Looking at the marketing material, or the 326 homes closed last year, you wouldn’t guess that Dunhill Homes is just six years old.
One might draw a similar conclusion from its aspirations. The Dallas, Texas-based home builder expects to close 450 homes in 2017, and it has made the list of fastest-growing companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) market. In fact, from 2014 through 2016, the company experienced explosive growth year over year. It grew 76 percent from 2014 to 2016, and it’s on pace to grow another 27 percent in 2017.
“A small, little Dallas company is no longer small,” says Chris Hartley, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’ve got big goals and big ambitions for not only this market but expanding beyond as well.”
That’s especially impressive considering Dallas is home to more publicly held home building companies than anywhere else in the U.S., and is considered by many to the most competitive housing market in the country. In some communities, Dunhill Homes must compete against as many as 11 other home builders, and it has seen construction costs rise 46 percent, while labor jumped 30 percent in the past three years.
“Technology has been huge for us,” Hartley says, noting that online sales and marketing has been paramount.
Fifty-five percent of Dunhill Homes’ marketing budget is focused on online efforts, and that seems to be paying off. Dunhill Homes’ website won “Best Builder Website” from the Dallas Builders Association in 2015, and the company partnered early on with DoYouConvert.com, which offers online sales support to the real estate industry.
DoYouConvert.com was instrumental in training Dunhill Homes’ online sales managers, which have won the silver award for online sales manager of the year from the National Association of Home Builders and back-to-back online sales manager of the year awards from the Dallas Builders’ Association. Currently, 44 percent of Dunhill Homes’ sales are driven through their online sales manager program.
Another “game changer” for Dunhill Homes is Lasso, a customer relationship management (CRM) system specifically built for home builders. The system allows Dunhill Homes to convert leads at a much higher rate, Hartley says.
“Lasso, along with follow up training through Do You Convert, has been one of the key indicators to our success,” he adds.
Dunhill Homes also offered all of its sales managers and junior sales managers access to BombBomb accounts, through which they can create video emails. And thanks to the videos, Dunhill Homes has seen its email open rates jump to 80 percent, Hartley says.
Sales staff have run with the idea, participating in contests to see who can make the most interesting BombBomb video, dressing up for Halloween videos or using funny props.
“We’re bringing all these tools in that often times these larger builders say, let’s wait and see if it works,” Hartley says. “We’re going to jump on it, and we’re going to try to be the trend setter in that.”
Truly affordable homes
While the company is growing in leaps and bounds, it does still face its fair share of challenges. According to Hartley, the average price of new home in Dallas jumped up $16,000 in one quarter.
“In DFW, what we’ve noticed is the media tells you home sales are phenomenal, it’s the best place to work, so-on and so-forth,” he says. “But what we’ve realized is our cost of land is at an all-time high, our cost of materials is at an all-time high, and our material costs are up 46 percent in three years, so it is truly the most expensive time to buy a house in DFW.”
While Dunhill Homes wants to keep its homes affordable, it prides itself in not being a low-cost leader.
Nine times out of 10, Dunhill Homes offers better standard features than its competitors, Hartley says. The company also uses two energy-saving programs: Energy Star and Environments for Living. While energy-saving features add upfront cost, they reduce monthly energy costs and thus reduce the true cost of ownership of a Dunhill Home.
“We are being very self-aware about the included features we put in our homes,” Hartley adds. “We want to be the builder that’s known for having more included features than anybody else, both in places that you can see and places that you can’t see, like behind the walls, hence two energy-saving programs in each home we build.”
The company pays extra attention to high-use rooms like kitchens and bathrooms and is selective about small things like baseboards that can have a big impact.
As prices in DFW rise, Dunhill Homes is casting a wider net in the DFW metroplex.
“We’re as far east and west as you can go, and we’re as far north and south as you can go,” Hartley says.
And, while the DFW housing market is booming now, Dunhill Homes expects it to plateau in the next couple of years. In order to brace for a slowdown, the company is looking to master-planned communities.
“Our future communities that we’re focusing on are 100 percent master-planned communities with master-planned amenities, nice marketing budgets associated with them, and they’re a true destination for where people want to live,” Hartley says.
Heath Golf and Yacht is one of them. The 787-acre lakefront, resort-style community will offer more than 1,200 luxury homes, a 27-hole golf course, private country club, hotel, retail, trails, parks and an elementary school; all located just 30 minutes from downtown Dallas.
On the flip side is Chisholm Trail Ranch, a 600-acre master planned community in southwest Fort Worth, Texas, just nine minutes from Texas Christian University and 10 minutes from downtown Fort Worth. It will include more than one million feet of retail and commercial space and more than 1,000 homes.
“It is very much an affordable, master-planned community that you can still get into for the mid-two’s, which is almost unheard of in the Dallas- Fort Worth area,” Hartley says.
These developments are significant for Dunhill Homes because, with so many home builders in the DFW market, it’s not easy to break into master-planned community building, where developers often have their favorite builders and long-established relationships. Now, Dunhill Homes is getting phone calls to come into these developments.
“We’re really setting ourselves up to be here for the long haul,” Hartley says.
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