Founder of Foxcreek Properties, Piedmont Residential and a myriad of banks, Bill Evans joins the Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio podcast to recount his impressive career in homebuilding and land development. Evans joins host Carol Morgan on the All About Real Estate segment and touches on his history in banking.
Evans started working in the construction industry in 1974. With a mother who was a builder and a father with a background in mechanical contracting, he has a long history with the industry and he always knew he wanted to be a developer. Evans began his development career in Stone Mountain, his hometown, and after developing a few projects, found himself in the middle of a recession.
Evans said, “Everybody had land, and nobody had a way to get out of it.”
During this time, banks offered loans with a contractual agreement that the home had to sell before the loan was due which caused issues for many builders and developers.
The first four homes built by Evans and his team were constructed within 30 days and sold within 60, a timeframe practically unheard of in today’s market. Now, it can take up to 30 days or longer to retrieve a building permit alone. He and his team went on to build 5,000 houses and participate in the development of 20,000 lots.
Evans said, “I’ve always thought of myself more as a developer than as a builder. If you develop in the right place, homebuilding becomes a lot easier.”
Evans shared that his first boss exclusively developed, which caused trouble during the recession. Learning from this experience, Evans does not develop unless he can build his way out of it. With his partner, George Hovis, founder of Hovis Homes Inc. and Ted Elliot, founder of Camel Homes, Evans and his comrades built homes all over Gwinnett County, averaging a 30-home turnout every year.
Evans learned that when the industry consolidates after each recession, it presented an opportunity to double the size of his company and continue profiting from hard work. This way of thinking set Evans and his industry friends up for success during recessions when other companies were sinking under economic pressure.
Evans said, “In the last recession, we actually quadrupled, and everybody thought I was crazy and I probably was but it worked. That’s just the way I do it.”
Evans began selling lots to independent builders and, with Edwin Lowe and Duvall Brumby, constructed a portfolio of 100 homes. Evans and his team realized that developers needed to operate with larger builders and run them like national companies. Soon, JEH Homes and Piedmont Residential were born, companies that are more sophisticated than their previous ventures. JEH Homes was eventually sold to Taylor Morrison and with Evans’s help, the builder also secured Acadia Homes. The two companies were combined to create Taylor Morrison in the Atlanta market.
Evans said, “To really make money in a building company and do well and have happy employees, you need to have an even flow process instead of starting and stopping.”
To experience continued success, Evans shared that purchasing and developing lots helps enormously in the long run and prevents companies from having a lack of land to build on. While it’s normal for deals to fall through, Evans recommends sourcing twice as many lots than necessary to make up for losses and prepare the company for potential industry stalls.
When excess lots are secured, Evans and his companies sell the land to other developers. There is no shortage of Atlanta builders in the current market searching for lots as the industry continues to experience an undersupply of housing in a post-pandemic market.
During his career, there were two recessions where financial institutions experienced hardships and credit supply shrank quickly. During those periods, land value plummeted and relationships with financial institutions mattered more than ever.
Evans said, “Until this last recession, I said I could survive anything but my bank going broke. I proved myself wrong. I survived and my bank went broke.”
When the industry halted in March 2020, Evans predicted inflation across the board. As national builders began dropping deals to cover losses, Evans and his companies purchased those same deals, allowing him to secure land that would have been out of his grasp. Evans was also insistent on keeping his entire staff through the pandemic and was also able to secure additional employees that brought fantastic experience to the table.
Evans said, “Most of the great hires I’ve ever had were during bad times. In the whole recession, we actually added people. We didn’t fire people. We went from about 100 homes before the recession to…right at 600… It was a great time.”
With three generations worth of banking history behind him, Evans followed his family’s example and founded four financial institutions. While one does not receive the same cash flow in the banking industry as in development, Evans shared that the endeavor grows slowly if one does it correctly.
Heritage Bank, Evans’s first bank, was founded when branching was more difficult due to the legislation. While figuring out how to secure more deposits, Evans and his team came up with the idea to install banking branches inside supermarkets. After successfully securing a deal with a Kroger supermarket, Heritage Bank branches popped up in Kroger shopping centers across Atlanta. This resulted in lower installation costs and expanded the company’s portfolio, saving money in the process!
After selling Heritage Bank, Evans was one of the founders of Premier Bank. After a successful run, he sold the institution to BB&T for their Atlanta footprint! A smaller Buckhead bank, Evans is also behind the profitable run of Private Bank, which was eventually sold to Piedmont Bank. A significant stockholder with Bill Blanton, Evans participated in the triumph of First Century Bank, a wholesale bank with ties to Amazon and Federal institutions.
Evans said, “Each bank is different and has found a different niche. It’s very difficult to repeat success with the same game plan. The world changes and you have to innovate.”
This also rings true in the building industry! If a company does not grow during a recession, it will lose relevance in the Atlanta market.
Evans has been and still is involved with wetland mitigations which sells mitigation credits in Georgia. His son took over the company and built it out and, when they sold the operations side of the company, they were selling 60 to 80% of all the credits that were sold in Georgia. It was purchased by a national company.
Evans recognized a need through his previous experience buying credits as a developer. When producing his first bank, it took Evans 90 to 120 days at $50,000 to secure credits. Today, it is common to spend up to $1 million and wait four years.
Evans said, “It’s a lot about recognizing opportunities,” shared Evans. “The question is can you recognize them and capitalize on it.”
Evans also shared that the building industry is experiencing a lack of talent, especially on the land and development side. For example, you can build a company around a land developer but it’s difficult to construct it around someone with a background in construction.
To affect prices in a market controlled by nationally run companies, a company must possess 30% of market shares. The top 20 builders control about 60 to 70% of the market, with a majority of them operating quarterly. Evans’s advice to listeners is to run on a one to a four-year timeline to compete with leading builders.
When asked about the most rewarding part of his career, Evans remarked on the valuable relationships with previous industry partners as well as those that he mentored through the years.
Evans said, “That was a lot more rewarding than physically doing a development.”
When asked for advice on how to attract new, diverse talent, Evans shared the importance of hiring people with different socioeconomic backgrounds. He shared that he had trouble producing the same results with females in the industry, a barrier that has proven difficult to break on the national and private levels.
In an industry that does not receive much exposure at the collegiate level, Evans goes out of his way to mentor and bring new talent into the industry.
Evans said, “Now is a great time to get into business. If you can spot an opportunity, you can capitalize on it and you can do well for yourself right now.”
A motto shared amongst Evans and his family that is applicable throughout the industry is when something goes wrong, an opportunity is present!
Tune in to the full interview above to learn about the rich career of Bill Evans or visit www.FoxCreek.us to explore the Foxcreek Properties portfolio. To speak with him personally, Evans encourages listeners to reach him by phone at 404-245-5828 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Georgia Residential Mortgage Licensee, License #22564. NMLS ID #6606. Subject to borrower and property qualifications. Not all applicants will qualify. New American Funding, Foxcreek Properties and Piedmont Residential are not associated. Click here to view the terms and conditions of products mentioned during the show. Corporate office 14511 Myford Rd., Suite 100, Tustin, CA 92780. Phone: (800) 450-2010. (April/2022)
New American Funding is a family-owned mortgage lender with a servicing portfolio of over 216,000+ loans for $56.8 billion, 171 branches and about 4,500+ employees. The company offers several niche loan products and has made Inc. 5000’s list of Fastest-Growing Companies in America seven times. For more information, call 678-898-3540 or visit https://branch.newamericanfunding.com/Atlanta.
The Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio “All About Real Estate” segment, presented by Denim Marketing, highlights the movers and shakers in the Atlanta real estate industry – the home builders, developers, Realtors and suppliers working to provide the American dream for Atlantans. For more information on how you can be featured as a guest, contact Denim Marketing at 770-383-3360 or fill out the Atlanta Real Estate Forum contact form. Subscribe to the Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio podcast on iTunes, and if you like this week’s show, be sure to rate it.