Kim Meier and his team at KLM Builders in Spring Grove do it all. They develop land and build subdivisions. They design and build custom homes on individual lots throughout the suburbs. And they even remodel existing houses for those who want to increase their personal enjoyment, or those who want to fix up a home in order to sell it.
Originally a commercial ironworker, Meier began building homes when he and his wife, Sally, were looking for a home in the mid-1980s. They were unhappy with the quality, amenities and flexibility offered in the tract homes they were seeing on the market. Meier then decided to build his own house and that was the genesis of KLM Builders, which was officially founded in 1987.
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"We started out building homes on a couple of lots at a time," Meier said. "By the early 1990s we were developing land and building whole subdivisions and we were also building custom homes on owners' scattered lots in places like Long Grove, Hawthorn Woods and Lindenhurst. The remodels started sometime later when owners of homes we had built wanted to do some updating."
More recently, he said, the company began remodeling homes built by other builders because the owners wanted to move to a KLM house but they first needed to fix up their older home to sell it. KLM has also expanded its remodeling business to include homes built by anyone, even if the owners aren't in the market to sell.
"Many people love their neighbors and their neighborhood and they don't want to move, but they do want some changes made to their home like a finished basement, screened porch or kitchen or bath remodel. So, we are happy to accommodate them," Meier said.
What is your business philosophy?
"We use the same team and tradesmen on every house no matter where it is being built or remodeled, so that gives us tremendous consistency in our work. Since we take this kind of team approach, there are no surprises, no errors and no cost overruns and that shows in our product. We have very few quality issues.
"We also consider personal relationships very important in this business. We have built our business on relationships. I am personally involved with every customer, almost from their first visit to our office.
"We see KLM Builders as a one-stop shop. We have our own draftsmen so we can design a house from a clean sheet of paper and go all the way through to furnishing and decorating the house, if that is what the customer wants. Ours is a full design/build service. For one house we even designed and built a six-car garage with four slots and then a hoist to lift two cars above the others."
What is the best part of being a builder?
"It is very rewarding to create a great quality home for customers who are making what is probably the biggest and most personal purchase of their life. It is very exciting to see the beautiful finished product whether it be a single custom home or an entire neighborhood that you have created from a vacant piece of land.
"That is what keeps us involved in the business, even at times like this when the market is so dysfunctional."
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the business?
There was a time when homes kept getting bigger but that trend seems to be over, Meier said.
"Today folks are building smarter. They are concentrating on the finishes like granite countertops and hardwood floors, instead of on huge homes. They also want their kitchens, dining rooms and great rooms to open onto each other and they are asking for higher ceilings, bigger doors and more windows so that the resulting home 'lives' bigger than the area would indicate."
KLM Builders now builds between 20 and 25 homes per year in a 50/50 mix between scattered-site custom homes and homes in its own subdivisions. House in subdivisions always feature a full basement and sit on a lot of about one-third of an acre, Meier said.
They range in price from the $160,000s to the high $500,000s and are being built at four different subdivisions: Sunset Ridge in Richmond, Forest Ridge and Thousand Oaks in Spring Grove and Woodland Ridge in Antioch.
Custom homes built on owners' lots from Wisconsin to St. Charles and Peoria range in price from $200,000 to $2 million.
What are some emerging trends?
"We are offering people the opportunity to choose the lot they want in one of our subdivisions, buy it now and then have us build a house on it for them whenever they are ready during the next five years."
This is perfect for families and empty-nesters who want to lock in a particular lot and purchase it at a great price, but aren't ready to actually build a home yet, he said.
"When they are ready, the land will be waiting for them."
What are your company's future plans?
"We are looking at land purchase opportunities everywhere, not just in Lake County. In fact, we are looking at St. Charles right now."
For more information about KLM Builders, visit www.klmbuildersinc.com or call (815) 678-4018.