Las Vegas builder takes award-winning ways national, public
In 1981, Christopher Stuhmer opened his company under the name J. Christopher Stuhmer, Inc., building mainly custom homes in Southern Nevada In 1987, seeing a void in the market for luxury housing, and with a background in building custom homes, he formed Christopher Homes and the company started building luxury production homes.
Christopher Homes is an exclusive Nevada builder receiving national attention. Last year the builder won 25 awards for its Palisades development. Besides the Southern Nevada Home Builders’ Association’s Homer Awards and the regional Gold Nuggets, the company also won the best in American Living, a national award .. and also won the Builders’ Choice Award from Builder Magazine.
“Every model we have has won an award,” says Erika Geiser, vice president of marketing for Christopher Homes. “Typically builders have a neighborhood with one home that really means winning home. At the Palisades, all the homes have won an award.”
This year, the same holds true for the Vineyards, Christopher Homes’ newest development. The Vineyards is not quite as large or as expensive as Palisades, yet it maintains the same quality design elements, same attention to detail and same architectural styling as Palisades, with a price that accommodates more people in the market, according to Geiser. Palisades is a community of homes that run 4,000 to 6,000 square feet with prices from $400,000 to $600,000. The Vineyards, in comparison, encompasses homes spanning 3,000 to 4,000 square feet with complementary prices per square foot.
The similarity doesn’t stop with the excellence in design. This year Christopher Homes won six Homers, including best home for the Monticello Plan, best home for the Rothschild Plan, and a marketing award, among others. What’s behind the company’s success? “A great deal of planning and effort,” says Christopher Stuhmer, owner and founder of the company. “It’s a collaboration between us as the builder, with the design experience, and the architect, who’s very accomplished, and the interior designer. We created a group that collaborates on an equal level.” With such a collaboration, says Stuhmer, “No one discipline ends up dominating the design. When you get talented people who can work together in that kind of atmosphere, you end up with great architecture that’s very livable and very new. I think that’s what is behind why we won.”
Not that working with others is new to Christopher Homes. In 1996, the company was one of four founding companies comprising the Fortress Group, now a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ with 14 other builders involved. The group functions as a holding company for the builders but is unique, Geiser says, in that every builder involved maintains its own identity and integrity. “They’re able to maintain their own autonomy, management style, name in the market. Unlike Toll Brothers, which comes in and buys a builder, which then takes on Toll Brothers’ style of management, style of business. Fortress Group recognizes builders are successful because of their management style and the way they do business. It’s a very positive thing for us. We maintain what we are now, but we have a backing, financial security.”
The companies involved in the group meet to brainstorm and help each other run businesses across the country, Geiser says, but continue to run their own businesses their own way.
Christopher Homes’ way of running the business is to run a client-focused company. Markets driven by the luxury housing market, they’re willing to build large homes if the market dictates it or attached housing if that’s what’s required. But all the while they’re looking at their clients, and their clients’ needs. “We focus on the 52 Nevada Business Journal • December 1999 client,” says Geiser, “on how we can make the process of buying and building a home better for the client.” The process includes communicating frequently with clients, giving them information at every step of the process, providing the assistance of an onsite designer to help them design their own home. “Of course every company says its philosophy is to focus on the client,” says Geiser .• “We’re no different. Clients make us who we are. But we take it one step farther, building their dream home in the best neighborhood possible that we can provide for them.”
And that includes a little fortune-telling, a little looking ahead to the future. The builder looks to what technology needs will exist five years down the line, trying to anticipate the home owner’s needs so that, in five years’ time, the home owner won’t be looking to sell because the technology in his or her home is obsolete.
That’s half of what the client is looking for, says Geiser. The neighborhood is equally important to the buyer. “[They) want the technology of tomorrow and the home and neighborhood they grew up in. Looking toward the future and technology, but a home reminiscent of days long ago and sidewalks and trees, tree-lined streets.”
Which the builder provides. Within its private communities, Christopher provides tree-lined streets, private parks, and gates to make the neighborhoods secure – along with the technology of today, the space and privacy of yesterday and the award winning designs of this year.