The real estate market has imploded, causing local home prices to plunge.
But Kingsburg resident Mona Kreiter isn't discouraged about her custom-home building business. Although she expects the number of customers to decrease by
70 percent compared to the boom years, she's hopeful that her newly opened franchise of G.J. Gardner in Hanford will pick up once the economy revives.
"Now it's a good opportunity for us to find our niche in the community and get to know people," she said of her business, which she operates with her husband.
The business, located at 322 Irwin St., opened on Dec. 11. It should survive in the midst of what she says is a housing market that's "bottomed out."
"Now there's nowhere in the housing market to go but up," Kreiter said.
That's because "it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to buy a home anymore," she said. "Prices of lots that were in the six figures are now in the five figures."
The result is she expects more and more people to buy homes, especially considering that interest rates are at historic lows and building materials have
deflated in price.
"We've lowered our margins to build an actual home," she said.
The cost to build a G.J. Gardner home starts at $67 per square foot. The average price of the builder's home in 2008 was $225,000.
The business joins several other major tract-home builders who have offices in town.
She said she expects customers to flock to her business even in down times because custom homes are a rarity these days when tract homes rim the
outskirts of Hanford and Lemoore.
While customers can choose between, say, several models and designs from large home builders, at G.J. Gardner in Hanford, they can choose from an endless number of designs.
"You mean I can pick anything?" customers often will ask Kreiter.
Her company walks clients through the process of building a home from scratch, from financing to designing the home to picking out the color of counter tops to choosing the carpet.
"We want customers' personalities in their homes," Kreiter said.
At the end, a home consultant walks through the built home, looking for imperfections and gets them fixed.
"We're confident we're presenting our customers with a high-quality home," said Lysha Payseno, a home consultant for G.J. Gardner in Hanford. "We want
to make sure we hand over a product that speaks loud for G.J. Gardner."
The quality has inspired customers to say good things about the company.
Indeed, more than 90 percent of the customers at her business are referrals, according to Kreiter, who also has an outlet in Fresno of the same name.
"The highest form of a complement is a referral," Payseno said.