Adapting to changing times and market conditions is vital for homebuilders. In fact, the ability to do just that is what separates the winners from the losers.
William Ryan Homes, based in Schaumburg, has proved itself to be exceedingly adaptable over the past several years. The company has given buyers what they wanted at any given time, rather than stubbornly sticking with what has worked in the past, said Debbie Beaver, vice president of operations.
During the downturn, for instance, William Ryan Homes took its floor plans and downsized them to match what buyers wanted and could afford at the time. It also allowed buyers to make major changes to the plans, temporarily transforming the firm into a "custom production builder" in order to survive, Beaver said.
In late November, the company adapted once again, anticipating a strengthening market. It introduced its new Historic Americana line of 13 models -- three, one-story models and ten, two-story models. Beaver said these floor plans incorporate many of the attributes the builder's staff has noticed buyers requesting in recent years as it was allowing so much customization, as well as features it has seen popularized on the East and West coasts.
There are expanded mudrooms with room for lockers; pocket offices near the epicenter of the home where children can do homework and adults can work from home; open floor plans combining upgraded kitchens and family rooms; larger master suites; and walk-in closets wherever possible in bedrooms. Living rooms are also a thing of the past, Beaver said.
"Because of those years of customizing, we feel that we really know and understand how people are living and what they want. We have gotten to know our customer very well," she said. "So we have incorporated many of those preferences into our floor plans and we have also come up with a list of the top requests that we have gotten -- and those are now preplanned options that buyers can choose.
"For instance, we offer seven different foundation changes, ten framing changes and so forth."
With this new line, William Ryan Homes is trying to make people's lives easier, Beaver said.
"So many people live in dual-income households today and they have so much going on that they need to have features like the pocket office, so that the children can be doing their homework close by when dinner is being prepared, for instance. We are trying to help," she said.
"We also freshened up our exterior elevations. They are all architecturally correct. Gone are the days of hodgepodge elements that someone added because they thought they looked good.
"The Craftsman has shake-shingle siding and stone columns and is true to that architectural style. The Georgian is symmetrical with columns. The Prairie has a Frank Lloyd Wright look and the Folk Victorian has true Victorian elements," Beaver said.
The company also has come up with color packages appropriate for each style -- bright colors for the Victorian, for instance, and earth tones for the Prairie.
Models and spec homes in the various styles are now under construction at William Ryan's 12 subdivisions. They will be available for viewing later this year. In the meantime, the homes may be purchased at pre-construction prices by looking at floor plans and elevation sketches in the sales offices or online at www.williamryanhomes.com.
"The reaction to the new floor plans has been great," Beaver said. "Even without models, we sold nine in the last five weeks of 2013."
The new plans range in size from 1,798 to 2,500 square feet on the one-story models and from 2,000 to 4,200 square feet on the two-story models.
Prices depend upon lots and communities where they are being built. Several of the models are available, for instance, at Walnut Glen in Island Lake and there they range from $246,990 to $350,000. At The Enclave at Fox Trails in Cary, models begin at $312,990. Those available in Naperville begin at $485,990 and at Kainer Court in Barrington, they start in the upper $600,000s.
At least some of the Historic Americana models are available in each of the 12 William Ryan communities around the Chicago area. However, no subdivision offers all 13 models.
"It is so exciting that our company is in a position to introduce these new models because they aren't cheap to develop," Beaver said. "The models are very fresh, brand new and offer a great value to our buyers."
William Ryan Homes was founded in 1992 and now operates in five states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Arizona and Florida.