Joe Ball – Treehouse Builders
In the 1960s, Walt Disney and Imagineers from his company designed an experimental prototype community of tomorrow. EPCOT was going to be the way people lived in the future. Disney died long before the theme park baring the project’s name opened in Central Florida in 1982, but his vision of a futuristic community featuring residential spaces and recreational centers connected by sidewalks and roadways lives on today.
Treehouse Builders, in collaboration with Core Spaces and Findorff, is bringing modern living and production scale communities across Core’s built-to-rent platform. Core Spaces, a leading student housing developer, owns and operates thousands of student housing units across the U.S.
Joe Ball, Treehouse Builder’s chief construction officer, leads the way.
“We are a disruptor in this space because we’re taking the best practices from our traditional student housing platform and turning it into something special and different for our resident’s next phase of living,” Ball tells Blueprint from his Treasure Island, Florida, home base in November.
A new way to live
The concept of build-to-rent has been around for some time but has matured into a production home-building platform out of necessity. After the Great Recession, lending institutions had homes on their balance sheets. Private equity REIT’s saw an opportunity and began buying them up to set up rental programs. In response, some developers decided to buy good quality homes on a piece of land, creating communities like those built by national home builders.
Ball and his team have embraced this concept and set out to create a lifestyle and customer base while maintaining control over the assets. By owning about 2,000 units and having another few thousand in negotiation and due diligence, Treehouse Builders is well on its way to achieving its business plan for 2024.
“We plan to have 10-12 communities in some level of development, and we expect to be building 15-20 homes a month. Eventually, we’ll be building up to 200 homes a month,” Ball explains. “Currently, Treehouse Builder’s has 22 employees. Over the next year, we will be looking to add an additional 35 positions, with plans to double our team by the end of 2025. We’re experiencing record-breaking growth to match the needs of our aggressive construction pipeline.”
Financial constraints mean that not everyone in America can afford to buy a home. Drive through any large metropolitan area, and you’ll find countless apartment complexes featuring thousands of units built around a general hub—a clubhouse, welcome center, etc. Treehouse Builders’ communities are similar, but the company is building townhomes and single-family homes instead of apartments.
The primary focus for Ball and his team at Treehouse Builders is on the construction of Oxenfree properties—the first one is called Oxenfree at Princeton in Princeton, Texas. This community spans over 50 acres and will include 408 single-family homes upon completion.
In addition to the Princeton community, Ball says other Oxenfree locations are planned for Dallas, Denver, Tampa, Chicago, and Charlotte.
“These are key markets we’ve identified, and we’ve ramped up our marketing efforts through various channels such as street signage, model homes and targeted advertising on social media,” he says. “This aims to push potential renters to their website to learn more about Oxenfree’s lifestyle and modern approach to living.”
The people in your neighborhood
Treehouse Builders aims to create modern and family-friendly communities with various amenities that cater to their resident-first approach. Outdoor or indoor basketball courts, resort-style pools and intentional landscaping are just some of their amenities. The goal is to provide a living and working environment that meets the expectations of renters and offers an unparalleled resident experience.
Design plays a crucial role in the success of Treehouse Builders’ communities. Ball says the company has a truly innovative design team that focuses on revolutionizing the build-to-rent platform by creating functional and open living spaces. They employ a barbell approach, offering products at different affordability levels and tailoring their home layouts to the specific needs of each community. They aim to provide a modern and convenient living experience by leveraging technology and incorporating smart home features.
“From the moment you enter an Oxenfree site, residents will know that they’re in one of our communities; however, the lifestyle will reflect the city each community resides in,” Ball states. “What is important to a resident in Tampa or Sarasota will not always feel as important to a resident in Denver or Chicago. We take pride in offering a product that is tailored to the local market and the residents of the community we serve.”
Maintenance is also a top priority for Treehouse Builders. Each community has on-site maintenance professionals who provide real-time service to residents. While the idea of creating gated communities has been discussed, the company has operated them as purely residential communities, akin to for-sale communities. This allows them to provide a focused and dedicated management staff for residents without involving tenant boards or management.
“The idea is for people to live, work and play in their neighborhood,” Ball says. “We’re trying to be as thoughtful about technology and modernization and delivering a great UX.”
Constructing a career
Ball’s journey to becoming the chief construction officer for Treehouse Builders was not a straightforward one. With a background in the trades and a knack for construction, he initially worked in residential remodeling and retrofitting. He then earned an associate degree in architectural technology from Delta College in Saginaw, Michigan, and honed his skills by designing home additions.
Ball’s career took him from Michigan to Las Vegas, where he gained valuable experience in the construction industry. He built condos and townhomes and eventually caught the attention of Pulte Homes, a renowned homebuilder. This led him to the corporate office, where he played a key role in writing corporate policy and procedures for construction activity. Overall, he spent nearly 20 years with the company.
After his experiences in Nevada, Ball took on consulting roles and later spent several years as general manager and vice president of construction operations for Discovery Builders in Abaco in the Bahamas.
During this time, Treehouse Builders reached out to him, offering him the opportunity to join their build-to-rent startup. Impressed by the organization’s concept, leadership, and vision, Ball joined the team in May 2022 to establish a foothold in strategic markets nationwide and leave a lasting leadership legacy.
“I’ve always had a personal connection to the construction industry,” Ball says. “My dad and brother were involved in the trades, and I spent summers working with them, honing my skills and gaining hands-on experience. This early exposure instilled in me a passion for construction that remains as strong as ever today.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.
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