Kent Shodeen and his son, Craig, have long been known for thinking big thoughts and planning big projects.
Their company, Sho-Deen Inc., has developed a diversified real estate portfolio of office, retail and hotel assets. Sho-Deen also owns a residential construction division now developing, for example, Geneva's 2,000-home Mill Creek subdivision, which includes a golf courses, lakes, parks, hiking and bike trails and schools.
But when the economy started to falter in 2007, Craig began to think smaller.
He took a hiatus from the business his father founded in 1961 and chose to establish his own custom home-building company, which he called Sjodin Custom Homes LLC, reverting back to the Swedish spelling of his family name.
"Between 1998 and 2008, I had overseen the sales and construction of over 2,000 homes," Craig said. "When we noticed our volume slowing down, however, we had begun to focus more on designing flex home plans and making semi-custom changes to our plans, and I found that I enjoyed that part of the business."
So Craig took an opportunity the housing slowdown gave him to establish a smaller company, working with families to design and build custom homes to suit their particular needs and, at the same time, expanding his personal knowledge of custom home building.
"It was fun to go out and build a few, very custom homes a year. My wife and I did most of the work ourselves. She manned the office, vacuumed out ducts and picked up the yards for me -- all to keep costs down for our buyers. I worked with homeowners from start to finish, designing homes and supervising the subs," he said.
Between 2008 and 2011, Sjodin Custom Homes built about 25 homes at an average selling price of $650,000.
Realizing that Sho-Deen Residential would benefit from having a custom-home component, Kent Shodeen announced in late August that Sjodin Custom Homes would be merged into the Sho-Deen Inc. family of companies, and Craig would return to serve as president of Sho-Deen Residential.
"Adding the Sjodin Custom Homes brand to the Shodeen Residential new home product mix will allow us to offer something for everyone," said Craig. "Now our homes will range from the upper $200,000s to custom homes from the $500,000s. I am living the dream; doing what I love and managing my family's business. It really doesn't get any better than that."
In his new capacity as president of Sho-Deen Residential, Craig is responsible for overseeing the construction, sales and estimating portions of the residential construction arm of his family's business. In addition, he will personally work with all custom home customers, helping them design the home of their dreams and making sure it is delivered. His father will continue to handle land acquisition and financing for Sho-Deen Residential, as well as overseeing the office, retail and hotel holdings and projects of the larger company.
Craig expects Sho-Deen Residential will close over 50 homes this year at an average price of $375,000. It is hoped that 2013 will yield 70 homes, he said. Custom homes ranging from $500,000 to $1 million will be built primarily in three neighborhoods of Mill Creek -- Hillcrest, Jordan and Inverness.
"Right before the market fell apart we were selling about 160 homes per year, but there were some years when we built 240 homes, 200 of them in Mill Creek alone," Craig said. "Things have certainly changed."
What is your business philosophy?
"I have always felt that providing our customers with a quality product is the most important part of our business. My family name is on the door so I won't cut back on quality materials just to save money.
"That is also why we take complaints personally. We really get involved in every situation that arises so that we correct the problem and make sure that it doesn't ever happen again. That is why our customer-service rating has risen so much over the last ten years."
Who is your typical buyer?
Most of Sho-Deen's single-family homes in Mill Creek are purchased by younger families. But those located in the Pinehurst neighborhood within the community are mostly empty-nesters. These homes are built on small lots with alleys running behind the homes. A homeowners association maintains the yards in this neighborhood only.
Are you building anywhere other than Mill Creek?
"Next year we will be completing the Dodson Square Townhomes on a portion of the old Geneva Community Hospital site off Third Street near the Fox River. These 1,980-square-foot townhouses with two-car garages will sell in the high $300,000s and there will only be five of them. They are being sold now."
What is the best part of the business for you?
"I like to design homes. I make sure that I look at every home plan and I am not shy about offering opinions on modifications we could make to benefit the homeowner."
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the business over the years?
"Thanks to computerization, you can do a lot more work with fewer people. We used to do all of the estimating by hand, for example. Now we can just run it through a computer program and get true costs rather than an estimate.
"In addition, blueprints used to all be drawn by hand. Now they are done with a CAD (computer-assisted design) system and since they are on the computer, we can email them between ourselves or to the customer and get comments within an hour. And if a customer calls and wants to discuss plans with me, I can have them at my fingertips within a few minutes instead of having to dig out the blueprints."
What are your future plans for Sho-Deen Residential?
"We expect to be built out at Mill Creek in about four years. We currently have plans under consideration for planned unit developments (subdivisions) in DeKalb, Elburn and Elgin. We believe that a well-planned PUD gives you much more control over density, parks, etc., since you are controlling such a large parcel of land. With a smaller parcel you have to worry about what is going to be built next to you."
The developments in the approval process would allow Sho-Deen Residential to build another 8,300 homes -- more than 5,000 in Elgin, 2,000-plus in Elburn and about 1,300 in DeKalb.
For more information about Sho-Deen Residential or Mill Creek, visit www.shodeenhomes.com or call (630) 232-8181.