of new personnel comes in. The Ramsey & Walker staff consists of four full-time employees, including Brett; the Office Manager who takes care of accounts, permitting, and countless other things; the Production Manager who is in charge of all construction; and the Quality Control Manager who does the customer walk-through, and acts as liaison after they close. Ramsey notes, “We have a separate, family-owned real estate brokerage, Ramsey & Walker Real Estate, so until recently I was taking care of all the listings. A few months ago, we added a listing agent to our team and now she’s taking care of all the real estate sales for us. It frees up time on my end to focus on making sure we have that land inventory, and are being more proactive, instead of reactionary.”
Ramsey & Walker basically manages the construction and all the trade work is done by subcontractors. About a year and a half ago, the Production Manager and Quality Control Manager told Brett they thought they could do a better job than some of the subcontractors and they wanted the opportunity to do that. He agreed, so they set up their own company called CSC that is almost like having an in-house trades team, without actually having employees on staff. The CSC subcontractors take care of all the plumbing, painting, and carpentry inside and out. According to Ramsey, “It’s been a huge benefit for us as a company, and for my managers. They make more money and have more control over the subcontracting process, which makes their jobs with Ramsey & Walker a whole lot easier because they are controlling the schedule and have people they can count on to do it right and be there on time.”
Competition is strong but the Ramsey & Walker advantage is the ability to price lower because they’re more efficient. The customer gets a better experience and more for their money with the level of service provided by the company because all the processes are done in-house. “There are a lot of people in the same market we’re in but we feel like our lead is so much further ahead,” says Ramsey. “Our goal has been if someone is in the market for a new house they’re going to buy it from Ramsey & Walker, no question. And if Ramsey & Walker doesn’t have any inventory, then they can go elsewhere. I think we’ve been able to solidify that. We’ve done some print advertising and billboards this year, and we’re rebranding our website, but other than that we don’t need a lot of marketing because word of mouth is our bread and butter; that’s what’s going to continue to propel us in the future.”
Team mentality is prevalent in all aspects of the company. Every employee has been a subcontractor before, so they know the subcontractors’ goals and they can see from a perspective that general contractors don’t have, which makes the process much more efficient. That extends to the Ramsey & Walker office, as well. “On the real estate side we have a title company, Odom & Barlow, that has handled all our closings from day one,” Ramsey notes. “We have a close relationship with them that makes everything easier for the customer. We do the same with financing. We have three preferred lenders that we recommend to customers because we count on them: Mortgage One of the South; Prime Lending; and University Lending Group. We know they’ll get it done every time and communicate well with the customer. At the end of the day, they’re an extension of us and they’re giving customers the excellent service we expect, as well. Also, Chuck’s Concrete Pumping works on every one of our projects, and their level of service is head and shoulders above anyone else. Every piece of our team is integral to our success and they’re all a huge part of that.
“The Navarre area housing market started picking up in 2012/13, so it was perfect timing for us. And it’s just been crazy busy over the last three years. I think it’s probably going to level off, nationally, in the next six months, but in our area we have several military bases in a 50-mile radius and some of the nicest beaches and great schools. So, we’re a little more insulated because we have all those draws. We’ve been very blessed and a lot of it can be attributed to our community. Right now, we’re happy with the volume of work we’re doing, so our main focus is improving our processes to make sure that if we’re not growing revenue-wise, we’re growing in value to our customers, while striving to improve our customer and partner relationships. That’s always going to be our goal, going forward.”
AT A GLANCE
Who: Ramsey & Walker, LLC
What: Quality home building company
Where: Navarre, Florida