Leewood NJ LLC
Since 2008 and the onset of the recession, the housing market has moved at a snail’s pace throughout the country, particularly in New Jersey, one of the most expensive states in the Northeast. While the market is finally showing signs of a comeback and more companies are breaking ground on new projects, one builder has been there through thick and thin: Leewood NJ LLC (Leewood).
Since 1967 Leewood has worked to make the dream of home ownership possible for first-time buyers. “As a company, Leewood is very committed to providing homes of excellent quality and great bang-for-the-buck for various target markets,” says Michael Fink, CEO of Leewood. “Delivering good dollar value to our homeowners is something we do in good times and not-so-good times. The American Dream is to own your home, a quality new home for most folks.”
Based in Trenton, N.J., the redeveloper, which does its own construction, has specialized in redevelopment long before it was popular. “We have worked in the hardcore urban areas, as well as the ex-urban and suburban communities that need to find rebirth because the world has passed them by over the years, and we provide the springboard to bring them back to life,” explains Fink. “This not only offers great value for our homebuyers, it also results in a rebirth and re-energizing of the community. This approach is relatively unique; very few people in New Jersey do it.”
Fink, who’s been in the industry since young adulthood, has always enjoyed building and development. “My father was a CPA and a homebuilder,” he recalls. “Since I was 13 years old I worked in the construction ditches and various trades and I really liked it. After college, my father told me if I really wanted to be in the homebuilding business I should go to law school since that’s where the business is going in New Jersey, and it was good advice. I practiced law for a number of years and eventually decided I needed to go back to my first love – the development business – and that’s what I did.”
One-stop shop for the first-time buyer
It’s no secret, buying a home can be an intimidating, complicated process, especially for first-time buyers. Leewood takes the fear out of first-time home buying, offering potential homeowners everything they need for a smooth transition under one roof.
Leewood is a fully integrated enterprise providing land acquisition and development, design, construction, marketing, sales and post-closing warranty service for all of its home ownership projects. “Being able to provide new, affordable homes to the first-time-buyer market segment in New Jersey is a challenge because we live in a high-cost area,” explains Fink. “We utilize innovative land-planning techniques, good old fashioned hard work and cooperation with government programs to reduce the cost to our buyers. We never forget that bringing in a quality new home at a price which is affordable to our homebuyers is the goal.”
Fink says the Leewood advantage is the company’s holistic approach. “From the time a potential buyer contacts us to the time they close title to their new home and then through post-closing warranty work, we address all of their needs by being hands-on managers, in-house,” he reveals. “We don’t just turn them over to the wolves to get a mortgage like many other builders do. Leewood has built alliances with independent mortgage companies, title companies and independent lawyers to deliver a true, highly competitive one-stop shop experience that makes the process easy and very competitively affordable 24/7.”
Leewood is currently opening up a new phase of opportunities to modest-income first-time homebuyers at the Leewood Renaissance at Franklin (Franklin) community, including townhouses and condominiums. “We opened the first phase of the community in 2010 in the midst of a terrible economic time in a redevelopment area that was stubbornly resisting efforts to be brought back,” recalls Fink.
Leewood worked with the community, town and government agencies for more than two and a half years before initiating the first phase of Franklin. “Franklin is a 206-unit development with various housing types,” details Fink. “We originally conceived it to be two phases of 103 homes each, but the economy took a dive in 2007 and 2008, and we had to retool into multiple smaller phases to bring our affordable home types to market in a way that was viable to finance.”
Finally, in 2012, Leewood was able to break ground on Franklin. “In 14 months we sold and closed out the first two phases constituting 40 homes, which was a remarkable thing to do at that time in New Jersey,” says Fink. “We managed to complete Franklin on time and on budget, providing owners and the town with a terrific result. We’re now working on the next phases of 43 homes starting in July 2014.”
Fink goes on to note that the company also just opened The Whittaker. “This is 40 luxury style condominium homes in a National Historic Register of Historic Places neighborhood near public transportation and entertainment attractions in Trenton, N.J.,” he explains. “At prices affordable to the average person but for a luxury building and condo, The Whittaker also includes club and fitness rooms for the owners.”
According to Fink, like Leewood Renaissance at Franklin, The Whittker represented a true public private partnership. “Over a number of years, the public private partnership has resulted in a former abandoned motel and townhouse being reborn as a destination luxury but affordable residence building up scaling the adjacent area,” he explains.
Fink says Leewood’s holistic approach and the company’s ability to help bridge the gap from renting to first-time home ownership is a result of trusted industry connections and relationships. “I have been an active member of the New Jersey Home Builders Association [NJBA] for more than 35 years,” he shares.
In 1994, the same year Fink was president of NJBA, he received the New Jersey Home Builder of the Year Award, as well as numerous other awards over the years for quality warranty service, development and home design and continued service to the homebuilding industry. Fink continues to be an active member of the NJBA executive board. “I regularly attend the Atlantic Builders Convention [ABC], from beginning to end, every single year.”
Fink is also a past national vice president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), as well as a host of committee chairmanships at NAHB. “I remain very active on the national stage, as well,” he adds. “As President Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘Every person has an obligation to better his industry.'”
Building common ground in a diverse community
The relationships are one thing; however, Fink says the most rewarding aspect of his job is building diverse communities under one common goal: first-time home ownership. “The common denominator between people is not their ethnic background,” he explains. “Our buyers all want the same thing, a piece of the American dream and to be able to own a home based on their hard work. Home ownership creates a platform of respect based on success, whether they were born here or immigrated, which builds a strong foundation for the next generation to build off.”
“It’s an incredibly powerful, real concept,” he continues. “All of Leewood’s projects share this same satisfaction, and we’re leaving the world better one owner at a time, which is what sets our company apart.” Leewood NJ LLC continues to make the home-buying process easier, offering a high-quality, affordable home that allows for more people to move up and build a better life.
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