London Bay 1

London Bay Homes is known for providing high-quality custom homes.

By Alan Dorich

After 26 years, London Bay Homes stays on the leading edge of design, President and CEO Mark Wilson says. “The integration of [our] design team has been instrumental in the level of service we’ve been able to offer our customers and the quality of product we’ve been able to build,” he states.

Based in Naples, Fla., the company designs and builds luxury homes in southwest Florida. A native of England and longtime veteran of the building industry, Wilson formed London Bay Homes in 1990 in response to a void in the luxury housing market in this region of Florida.

Wilson’s vision was to deliver a personalized experience to discerning customers by providing an attention to detail and customization that was not strong in the market. London Bay Homes started out with only three employees, but has since grown that number to 120.London Bay Fact Box

It also has evolved, Wilson says. “We’ve grown from what was a specialized, custom-home company into an integrated development and building company,” he says, noting that it also specializes in remodeling and manages master-planned communities.

High-end custom homes also remain its main focus, with project budgets that range from $1 million to $15 million.

“With the size of the company today, we’re trying to make sure we do have projects that do have some scale, running anywhere from 16 units to 250 units,” he says.

London Bay Homes thrives by staying focused on its niche, he adds. “We’ve had plenty of commercial opportunities or opportunities at lower price points that we haven’t wandered into,” he says. “We’ve been very good at what we do best, which is serving the luxury customers and staying in front of trends – from a design standpoint.” 

Reputation for Innovation

Design trends have changed in London Bay Homes’ market over the last 25 years, Wilson says. Home designs used to be Mediterranean-inspired, but later moved into designs inspired by the West Indies. “Now, we’re seeing a cleaner, more contemporary influence coming in the downtown areas,” he says.

In addition, more innovative features are being integrated into projects thanks to consumers spending more after the economic recovery. Vice President of Construction Alain Filiault adds that this is particularly strong in the area of technology.

“The home automation market went silent during the downturn, but now people are spending money automating their entire homes, from window treatments to audio/video,” he says. "Plumbing manufacturers are also joining in now and introducing some automated shower systems that require an Internet connection to program and operate."

London Bay Homes can install these, as well as features that control music, lighting and temperatures, Wilson adds. “If you want a thunderstorm going on in the shower, we can do that too,” he says.

The company also is underway on several homes that will have both indoor and outdoor showers, Filiault says. “The one thing everybody will say when they walk into a London Bay home is that they know it is one of ours because it is so well designed,” he says.

Nice Touches

London Bay Homes maintains close communication with clients during their projects. “One of the main things that we do is we set up an individual blog for each client with status updates,” Filiault says. “It starts at the design phase.”London Bay 2

“We have client development managers who take the client through the entire process when they’re making selections, choosing their selections throughout the home,” he says, noting that these choices are communicated via the blog.

Once the project reaches the start of construction, “The construction team takes over that blog,” Filiault says, adding that the project manager will upload pictures of the homes.

But London Bay Homes does not limit its communications to the blogs or phone calls. “There are some touch-point letters that we send out throughout the process,” Filiault adds.

“Our customers may be use to the only mail they get are bills and advertisements,” he says. “We thought letters from London Bay Homes, once the homes reach a milestone, was a nice touch.”

London Bay Homes still maintains connections to the client even after the home is built. “We have predetermined, post-construction walkthroughs,” he says, noting that the company conducts these 30 days, six months and 11 months after the client has moved into their homes.

Touches like these have resulted in repeat business with clients, Filiault says. “Our remodel division has gotten quite a few repeat clients,” he says, noting that its customers have recommended London Bay Homes to others.

In Hot Markets

London Bay Homes is coping with a reduction in the availability of land in southeast Florida. “Naples is one of the hotter markets in the country,” Wilson says. “We’ve had everybody and his brother jump into the market.”

This also makes it difficult to find skilled trades or staff members. “Getting the right people on board can be a challenge, but we’ve done fine with it,” he asserts. “We have a very rigorous process.”

The company has managed this by being patient. “We’ll wait for the right person, if it takes four weeks or five months,” Wilson says. “Making sure we have the right personnel at London Bay Homes or the right trades with adequate labor on our jobs is extremely important, and making sure we end up with the A-team and not the B- and C-team is important.”

Quality Culture

When hiring, London Bay Homes looks for potential employees who are in line with its culture. “When they come on board, they meet with the officers and we spend time talking about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to succeed within the company,” Wilson says.

The firm has a mentoring program for its employees, as well. “We also have meetings throughout the year with all the company included and weekly newsletters to the team every Friday, giving them updates,” he says.

London Bay Homes promotes its culture by posting its mission statement, core values and visions around its office on screen savers. “It’s just a constant message of how you conduct yourself, the core values and incentive programs,” Filiault says. “It’s a very important part of our company.

“Obviously, one of our core values is quality,” he says, noting that about two years ago the company hired a quality control manager as part of this focus. “It was a big step for a builder of our size.

“Not only does he inspect the homes but he does a lot of onsite training with our superintendents as well as the vendors,” Filiault says. “He’s demonstrating to the vendors and superintendents what we mean by quality. He’s certainly lived and breathed it for the last 18 months.”

Branching Out

Wilson sees continued growth for London Bay Homes. “We will be moving into growth in the core areas that we’re working in, but we’re also moving into the multifamily arena at the luxury levels,” he says.

“We are working on three different projects at the moment,” Wilson says, noting that one will be a mid-rise and feature 56 homes. “We also are closing next month on a piece in Naples that will give us between 160 and 180 homes.

“Two-thirds of that will be multifamily,” he continues. “We are looking at opportunities to allow growth as land becomes more scarce and density continues to increase. We believe we need to have a multifamily component to what we’re doing.”

London Bay Homes also may look into other luxury markets, Wilson says. “There’s opportunity for expansion in the remodeling division and continued growth of the interior design company, as well,” he says. “We’re different in scale from your average custom homebuilder.”  

 

 

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