Van’s Realty & Construction
Van’s Realty & Construction has been in business for more than 50 years. Now in its third generation of family operation, the company was established in the early 1950s. Jason Haen serves as company president, leading the small residential building company from a headquarters in Appleton, Wisconsin. The business employs six people and serves as a general contractor for projects throughout the Fox Valley.
“My grandfather founded this business as a mobile home company,” Jason explains. “He would drive out to Indiana and bring mobile homes back here and lay them on sites. When my father graduated from school and returned from the services, he joined my grandfather. Together, they expanded the company and built a warehouse in which to construct their own homes. Now, we develop lots and build smaller houses, usually in the 1,500 to 1,800-square-foot range. We go in, buy the land and build the houses ourselves and sell directly to homebuyers.”
A growing market share
While Van’s Realty and Construction formerly maintained a small service area, roughly a 25-mile radius from the office, the business has expanded its geographic footprint in recent years. Jason and his team are working further away in locations such as Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The crew specializes in small neighborhoods and has not put together any large-scale planned communities. Much of the business’ target market is occupied by first time homebuyers and retirees looking to downsize. The company’s classic ranch houses make comfortable homes without all the bells and whistles of larger tract homes.
“We are pretty diversified,” Jason says. “We offer a set of 10 to 15 core plans we build. Over the last couple of years, we have performed 50 percent spec and 50 percent as a contract builder. If there is a floorplan our customers like but they want to move walls around, we are flexible with that. A lot of people don’t do that, but we feel there is a need for that market. We do not do a lot of 100-percent custom building, but we do customize plan to help our homebuyers make a home their own.”
While from the outside many of Van’s Realty & Construction’s homes look similar from the outside, the team helps customers bring personality into every room. “One thing that has been very popular in recent years is solid surface countertops and floors. People want tile and hardwood instead of vinyl and linoleum, maybe a little bit fancier trim and tile backsplashes. A lot of these amenities are things we weren’t doing five or 10 years ago. We try to make it as efficient as possible to take a spec home and make it feel custom. We may have already built 10 of a certain floorplan, but each house is unique to its owners.”
Jason also recognizes the prevalence of green building in his industry. While the team does not actively seek certifications, the business is incorporating energy-efficient materials and technology into homes.
“Our houses all pass as energy efficient homes, but we are not part of state program,” he elaborates. “We use a lot of green products, including insulation, roofing and brick, but sustainability is not one of our main marketing tools. We have been around for a long time and we have built more than 5000 homes. We will be around a long time because our focus is on quality and accountability.”
Despite the recent economic downturn and preceding housing crash, Jason and his team are optimistic. The market is turning around and the crew has a number of development projects in the works.
“We are working on two new subdivisions on the south side of Appleton with more than 50 lots between both,” he continues. “We also own a 40-acre parcel in Greenville that we are developing in three phases. We will be developing 20 to 30 lots per phase over the course of the next couple of years. We also own probably an additional 80 to 100 acres throughout the Fox Valley area; over the course of 2015 we will develop those as the building market improves.”
Van’s Realty & Construction has been fortunate over the years, due primarily to strong relationships with communities and strategic partners. The business has the support of several local financial institutions willing to support these ventures. With this support, the team has been hitting the ground running and trying to pick up as many lots possible. Jason is optimistic about 2015 and 2016 as strong homebuilding years. His crew is well positioned for growth over the coming years with land assets throughout the region.
Taking the focus on relationships a step further, Jason and his employees have partnerships with a network of select subcontractors in the region. “We have a lot of loyalty between ourselves and our subcontractors,” he says. “We do not bid out work on every house. We have the same electricians, roofers and HVAC professionals working on all of our developments. If there is an issue, we are not chasing down someone for a resolution. Many of these contractors have worked with us for several years, one of these businesses have been a partner for more than 35 years. There is longevity in those relationships and we take care of each other in good times and bad.”
The company has a strong backlog of work and the resources to back up future developments. Into 2015 and beyond, Jason and his crew will remain busy, taking care of customers and partners alike. Few builders in the region can compete with the company’s guarantee of quality, honesty and efficiency. For first-time homebuyers and homeowners looking to downsize, Van’s Realty & Construction is the developer of choice in the Fox Valley region.
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