URBAN PROPERTY GROUP
Like most small to mid-sized urban developers, Mark Young of Indianapolis’ Urban Property Group (www.urbanpropertygroupllc.com) keeps a firm eye on the bottom line of each project. However, the last several years have made the bottom line more of a star-gazing wish than a firm estimate of costs. “There’s no certainty in cost projections anymore,” he says. “Costs are varying wildly and dictated both by material fluctuations and by contractor availability. It’s basically how much are you willing to pay to keep projects on track.”
Mark isn’t alone staring at spreadsheets late at night and wondering if the industry is still viable. Especially for those interested in providing affordable housing without government subsidies (and the accompanying red tape) he wondered if he could still deliver a housing unit to consumers who don’t possess the luxury of flexible budgets amid ballooning costs. When the cost of PVC pipe or lumber rose 30-50% in just a week recently Mark found himself thinking, “There has got to be a better way.”
The ”better way” for Mark turned out to be modular construction, completed at Volumod. Although, he admits, he’s still in the learning curve of transitioning from stick-built to modular. “It’s just a different way of thinking,” he says. “It’s a different timing arrangement – I have to make sure my part – the foundations, utilities and permits – are ready because the factory work is fast. It’s actually a much simpler and easier development process once I got used to it.”
He especially appreciates the firm price quote right in the contract and the simplicity of dealing with only a fraction of the subcontractors he used to manage. He’s looking forward to being able to standardize his approach and replicate houses, knowing the bottom line is firm instead of relying on fluctuating timelines and cost estimates. “I’m only on my second build and I already appreciate the consistency of my purchase. In the quality-controlled factory environment I know what I’m getting every time. Having a unit arrive 90% complete simplifies my business.”
He also appreciates the time saving from needing to build in timeline buffers for inspections at each phase of construction. “It seemed like we were constantly stopping for one thing or another,” he says. “One time I’m waiting for the inspector and the next time the drywallers are delayed by the electrician. Maybe my electrician is on it but my plumber is busy and can’t get there. It’s just seemed the complexities never ended.”
Working with Volumod has been a great experience for Mark. “They are a great teammate,” he says, “And very committed to their mission – to provide affordable products for development and eliminating so many of the typical developer issues.” To Mark it seemed that other modular companies seemed to enlarge their profits based on the market fluctuations more than Volumod. “I’m excited to work with Volumod in the future because they’ve shown that they are committed to improving my experience and providing me with what I need to succeed.”
Mark Young's first Volumod modular house is set by a crane in Indianapolis in December.