Blackpine Communities

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 Sacramento homebuyers with urban preferences look to BlackPine Communities.

By Chris Kelsch

It takes tremendous vision and discipline to start a homebuilding company, especially at the end of the housing bust in 2010. Fortunately for BlackPine Communities President and CFO Mike Paris, he already had 28 years of homebuilding experience in both custom and production operations. “My background is with Kimball Hill Homes, and that’s always been our advantage,” Paris says. “We have roots in production.”

His multi-market operational and production experience allowed Paris to found BlackPine Communities in 2010. The company’s inaugural project was Molly’s Walk at Diamond Creek, an 84-lot single-family detached community in Roseville, Calif.

Encouraging trends

Given the nationwide downturn in housing, “Molly’s Walk” was land-banked for two years while Paris concurrently held the position as a CFO for a drilling contractor with operations throughout the western US. But he quickly realized where his heart was.

Actually, “It just wasn’t my passion,” Paris recalls. Once he returned to homebuilding, the market, particularly in Sacramento, was ready for an upswing. “The Sacramento market has been very strong as those living in the Bay are starting to get priced out of the market and are looking for other alternatives,” Paris explains.

There is another trend also working in Paris’ favor. Sacramento is just 87 miles east of San Francisco, less than a two-hour drive.  As a result, many companies have recently looked into the market for potential relocation, again wanting to avoid the high costs of the Bay area, as well as the milder weather of Sacramento.

In addition to those trends, BlackPine Communities is also able to capture a more discerning homebuyer. “Our core customer is the move-up or move-down buyer who is unwilling to compromise in their choices,” Paris says. That has allowed BlackPine to cater to older buyers who are looking for a more diverse, urban experience. Many, in fact, are moving in from the suburbs.

Lots of Options

In addition to looking for a more urban setting, many buyers within the Sacramento are seeking high-quality amenities as well. Rooftop patios, guest suites, hardwood floors, quartz countertops, and gourmet kitchens and appliances are in demand. “It has been a huge shift,” Paris says. “We’ve seen options become 17 percent of the base price of the home, which is significant.”

But communicating with discerning clients can be a challenge, as the majority of BlackPine customers have busy careers, with time being their precious commodity. To better facilitate communication, BlackPine has added technology to its operations. In particular, a buyer can use a web-based platform to build their “wish list” and select options for the home.

The in-migration from the suburbs has allowed for some exciting trends to flourish in design as well. “We’re definitely seeing more rooftop patios,” Paris notes. “We’re also seeing denser spaces, with smaller but more luxurious homes.” As for the materials themselves, Paris has noted a move away from granite, and toward materials with cleaner finishes. “They’ve gotten better, year after year,” Paris says.

Green State

California’s high environmental standards have mandated BlackPine Communities to build extremely energy-efficient homes, so BlackPine must use dual pane low-E windows, zoned HVAC systems, higher resolution ratings, and infiltration barriers. “Our energy codes are the most rigid, about as efficient as you’re going to get,” Paris says.  “That focus also makes it imperative that the customer know how to properly use the systems, so we spend a lot of time educating the buyer on how to operate the systems.” Those systems include HVAC, security, electrical, and safety.

The urban focus and strong design language that Paris uses have already led to the launch of some impressive projects in terms of design and features. Single themed architecture is consistent throughout the communities, and there are exterior material “shifts”, reflecting a unique blend of both classic and contemporary textures. Additionally, there are modern color schemes, as well as window sizing and placement to exploit natural light from two different directions.

In addition to “Molly’s Walk,” there is “The Creamery at Alkali Flat” in downtown Sacramento, a 122-home infill project with homes in the $499,000 to $569,000 range.

Work has also begun on “California Brownstones,” a unique project of a dozen homes ranging of 1,550 square feet in Mid-Town Sacramento.  There is also “Curtis Park Village,” a 267-home project being built close to light rail, parks and a new lifestyle retail center set to open early 2018

The latest and most ambitious project is Farmhouse at Willow Creek in Folsom, featuring 126-units on 18 acres. Ground was broken in February, with sales expected to start this summer. Again, as with BlackPine’s other projects, the focus will be on a single themed contemporary urban farmhouse style homes with open floor plans and luxury amenities.

In these and all of the communities Paris has worked on, he has relied on a strong network of vendor partners. “Our trade partners are our real partners,” Paris says. “I’m grateful for all the people who have supported our vision – we want to be the premier homebuilder in Sacramento.” Given strong market trends and Paris’ pedigree, the future of BlackPine Communities should be strong.

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