Shawn Starr has been the owner of Dreambuilder Custom Homes since January. Before that, he worked for Standard Pacific for five years, most recently as the director of purchasing.
His business plan
He designs and builds custom homes in Northeast Florida. “I also do renovations, remodels and additions.” He has his real estate license and is hoping to hang it with a company soon, so he can help his clients find property and sell their existing home if needed.
Why start a company now?
“They say that sometimes when the economy is down that it’s the best time to start a business because costs are super-low.”
He said the market has really pushed down the price of a custom home because the cost of materials and labor are down.
“I tell people that if your job is somewhat stable and you can get out of your current home, you can build a custom home. It’s a great time to buy or build a home.”
Starr said that if someone has $300,000 to spend, they could build a 2,000 square-foot custom home with that amount of money including the lot.
If he could go back in time, Starr says would have been an architect. “Since I was old enough to draw, I’ve been designing houses and it’s always been a hobby. When a client comes to me, we just start talking about them and their lifestyle and we will start drawing them a house.” He then takes his rough drafts to a draftsman or architect to create blueprints.
His job as director of purchasing at Standard Pacific was to hire all the subcontractors and suppliers. “I certainly had a Rolodex available to me when I left.” Another part of his job was to calculate the budgets to build the house, so by negotiating their contracts and pricing that also meant we had to estimate all the parts and pieces in building the house such as how many shingles, light fixtures, boards of drywall, and other things.”
Starr earned a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s in business administration from Jacksonville University. He is married to Meredith, a speech therapist, and they have twin daughters, Emma and Alexandra, 6.
While working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield after college, he and his wife built a custom home in Hidden Hills that he had designed. “We hired a contractor to build it and it was exactly as I designed. That was so much fun. We only lived a couple miles away so I visited the site a lot. It was so much fun to watch a personal creation come to life and for it to be exactly what we wanted it to be.” He decided to work for a builder and learn all that he could about the home building business.
“Since I have the business world experience, I have a sense of business that a lot of contractors don’t have. I am able to go into this knowing how to manage projects, manage money, budget, market, sales, service the customer and put together a business plan.”
“Listen to my clients and people that I am working with. I’m not a plumber, but my plumber is. I’m not an electrician, but my electrician is. I’ve learned to really listen to what they are bringing to the table.”
... And Realtors?
“Realtors are a great referral source. If they have clients that are looking at vacant property who want to build a custom home now or later, that is an awesome referral source. I can also refer them business if I meet someone who needs to buy a lot first.”