Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Local Builders Continue Success in Troubled National Markets

Greater flexibility, area expertise and traditional customer service drive sales for one Austin builder

It seems like every week brings more headlines of bursting real estate bubbles and national homebuilders posting significant losses. Despite the shaky ground in many areas across the country, Austin’s real estate market is holding steady, thanks in part to a foundation of superior local homebuilders. While the number of home sales nationally continues to slide, Austin has shown a month-to-month increase so far this year. In total 12,072 homes were sold in the first six months of 2008, with a single-month high of 2,410 homes sold in June. In that time, the average sales price in Austin has actually increased over last year, in part because of the quality of new homes on the market.

One such local builder is Buffington Signature Homes. The company is the newest venture from long-time Austin builder and investor, Tom Buffington, whose list of credentials includes Buffington Capital, a leading area acquisition and development company, and Buffington Homes, which became the second largest builder in Austin before being sold to a national firm in the late 1990s.

Today, Buffington Signature Homes represents a shift back to the roots of Austin homebuilding, with a locally-owned, locally-managed company that specializes in building distinctive communities throughout the Austin area. Many of the national volume builders are pulling back their productions throughout the region, allowing companies like Buffington to step in and hand-pick prime locations in the best communities.

The key to this ability is the leadership team’s unprecedented knowledge of the Austin area and eye for the factors that make a community succeed. “There’s a big difference between market research and market expertise,” explained James Giddens, President of Buffington Signature Homes. “Lots of communities look good on paper, but it takes an understanding of local tastes, needs and lifestyles to know which ones will truly succeed.”

The same holds true for home designs. While many volume builders simply rearrange layouts or change the exterior colors from location to location, Buffington’s design team carefully crafted each floor plan to best suit the needs and style of the Austin market. As those styles and needs change, the company can also adapt more quickly to better meet their customer’s expectations.

“Since all of our communities are within a few minutes drive of our corporate offices, the leadership team has a much better understanding of how our products are selling and what our customers think about their homes,” said Grant Whittenberger, Vice President of Sales for Buffington Signature Homes. “If there’s any problem with a design or feature, we can correct it immediately to ensure that our customers remain satisfied. And if one design is particularly successful, we can find out why and develop new designs that will appeal to our clients for the same reasons.”

This flexibility is another key factor in Buffington Signature Homes’ continued growth. A recent report indicates that the price of building materials increased by more than 10% from 2007 to 2008, with no signs of slowing. The flexibility to change designs and features or to develop relationships with new vendors, allows Buffington to maintain prices in a volatile market. Additionally, most of those materials come from vendors right here in Austin, so customers aren’t footing the bill for the shipping company’s diesel.

In their effort to keep costs as low as possible, many volume builders use a practice called “value engineering.” More often than not, that’s a nice way of saying “cutting corners.” But Buffington’s homes utilize quality materials and traditional building practices that were phased out by most national builders long ago. Each home features engineered foundations and frames, as well as full wind-bracing and half-inch OSB wrapping to protect against cracking walls and sticking doors or windows. The roofs are all traditionally framed and the interiors feature deep floor trusses. The three-quarter-inch sub-flooring is attached with screws and glue to create incredibly solid floors that are less likely to squeak or bounce.

“The key is to make sure we do it right the first time,” explains Whittenberger. “A little extra work during the construction stage means less work for us in the long run and less daily maintenance for our customers after they move in. Most of our leadership team has worked with the national firms, so we understand where their processes fall short. We spent a lot of time on product development, making sure our designs and our features picked up where the others guys left off.”

As part of that commitment to quality, every Buffington Signature Home comes with something they call Signature Features: more than 90 high-end fixtures, finishes and features that are included standard in every home. Signature Features include a 3rd car garage (homesite permitting), island kitchens with granite countertops and custom cabinets, rounded corners, energy efficient appliances, covered patios and fully sodded yards, all standard in the price of the home. Customers can also choose from a collection of Signature Options, optional designs and features to further personalize their homes.

And there’s one more factor that’s often overlooked by the national builders: the importance of community interaction. More than simple advertising or branding, local builders are active members of their community. From the ball fields to school activities, Buffington Signature Homes strives to help the community organizations around them.

“Obviously, when you work for a company, you’re invested in its success,” said Whittenberger, “but since we live here, we’re also invested in the success of the community and the city. That makes a big difference in the way a company operates.”

Buffington Signature Homes currently offers homes in several highly sought-after communities in the Austin area: Silver Leaf, located just off Gattis School Road in Round Rock; Forest Oaks, located near 183A and 1431 in Cedar Park; and two premier South Austin communities, The Bridges at Bear Creek and Southpark Meadows. Later this year, Buffington will also launch sales in Teravista, located in Round Rock, and Belterra, located just minutes west of Austin on US-290.

For more information on Buffington Signature Homes, visit or stop by their model homes in Silver Leaf or Forest Oaks.

The Forest Oaks Sales Center
1200 Shiloh St.
Cedar Park, TX 78613

Silver Leaf Sales Center
209 Aspen Trail
Round Rock, TX 78664

Hours of Operation
Monday – Thursday & Saturday, 10am to 7pm
Friday & Sunday, 11am to 7pm

About Buffington Signature Homes
Buffington Signature Homes is dedicated to building homes that will last a lifetime. A locally owned company with a wealth of experience, Buffington Signature Homes combines innovative floor plans, skilled craftsmanship and an exceptional buying experience to deliver homes with value that each and every customer is proud to live in. Proudly building fine communities and new homes in South Austin, Round Rock and Cedar Park.  Home prices vary per community, from the $210’s to the mid $300’s, ranging in size from 2000 to 3700 sq ft with new plans in development to go over 4000 sq ft.

Media Contact:
Grant Whittenberger
Vice President of Sales & Marketing