STEUBENVILLE - Looking back, Rob Strobel says building upscale patio homes while the housing market was free-falling, world financial markets were crumbling and the national economy was in shambles was a little, well, risky. Some might even call it foolhardy.
"I knew we had a good product, but it was scary," concedes Strobel, contractor for Mission Pointe, an upscale patio home subdivision on Eldorado Drive in the Country Club Hills section of Steubenville. "The housing crunch hit when we were getting started, but we were already too far into it to back out."
So Strobel and his partners in GENPRO Development continued to build, but with a twist: Rather than tie their money up stockpiling a handful of completed units and then trying to market them, they opted to build as the orders came in.
MISSION POINTE PROGRESS — Contractor Rob Strobel says buyers looking to downsize from big, multi-story homes appreciate the easy-to-navigate floor plan and energy efficiency of the two- and three-bedroom patio homes in the Mission Pointe subdivision. Mission Pointe is a 28-unit subdivision in the Country Club Hills section of Steubenville, offering single-story living and a maintenance-free lifestyle. - Linda Harris
"The fact that we built them as we sold them kept us out of debt," said Strobel, president of GENPRO. "If we'd been sitting on six or seven of them, we'd have been in trouble. I'm glad the housing crunch started when it did, so we didn't overbuild."
Strobel, in fact, has finished 21 of the 28 units planned for the subdivision. He said they're averaging "five or six units a year now."
"In a big market that might not be all that impressive but in our market, that's good, actually, the economy is still slow," he said.
Strobel's two- and three-bedroom patio homes are about 1,500 square feet each and are set up for ease of navigation: One floor, no steps and an open floor plan, each with a good-sized master bedroom and oversized bath featuring double sinks and separate tub and shower. There's also a roomy walk-in closet, at least one other bedroom and a second full bath in every unit.
Each building has two distinct units. Priced at around $205,000 for a two-bedroom with no basement, all have 9-foot ceilings and an open concept kitchen/living area and a two-car garage. Some have a basement, most do not.
He said his buyers fancy the one-story living and maintenance-free lifestyle at Mission Pointe.
"Most of our customers are people moving out of big houses with stairs into one-level living," he said. While there's a monthly homeowner association fee, Strobel said it's modest - just a little more than $100 a month - and includes everything from mowing, landscaping and snow removal to exterior maintenance. Walls are thicker, offering better insulation, and that also translates into a savings on heating bills.
"The idea was to do all one floor with no steps, some with basements," he said. "They're all set up to be handicap-friendly."
And the fact that there aren't many places left in the community to build right now "kind of works to our advantage," he said, though he admits he's already thinking about the "what's next" scenario.
"I'm looking for our next development," said Strobel, who followed his recently retired father, Robert Strobel, and grandfather, the late Walter Strobel, into the construction business.
The Strobel family has a 65-year history in the building business.
"I don't know if it will be the same type of thing, or maybe something with shale oil. They're going to need places. I've talked to people (in the industry) who say it's coming. They thought it would be this year but it's not here yet. The demand hasn't come yet for the people we talked to."
But eventually, he said the jobs will come and with it, housing demand.
"I think there'll be a need for a lot of units, eventually," he said.
"And the people coming here will want nice places, not 30- or 40-year-old apartments. It's just hard to find land in Steubenville that's developable."