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Ann and Allen Richardson with Richardson Housing Group join the Atlanta Real Estate Forum Radio show on the eighth Legends of Real Estate segment to talk about the company’s large footprint across the metro Atlanta housing market. The couple chats with Carol Morgan in the studio about founding the homebuilding company in 1973 and Allen’s involvement with the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association.
Feeling entrepreneurial, Allen partnered with his dad to start Richardson Homes almost 50 years ago. The builder is now known as the Richardson Housing Group.
The family ties of the company extended beyond Allen and his father to several uncles who had experience in construction, residential real estate and general contracting. Through his college years, Allen gained valuable experience directly from these familial role models that would set him up for great success in the following decades.
Allen said, “I just always had a fascination for the housing industry and that’s where I am today.”
Today, the Richardson Housing Group stands as a third-generation company.
In Allen’s words, the company had basic beginnings with a strong emphasis on building sturdy relationships within the industry, from subcontractors and trade partners to bankers, employees and more. This resulted in decades-long relationships with subcontractors and employees who remain loyal to the company.
In the beginning, the Richardson Housing Group typically constructed single-family homes that were a mix of split-level, two-story and ranch plans. Allen shared that they were still learning how to target the market during this period.
Allen said, “We learned early on that the young people were buying the split levels and middle-aged people were buying the ranch plans. So, we did learn a little about what we needed to do to target the market.”
In the 70s and 80s, it was common for a builder to make every decision surrounding interior and exterior design. The Richardson Housing Group was no exception. Later, the builder opened a design center and turned away from producing ready-made homes for prospective buyers.
Ann said, “Homes back then were more functional than they are now. If it didn’t have a function, it didn’t go in the house.”
The homes the company produced were smaller homes for atomic families. Amenities did not come onto the scene until it became apparent that families were shopping in communities with popular amenities.
Although Ann officially joined the company in 1982, she was there with Allen at the beginning assisting with administrative tasks and familiarizing herself with company operations.
Two short years after the founding of the Richardson Housing Group, the world economy underwent a significant crash that forced many builders to halt. Allen shared that while the company managed to get itself on its feet, no one predicted rising interest rates of around 9% and a lack of mortgage funds entering the state.
Allen said, “One thing that I do recall is that we had construction loans with that filed [for] bankruptcy…It made for some interesting times.”
Forced to find creative ways to navigate the volatile market, Richardson Housing Group developed relationships with banks in Florida and Maryland. This allowed the company to finish a few houses and bring them to the closing table while other builders struggled to complete the same task.
Taking advantage of the positive relationships built during the crash, Richardson Housing Group began venturing into investment and land development. The company established development on foreclosed land to prepare for the healing market.
Before technology took over the industry, there was zero communication from the office to the field. Adding machines and typewriters were in place long before the computer. The lack of technology presented a problem for industry workers and time-sensitive projects. Now, technology enhances the housing industry. One example is the issue Allen had scheduling subs before the time of cell phones. He shared that he called after the subcontractors finished their shifts in hopes that they would be able to help the following day.
Allen said, “You learned which ones to call in the morning and which ones to call at night. If you had to make 10 phone calls at night, you would be there for a while.”
This process resulted in Allen and his team learning their preferred lists of subs and what builders they worked for in the case of a time-sensitive emergency. Another significant industry difference was the transfer of closing papers with the assistance of couriers.
Ann showed immediate interest in marketing after joining the company and became a member of the Sales and Marketing Council and received her MIRM designation.
Ann said, “I was just fascinated with things we could do to make people seek us out and marketing homes to people.”
Targeting prospective families to live in their communities, Ann shared that they would entice families by including a baby bed in the model home. This was a perfect example of early marketing strategies that merchandise for the buyer of choice and show them what they want and need in a home. Now, it is more common to see a dog bed and bowl in a model home to attract millennials entering the market waiting to begin a family.
Ann was also responsible for the first Richardson Housing Group design Center where she worked with buyers to help them select and design the home of their dreams. Before this development, homes came with standard features, not choices.
Ann said, “We built a rapport with them. Everybody loved to come in and hold and build and touch the components of their home.”
This change in the business process led to the production of more model homes and amenities to attract more families to new communities.
To date, the Richardson Housing Group has built over 5,000 homes in and around Gwinnett County. The area boasts fantastic educational options which align with the company’s family-oriented mission and goals. Decades spent in this area of metro Atlanta have led to Ann, Allen and the Richardson Housing Group team becoming very familiar with the local market.
Allen said, “Gwinnett is home for us.”
Over the years, the Richardson Housing Group has been the recipient of several OBIE awards and housing accolades. Ann and Allen’s children are at the company’s helm, steering it into the future of the Atlanta housing industry. Ann shared that their children owned their positions and worked hard from the beginning, allowing their parents to step back and supervise.
A Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association member, Allen served as president in 1984 and forged valuable connections with other members. These relationships helped him navigate several decades in the industry and stay involved in his local Gwinnett building community.
Ann said, “It’s a wealth of information…We always gained insight from the meetings and everything we’ve attended.”
When asked what the most rewarding part of her career was, Ann answered that working with agents, designing model homes and developing relationships with buyers takes the cake. Allen and Ann answered that watching their kids take the helm of a company they worked so hard to build is priceless.
The couple agreed that it is much more difficult to break into the industry now than 50 years ago during the time of homegrown, small-town builders. Allen advised working for a local or national company to gain experience and build relationships and capital to cushion an entrance into the market.
Tune in to the full interview above to learn more about the Richardson Housing Group or visit https://rhghomes.com to discover a wealth of information, such as upcoming communities, agent profiles, floorplans, development plans and more!
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