Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read June 2021 — Jon Rufty, the owner and president of Rufty Homes, is ready to take advantage of the increasing demand for high-end custom homes in the Triangle region but there is one big challenge: the limited talent and materials available to build those special homes.
How has your business changed over the last year?
The outside executives who are moving into the area are bringing designs and cost increases that we just have not seen in the marketplace. The style of homes they’re wanting to build and how much they’re willing to invest in a home is substantially different from what we typically have seen in the past.
What differentiates your company from the competition in the Triangle area?
More and more of our clients want to do something special and there are a lot of builders out there that can produce similar homes but when clients want one-of-a-kind homes with a lot of handholding and attention to detail, that starts to fall into our core competencies and niche. Our phones are constantly ringing because of that reputation.
How important is green building for your business?
In 1994, we did a project called the Healthy House and it was one of the first green-built houses in the country. We teamed up with NASA, the American Lung Association, USDA and NC State to explore a lot of what the industry thought were new technologies. Green building has been done for centuries and the things that were important in ‘94 are the same things that are important now, like energy efficiency, air quality, water quality and sustainable landscaping, which are the elements we need to be thinking about as we design and build houses.
What technologies are you using?
My background before construction was computer systems integration so early on, I just knew the importance of what technology could do for us. For the last 10 years, anything that we can do in the office we can do out in the field. Our project managers are set up with the latest and greatest in technology, so they can look at any document from anywhere.
How do you manage the affordability and quality of construction considering the high-cost issues in the construction industry?
Our niche is upper-end custom homes and pricing is not as critical as with affordable housing. But regardless of the price of the house, everybody is looking for good value and I think it’s common to ask the client what they would like. They’ll start listing things and as we start looking at the complexity of the house and the interior detailing, inevitably the price comes in higher than what they were thinking. I think that’s an area where we excel, which is helping people understand what things cost and therefore looking through the list and helping them identify the items they can easily make concessions on and still get the house they want.
What are the most in-demand amenities for custom houses?
Indoor and outdoor living is still big in our climate. If you go back five or 10 years ago, people would have nice porches and things like that. But the influence of Florida and the influence of the West Coast have come here so every amenity that you can think of outside is in demand: swimming pools, tennis courts, play areas, outdoor cooking, outdoor entertaining. Also, everybody wants a light, bright house and that means high ceilings and glass also come into play. Another big movement over the last 24 months has been toward modern-style houses that have been very popular on the West Coast and in the Southeast.
What are the biggest challenges about doing construction in Raleigh-Durham?
I think we have a limited talent pool when it comes down to subcontractors and the craftsmen who have decades of experience. For our clients, who are looking for uniqueness and quality, that’s the main challenge we would have.
What do you consider major trends in housing now?
Before COVID, it was just a strong push for walkability, where you could walk to a Starbucks or a grocery store or restaurant. During COVID-19, people are looking for a little bit more space than they were before so just stepping outside the normal range of businesses and going to a more suburban type of environment and getting more privacy in their lives.
Another trend that I think is here to stay is working from home. The need for two offices in a home will be very common. A lot of that can be accomplished through flex rooms. That means giving the homeowners flexibility to use their homes based on their lifestyle.
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