Southern Homes Continues to Build Affordable Homes after 32 Years
Ed Laderer and Greg Masters started Southern Homes in 1991 with a mission in mind: They wanted to provide quality homes at an affordable price.
“After spending time working in the industry, they realized they could provide a range of products for all budgets, all backgrounds and all families. To this day, Southern Homes offers a wide range of home sizes, option selections, price points, and locations in our market,” said Ashley Link, director of marketing for Southern Homes.
Southern Homes operates from its corporate office in Lakeland. However, it has model centers in 10 cities and homes in almost every city in the county. It currently has 20 active communities and “several others we expect to begin building in by the end of the year,” Link said.
In addition, it recently expanded into Highlands County.
Southern Homes employs more than 70 people. The company also works with hundreds of vendors, subcontractors and businesses every day, Link said.
Thinking About Homebuyers
Southern Homes values its homebuyers’ happiness so much that it created the “My Home, My Way” program. The program allows for personalization options, Link said.
“Through our My Home, My Way program, homebuyers are given the opportunity to make their home uniquely theirs to meet their specific needs,” she said. “For example, homebuyers could bump out an entire side of their home. They have the opportunity to remove a wall to create a more open space. They could remove a tub, making room for a large shower.”
It also is proud of the fact that customers who buy a home, then sell it years later, often return to buy another home.
“Some of our favorite homeowner stories are those who have been building equity in their Southern Home(s) for a few years and use that toward their next dream home(s) with us,” Link said. “We have daily visits from our neighbors who are ready to start planning their next build.”
Those relationships have kept the company building for 32 years, she said. “We wouldn’t have that without making people our priority.”
This is an interesting time for homebuilders. They are trying to balance supply and demand with interest rates, and home and land prices, Link said.
“We’ve seen interest rates climb, demand very temporarily slow, home prices decline as a result, then interest rates steady, demand increase and home prices begin to climb again,” she said.
The supply of homes remains low and demand remains high, she said, but “land prices haven’t responded. So, the challenge is finding affordable land for our homebuyers while balancing current sales in a high demand market. That way we’re ready with new land when we need it.”
Link said Southern Homes continues to assess the market – locally and beyond — and adjust as needed.
“With more than three decades of experience, and because we’re nimble, we feel positioned to remain healthy,” she said. “Our goal is to continue serving this community, our community, and because of our processes, we feel equipped to do so.”
The Talent Pipeline
Southern Homes hires outside of the industry for quite a few positions, Link said. “It goes back to the relationships we’ve been building for over 30 years: Our people know who the best employees are. When we need someone, we do the normal recruiting efforts, and we also start conversations with our current employees and other industry partners. They always know the best people.”
Together, employees continue to uphold “meticulous construction standards,” she said. “If you meet anyone on our Production Team, you’ll learn they all have similar traits: They’re obsessed with the details and refuse to lower their expectations of quality. Southern Homes has a high building standard, and we will not waver on that.”
Like many, Southern Homes wasn’t sure what to expect in 2022.
“Interest rates were frequently changing, buyer interest shifted multiple times throughout the year, and the ‘fear of the unknown’ seemed to be an ongoing conversation topic,” Link said. “We ended the year strong with the determination to focus our efforts on affordability. If people can afford us, we know we will continue to accomplish our mission and maintain our company growth.”
What Lies Ahead
For 2023, the homebuilder is “working on new land, new floor plans, new communities, new buyer incentives and new building strategies,” she said. “Focusing on the needs of the buyer continues to be why we’re successful. Right now, our homebuyers need affordable housing options, and we are working day-in and day-out to deliver.”
It does all that with Polk County in mind.
“Our entire team at Southern Homes is invested in Polk County, and, as individuals and as a company, we feel that it’s important to give back to the community we call home,” she said.