Signature of quality – for life
Business View Magazine interviews Rick Barron, President of Signature Homes, for our focus on Growth of the Nevada Home Building Industry
While there may be some debate over the most famous signature of all time – perhaps George Washington, John Hancock, Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, or Babe Ruth come to mind – there is no debate over the impact Richard and Wendy Plaster have had on the Las Vegas housing market.
To place your signature on something, it needs to be unique. It needs to stand out. It needs to change the game. And that is exactly what Signature Homes has been doing in Las Vegas, Nevada since 1978.
Signature Homes evolved into an industry leader due to their delivering impeccable customer service and quality products. Possessing an ability to pivot in an ever-changing industry allows them to continue meeting and exceeding the needs of a shifting market. Over 13,000 homes, condominiums, and apartments later, Signature Homes is still building dreams for their buyers and tenants.
As things have changed in the industry, they’ve also changed at Signature Homes. Sadly, Wendy passed away a number of years ago. Richard happily retired after serving 45 plus years in the industry (which included the prestigious Silver Nuggets Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association). Just over two years ago, Rick Barron accepted an invitation to join the team as their new President. He is quick to point out that “Richard is still a very active participant in the company, especially in our strategic planning.”
Barron proudly states that they are still able to glean sage advice from Richard regularly. He notes, “Richard had the foresight to really be concerned about rising land prices and some of the concerns with lending that led to the crash. He was one of the innovators here locally on build-for-rent as he built his last community of approximately 90 homes as single-family rental homes.”
While Signature Homes sold those houses a couple years after they completed building them, they actually just repurchased them – nearly 15 years after first selling them. “The due diligence was pretty straightforward,” Barron states with a chuckle. “We felt comfortable in that we had built the homes and we’ve always looked for value-add opportunities on our rental side. Doing renovation fits well within our construction side, as well.”
As the economy shifted, Signature Homes went into hibernation mode on their home building side and dove deeper into building and renovating apartments as they discovered opportunities along the way. “Today we have about 1,200 apartment units that we own and self-manage and we accumulated a number of single family-for-rent homes throughout the Las Vegas valley,” Barron reveals. “When you add those to the 90 homes we repurchased that Richard built, we now have about 180 single family homes-for-rent, too.”
Then, just over two years ago, the company saw another opportunity for expansion. Richard Plaster and his son Brian – who runs the multi-family and rental home side of the business – decided they wanted to reinvest capital from the success of their apartments into their home building side. That is when they talked to Rick Barron about coming on board to head up that initiative and to lead the homebuilding division as President. “They asked me to come up with a game plan on how we could get back into home building,” explains Barron. “So we’ve been doing that for a little bit over two years and I’m happy to say we’ve got two active communities that have homes closing, and a pipeline of another 350 lots that we’re actually going to build out – half for sale and half for rent.”
In a local market dominated by public national home builders, Signature Homes is in a unique position as a private builder. They approach each project with a fresh set of eyes and are able to decide what they think is the best approach for each build. That’s where the name Signature Homes comes from.
“When we first started building homes,” Barron discloses, “we joined all of our trade partners in signing a plaque to the homeowner acknowledging the effort and the quality of the work that we put into the home. That became our signature, if you will.”
The Las Vegas housing market has certainly exploded since those first days. In fact, Las Vegas is one of the leading Metro areas in the country, with the costs of housing and construction accelerating nearly 30% year over year. “That has had a huge impact on affordability here,” confesses Barron. “We are certainly in dynamic times right now. We have analyzed what our best choice is and we have had a renaissance in our home building. We had already targeted more entry-level housing price points and we’ve gone back to the table to develop more attached housing – townhomes in particular.”
As Signature Homes anticipates housing affordability is going to unfortunately push more people into rental houses, they are gearing up for that demand by building more homes that they will rent. Even how they refer to their different projects is important to them. “As we are building up our rental side, we are not building homes-for-rent,” professes Barron. “We are building homes that we will rent. We have our Signature Standards, which are superior to the industry standards. And those go into our rental homes just as much as they go into our production for sale homes.”
That adds value to a Signature Home. For example, the national standard is to install 14 SEER AC units, whereas the Signature Homes installs 16 SEER units as the standard in their builds to provide value to homeowners and renters. Not only does that upgrade lead to lower utility costs each month, but it also helps Signature Homes better manage the supply chain issues experienced by so many over the past two years. “Home building has always been like this,” Barron says. “It’s a matter of what you really have to focus on at any given time. We strategize and plan up front and wherever we see a concern about a supply we look to see if we can upgrade and find those supplies or materials. At least, at that point, we feel like we can add value in some way.”
Signature Homes goes above and beyond in the AC units they offer, but also by offering no touch faucets, smart garage doors, Ring doorbells, tankless water heaters, and electric vehicle hookups standard in their builds.
Not only is adding value essential for Signature Homes, so is meeting the needs of people at every stage of life. As Barron explains, “From a housing standpoint, you can go from your first studio apartment, to meeting somebody and needing more room, to wanting to get a larger pet or having kids and moving into one of our single family houses for rent, to purchasing a larger home for a family, and eventually all the way back to a single story home that might be more of an empty nest type of product. So we’re really working on the uniqueness that our company can provide housing for just about every stage in life.”
What they are doing is working. The company has had explosive growth over the past two years, going from three people to 18 working on the home building side. They also have 55 people working on their Signature Management Team focusing on rental houses and apartments. “I can’t talk enough about our team,” Barron gushes. “I really enjoy being with a smaller builder, where we know that every one of our hires, every one of our team members, is so important.”
Signature Homes works hand in hand with several local architects including Larry Tindall and Associates and Howard Perlman and Associates. And Barron and four of his department heads recently went on a retreat to isolate themselves to work directly on some new home design concepts. Signature Homes is focusing more on bringing natural light into their homes. “A 2,500 square foot house from a national builder may have 12 windows on average,” states Barron. “Our standard home for that same square footage has 18. We believe bringing in more natural light is vital to people as they spend more time at home.”
They also are focusing more on creating work and study from home spaces and creating multi-generational components. “As pricing and affordability have climbed, you look at household size, increasing more people under the same roof, and that’s where these multi-generational opportunities can really be beneficial” explains Barron. Creating spaces that can convert from a home office with an exterior entrance into a third-generation room is another key feature being incorporated by Signature Homes.
“The last item that is very important to us right now is understanding water conservation and informing the community that construction here in Southern Nevada has actually gotten so efficient,” boasts Barron, “that even with all of our tremendous growth, Southern Nevada actually use less water than we did 20 to 30 years ago. However, this doesn’t mean we’ve stopped improving our conservation efforts. We continue to be proactive in using new products and technology to reduce water waste.”
Barron doesn’t hesitate to sign his name on the dotted line to help communicate the company’s high standards to Signature Homes clients at every stage of life, much in the same way that Richard and Wendy Plaster did before him.
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AT A GLANCE
What: One of Southern Nevada’s most respected homebuilding companies
Where: Based in Las Vegas, Nevada
Rafael Framers – www.rafaelconstructioninc.com
Started in 1991, Rafael Framers is a wood framing company based in Las Vegas. They are equipped to handle all types of framing jobs including commercial buildings, office and retail spaces, as well as residential single family and multi family projects. Rafael Framers is proud to support the relationship they have with Signature Homes, and looks forward to continuing to work alongside Rick and his whole team well into the future.