Greg: Welcome to this edition of the Houston Custom Home Builder Podcast series, brought to you by Houston’s leading luxury construction team, Morning Star Builders. I’m Greg, your host, and for today’s episode, we are joined by two of Houston’s best known, and most accomplished custom and luxury home builders, Yvonne and Ted Cummins. Hey guys, how are you doing today?
Ted: Good morning Greg.
Greg: I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about building homes in Houston. I’m hoping you can tell me a little bit about your company, what it is that each of you do there in Houston, and help the listeners of your podcast series get to understand what we’re going to be doing here a couple of times a month, and what they might expect going forward.
Ted: We appreciate the opportunity to do that. First of all, my wife and I have known each other since second and third grade, so we’re going way back. We have a very long relationship, and this coming October, our thirty-five years of marriage. We’ve kind of been around each other for awhile.
Ted: We work together, so it’s an interesting relationship. I mention that word, relationship, because that really is our heart for our listeners, and people who get to know us. We have chosen a business that I have a passion for. Mainly my part of the business is design. That’s why we have chosen what we call a design build model for custom homes in the Houston market, primarily in the northwest area of Houston. We started, as most builders do, sometimes by building their own personal home. That’s kind of how we got started in the business.
Greg: We’re you all already married when you built your first home?
Ted: Yes, yes. We were married, and we built our first home. I was the general contractor, and was involved in the design of it as well. It was something that I knew right away that I wanted to pursue more as a career.
Greg: That’s pretty interesting. How did you all decide to build your own home, if it was not yet your occupation?
Ted: We were, having grew up more in a rural area of Kansas, we wanted to be a little bit more out. We found a neighborhood that was selling one acre lots, and our boys were at the right age of five and seven, and they needed a place to run. We just decided that we needed to maybe look into this a little bit further. The more I looked at it, the more excited I got about the possibility of doing that.
Greg: Yvonne, was this a good idea on his part? Were you a little worried that building your own home was maybe not ending as well as it might have?
Yvonne: I had pretty high expectations that Ted could handle whatever it was that he was going to create. He is very creative and actually, in our company, we have given him the title of Chief Creative Officer, so he has a lot of design ideas, and through this process we had the opportunity to learn about compromise. That’s one of the things that I know our clients are often faced with, as they are looking to design their home. We usually have married couples, and that usually means that someone has an idea, and someone else might have another idea. We work hard to allow both of those ideas to come to fruition through their home.
Greg: Wonderful. How long have you all been building?
Yvonne: In 2000, was the year that we created Morning Star Builders, so we have been in business for sixteen years, building in the greater Houston northwest area.
Greg: Why don’t you describe, I guess for listeners, like you just said the northwest part. Are there some specific neighborhoods you hit, or is that pretty well a general area, is that what people are looking for?
Ted: For people in the Houston market, we kind of use the northwest quadrant. That could go as far south as Interstate I10, that runs east and west, all the way up to Interstate 45, that kind of heads towards Dallas, so in that kind of northwest pie area, which would be what we would refer to as northwest Harris County, southern Montgomery County area of Houston. We’re building in a variety of different neighborhoods, High Meadow Ranch, which is an acreage golf course community, just north of Tomball. We’re building just south of Tomball, in a relatively new gated custom community called Willow Creek Branch. We’re building in a neighborhood closer to 290, by the name of Leland Shores, which is a small gated community, which also backs up to another golf course.
One of the newest areas that we’re going into is Bluejack National, which we’re most excited about. This is the first golf course community designed by Tiger Woods in the United States. It’s a pretty big deal. It’s a very exclusive private golf course community, and so we’re building in there. Really, anywhere in this northwest area we try to focus on. We believe very strongly in supervision, so I have two full-time project managers that are in the field, and trying to make sure that the details that we design get pulled off in construction, and we’re not just relying on the subcontractor to make sure those details are done properly.
Greg: That all sounds great. I think in weeks to come, when we’re doing more episodes of the podcast, we’ll probably double back and talk about some of these communities that you’re building in. As we get started in your inaugural episode, I’m curious to know how the two of you decided which market niche, which part of the market you wanted to target, and what part of the custom home building, and maybe the luxury homes, appealed to you the most?
Ted: It started with initially we went into High Meadow Ranch, as far as building, and we actually went and started picking up some lots on the golf course. When you purchase a lot, and it’s a more expensive lot, then it really, economically makes sense to do a more expensive home. That’s kind of how we ended up in the luxury market. It was actually started to do with the lots that we chose. It also worked for my design desires, and creativity of doing something where my focus on the design of the home was very much on exteriors we treated the need to have good architecture on the exterior front of the home as you would drive by, as well as on the back of the home, because a lot of the homes that we did are on the golf course. My bar was as high for inviting and well done architecture to be on the front and the back, which is kind of left out in a lot of designs these days. The backyard, or the back of the home is really not paid much attention to.
Greg: Have the two of you always been interested in good design, and architecture, and things like that, and you finally got your feet wet when you built your own house? Or did you find that once you started your own house, that you discovered, or created these interests, and that it was a good fit for you.
Ted: I think it’s more of the latter. I think I always enjoyed good architecture, and was intrigued by that, but it wasn’t really until we got into our own personal home, and like anything, if you’ve done any teaching or presenting, you start doing your homework then. I guess it was then when I really kind of got more inspired. That drove me to really wanting to always push the envelope. I’m kind of an outside the box guy.
Greg: Awesome. Tell me a little bit more about the podcast. Obviously we’re recording here. This is going to show up on your website, right? People can stop by and read and listen. What are you hoping your clients, and your customers, and people who haven’t met you yet, get out of a podcast?
Yvonne: We’re hoping that we will provide our prospects, and our clients a library of podcasts that they can listen to any time of day. There’s a lot of information out on the web about building a custom home. Some of it needs to be written, or talked about from a more informed situation in the sense of having a builder speak about it. We think that it’s really important in the design build process that the builder be chosen as soon as possible in that whole process, as we can help guide and direct the budget, we can guide and direct the design as well. We want to offer this as an opportunity, an educational opportunity for people that are considering building a custom home to gain knowledge.
Greg: Over the next weeks and months, I assume that we’re going to be talking about all aspects of home building. If people have questions, maybe they can let us know. Can you think about some of the topics you might want to talk about in the future? Are we going to talk about different building materials? Are we going to talk about different neighborhoods? We could go almost anywhere you want to, talking about different aspects of building a custom home in Houston.
Ted: Yes, obviously we can have a lot of conversations. It’s a huge topic. I think one of the first things I think we can see us talking about, is I’m kind of a chronological thinker… I’m always asked by people, I’m thinking about building, do I work on the design, and then go find the lot, or do I go find the piece of property were I want to live, which do I do first? It seems to be a little bit of a confusion area, so that’s one thing that I would like to discuss. I think it will be both topically of how to pick a builder, to what’s the latest in design trends. Since we’re a full design build, I think I’ve got a pretty good feeling of what the market is looking for, as far as floor plans, and different things they’re looking for in their home, and then the mechanics of what a design build means, versus just hiring an architect and go design my own plans, and then going out and trying to find a builder. I think there will be plenty of areas for discussion.
Greg: All right. That sounds great. I like your idea. Why don’t we come back on your next episode, on Episode Two, and why don’t we talk about lots. Which comes first actually, is what you were saying. You can educate us on what comes first. What’s the first steps someone should take when they’re thinking about hiring you guys to build their next home?
Ted: That would be great. We look forward to that.
Greg: Ted and Yvonne, thank you so much for you time today. I look forward to our next episode.
Yvonne: Thank you Greg.
Ted: Thanks Greg. Have a good day.
*This podcast series is recorded and produced by Greg Fleischaker in Louisville, Ky – all content and rights belong to Morning Star Builders.