Born in Harrisonburg and a graduate of Virginia Tech, Kevin McNulty jumped at the chance to come back to Virginia six years ago when he was offered the position of president of LifeStyle Builders and Developers. He became president of Richmond's Home Building Association in January and has worked for almost a year on mounting Homearama, six fully decorated homes filled with ideas in East West Communities' Patriots Landing in New Kent County that the public can tour for $10 from Sept. 18 to Oct. 3. McNulty moved from Charlotte, where he worked for Centex Homes.
Q: It's been a difficult couple of years in the homebuilding industry with the downturn in the economy. What do you want to see happen?
A: Richmond is a relatively stable market. We have certainly gone through a downturn. Things aren't what they were in 2005, but we aren't Nevada either, and that helps keep things in perspective. The government needs to find a way to deal with long-term debt financing on real estate for builders and developers, a way to free up more capital for builders and developers. There also needs to be some reform to consumer mortgage lending. They have to find a way to make loans to more people while rates are low. We've gone from too slack to too difficult. And there needs to be overall employment improvement. Jobs drive everything.
Q: Bright spots?
A: According to MLS numbers for the year to date, more homes were sold through August 2010 than by the end of August 2009. [The government's homebuyer's tax credit ended on April 30, with buyers needing to close on their homes by Sept. 30, 2010.]
Q: How have the economy and consumers changed home building in Richmond?
A: Incentives are tapering off and are not as prevalent as they once were, since existing stock decreased. There is a sense that things have stabilized, everyone knows where the dust is settling and now we are moving forward. Homes are being built with smaller floor plans, fewer formal forms and more open floor plans. Also, homes are coming with more energy efficiency. And you are seeing more infill development and higher density development going on.
Q: Why Homearama this year?
A: The last one was in 1994, and for years before that, it ran this market very successfully. The very first one in Richmond was done in East West's Woodlake in 1987.
Tidewater has been running Homearamas very successfully every year since we stopped in 1994. Last fall, we were talking about events for 2010, and Chris Corrada from East West proposed that we do it. East West was hosting the one in Tidewater and was willing to host at Patriots Landing. I was familiar with Homearamas coming from Charlotte and I thought it was great idea.
Q: Your company built the charity house for Children's Hospital. Where did the idea of donating the more than $50,000 in proceeds from that house sale come from?
A: We got the idea from traveling to Tidewater, where they do a house for charity. When I learned about that, I came back and sat down with Lloyd and told how I felt we should be that builder. He agreed, and he and I started the process of figuring out the charity. We ended up touring Children's Hospital on Brook Road and meeting with their foundation people. We really wanted to partner with someone who helps children locally. To be able to give more to Children's Hospital, we donated our overhead plus any profit we were to make, and we were able to go to our suppliers and vendors and almost universally people were gave something, so we were able to further reduce our costs to give Children's Hospital even more.
Q: What was each Homearama builder tasked with?
A: We gave all six builders some direction. Every house had to have some green features and be certified by a third-party such as Energy Star or EarthCraft. They had to provide homes at reasonable prices. A lot of times, these Homerama homes are million-dollar houses, but we wanted this Homearama to be within a reasonable range. [As of Sept. 7, three of the six homes were under contract.] We also wanted every house to have some components of outdoor living. And I think everyone wanted to put their best foot forward with interior and exterior architecture and craftsmanship and with the latest in home trends.
Q: Such as?
A: Our house includes a LiNK System, which is a Web-enabled system that allows you to control access to the front door and thermostat using a handheld computer.
Q: What have you learned through this planning process?
A: It's been a team effort with all our employees, our designer Priscilla George and our trade partners. I've used this analogy with them — this project is similar to the way Ford looks at the car it races in NASCAR. It's a car to push the limits of their engineering, and they take some of what they've learned and apply into the production of their line cars. As a builder we did a lot of things with this house that we are already incorporating into another house in Midlothian.