Upon completion of his economics degree from Northwestern University, Chris Coleman accepted a job that determined the course of his professional life.
"I took a marketing job with the Zale Group and quickly discovered that I loved homebuilding," Coleman, Chicago Division president for William Ryan Homes, recalled recently. "I found homebuilding to be one of the most exciting industries out there because it touched on everything."
The career involves manufacturing (building homes), design (of both communities and houses), land acquisition (acquiring the right property is the most important thing, Coleman said), marketing a product and then selling it, too.
"I also loved forming close partnerships with buyers during one of the most intimate experiences of their lives -- building a home -- and helping make their dreams come true. That was really the best part of it for me," he said.
So Coleman was hooked on building homes. He stayed with Zale from 1988 through 1992.
Coleman then moved to Orlando, Florida, where he worked for Morrison Homes, then on to Atlanta to work for John Weiland Homes, before returning to Chicago in 1997.
That is when the Park Ridge native started his own homebuilding company, Buckingham Properties, based in Glenview. Over the next 18 years he constructed both single-family homes and townhouses on small infill properties around the North Shore.
In the fall of 2015, Coleman heard through his many contacts in the homebuilding business that William Ryan Homes was looking for a new Chicago Division president and felt it would be a good match. So he moved to the larger company, which is headquartered in Glenview and has divisions in Chicago, Milwaukee; Madison, Wisconsin; Phoenix and Tampa.
"William Ryan currently has eight active single-family projects in the Chicago area and plans to open models within the next few months at Stonebridge in Hawthorn Woods and Bartlett Ridge in Bartlett," Coleman said. He expects to sell 120 homes in the Chicago area during 2017.
William Ryan's homes, which are aimed primarily at first-time move-up buyers, Coleman said, range in price from the mid-$200,000s to the mid-$600,000s.
"The many things we include in our homes may make us a little more expensive than some other builders, but we feel we still offer the best value," he said. "And we try to make the whole process of building a home as easy as possible for our clients in every way -- even making it easy for them to customize anything from flooring materials to making structural changes."
A longtime veteran of the business, Coleman said the way the industry has changed during his career has been amazing.
"People often talk about homes not being built the way they used to be, but I am happy about that. Homes are built much better today in terms of both design and building efficiencies. The use of roof trusses and even panelized wall construction is much more efficient than the way homes were built in the past. And there is much more of an emphasis on design today," Coleman said.
"Unlike in years past when builders concentrated on providing shelter, today's builders who are most successful are those who concentrate on creating environments that will become the focal point for people's lives," he continued.
"Today's buyers are smarter, too. Instead of focusing on room count, the way buyers did in the past, they are focusing on square footage in the areas of a home where their families actually live. In particular, they are very concerned about the interaction between the kitchen and the family room," Coleman said.
William Ryan Homes is building communities in Hampshire, Elgin, Romeoville, Algonquin, Island Lake and Plainfield. For more information, visit www.williamryanhomes.com.