Monday June 18, 2012
In the summer of 2008, Lamar Smith took an unimaginable step at the height of the real estate crisis. He started a homebuilding company.
Lamar (left) and Jeff Kramer are a formidable homebuilding team.
Most of his friends and colleagues privately wondered about his sanity. But inside every good businessperson, and especially a builder, lives an optimist.
A well-respected and successful land developer, residential and commercial, Lamar Smith Signature Development and local homebuilders had teamed up over the past decade to create some of the most “in-demand” places to live and do business in the Greater Savannah area. It was an exciting time. But that came to an abrupt halt by late 2007. Lamar realized that local homebuilders were hurting and his commercial customers as well, leaving him with the prospect of reinventing his professional life. He had the land, but could he transition from a developer to a builder – and do it while an economic tsunami washed builders out of the business right and left?
He took the plunge in July 2008 when he formed Lamar Smith Signature Homes and broke ground in The Retreat at Rice Creek near Port Wentworth. Following quickly was his expansion into Lost Plantation in Effingham County. In their first year, they built and sold 48 homes and became widely known as the “Home of the Mini-Mansion.” He quickly picked up awards from the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah for “Homebuilder of the Year,” “Best Master Suite,” and runner up for “Best Home Value.” And the future is brighter still!
From 2009 thru 2010, the economy bumped along and then stagnated. Most builders were just trying to survive. Again, Lamar Smith Signature Homes saw opportunity when other builders were throwing in the towel. With a keen sense that homebuyers will bring the market back through pent-up demand, Lamar had quietly put together a top-notch team, including his most important decision: Bringing Jeff Kramer on as president to head up and manage the homebuilding company so Lamar could focus on expansion and securing sound financial relationships with local banks.
A custom kitchen in Parkside at Rice Hope.
Jeff’s first move was to raise the bar on quality and expand our library of home plans to meet the demand for single level homes, master suites on the main floor, and aesthetically-attractive exteriors. While he ratcheted up the quality and plan offerings, Lamar focused on finding new communities that were stressed and had been sitting in limbo but that also had great potential. He knew that the key was finding the right locations, whether that is for schools or proximity to shopping or to a job or church or amenities in the neighborhood.
In 2011, Lamar chose three new areas to expand – Teal Lake on the Southside of Savannah, Covington Pointe near Brunswick, and two places near Hinesville/Fort Stewart, Timberlands and Mill Pond.
Although the housing market is not strong yet, Lamar Smith keeps all the elements in play – a vision, risk tolerance, a strong financial foundation, and an exceptional team. It’s the summer of 2012 now, and we look back to see how a weak market was the impetus behind our growth as a top homebuilder in Coastal Georgia.
If you are in the midst of your homebuying search, we invite you to look at one of our new home communities located close to where you need to live. Our New Home Counselors are a great resource on not only finding the perfect home, but also in helping you arrange financing or any other need you might have in buying or building a brand new home.