Kal and Kam Takhar – Crowne Development Inc.
They continue to beat the odds that have consumed so many small and medium-sized companies in California’s very competitive homebuilding industry, since the last downturn. The way things are going for Crowne Development Inc., brothers Kal and Kam Takhar could be well on their way to having yet another success story from which to leverage more growth.
“There aren’t too many small builders like us left,” the soft-spoken Kal tells Blueprint in late April, mere weeks before the next step in a major subdivision that Crowne has underway in the small city of Winters, in the western Sacramento Valley.
“After that last housing downturn, the larger builders consolidated into mega-builders, big builders buying other big builders and making it very hard for the smaller companies to survive,” he explains. “The banks won’t extend lending and the communities have stringent requirements for construction.”
Those factors notwithstanding, Crowne has done more than just survive; the Yuba City-based builder has thrived, and anticipates the good times will continue, with grounds broken and a sales kiosk soon to open for the ambitious Heartland project in Winters. It’ll be pursued in phases, and if all goes according to plan, in a few years there will be 109 new and diverse houses in a scenic, rural setting within commuting distance of San Francisco and Sacramento, and minutes away from shopping, dining and recreational options that include a couple of refreshing lakes.
“How have we been able to do this? We try to keep it on the cutting edge,” Kal says. “Up-to-date designs based on what the consumer wants.”
Diverse and detached
Experience has shown the Takhar brothers that their customers want detached single-family houses with a variety of exteriors and floor plans, and appreciate online and personal service when it comes to financing, selection and maintenance.
The first phase will include 55 houses on lots averaging 6,300 square feet, and garages either in the front or back. While the exteriors will have the neo-traditional architecture that the city favors, these won’t be cookie-cutter structures. The houses will range in size from 2,000 to 3,300 square feet, with 10 floor plans and three elevations to choose from. Each corner-lot house will carry a special differentiation in accordance with city specification.
“That’s 30 versions that we’re offering,” says Kal. “Most subdivisions only give you four to six. We’re able to offer a unique look for everybody.”
Smart houses too, he’s quick to add. Crowne recognized long ago that such features as energy efficiency have become more standard than optional. Other amenities such as smooth rather than tiled surfaces are par for the course. And with the houses priced in the mid-$400,000s to the $500,000s, a buyer could get a much better value here, dollar for dollar in terms of square footage and privacy, than could be found closer to the big cities to the south.
As the cliché goes, location-location-location are the three most important factors in real estate, and Kal emphasizes that the Heartland development aces each category.
It’s a fairly straight run on Interstate 5 to Sacramento, where I-80 West can take a commuter to San Francisco. Twelve miles to the east of Winters is the University of California at Davis; 23 miles southwest is the glorious Napa Valley. The greater Winters area itself is becoming known as a foodie destination, with farm-fresh meats and produce available year-round, and the city being nominated for “Best Small Town Food Scene in America” on the USA Today website.
“It’s small-town, community living, but a lot of attractions are nearby that makes Heartland desirable for those who want the offerings of the city,” Kal says.
The fact that the Takhar brothers are well established in California homebuilding also factored into Winters officials entrusting Crowne with this project. The company will no doubt acquit itself as well with Heartland as it has with other high-profile projects developed over the past 28 years, the most recent being the Romanesque community of move-up houses in Natomas, near downtown Sacramento. Originally planned by another builder who encountered issues after pouring foundations, the lots were sold in 2015 to Crowne, which modified the original idea to better fit the evolving preferences of the modern buyer.
That 21-unit development features units priced between $400,000 and $550,000, with five floor plans and sizes ranging from 2,094 to 3,553 square feet.
“What customers want is always changing,” Kal reminds. “It would be easier for us to keep building the same house over and over again, but it wouldn’t sell.”
These new and improved models did sell. The same held true for another fairly recent development, Legacy Landing in Sacramento’s high-end Pocket neighborhood. A modest infill development with just 13 units priced from $600,000 to $700,000, Legacy Landing included amenities that other builders would bypass, such as Viking appliances, granite countertops and Kohler plumbing fixtures.
Crowne stays ahead of the curve by anticipating tomorrow’s tastes today. The company’s record might be even more impressive considering how the brothers essentially started from scratch. They built their first house in 1989 and when it sold quickly, they built another and another, and it wasn’t long before they formed the general partnership they originally called Takhar Development. Thriving under any moniker, the company was named the fifth most successful minority business in the United States by Entrepreneur Magazine in 1999.
The company has long since rebranded as Crowne Development Inc. It keeps a lean staff of five to eight that is augmented by a host of trusted subcontractors and a reputation for quality work.
As far as Kal is concerned, much of Crowne’s success results from paying attention to small details as well as gauging where the housing market is headed.
“You have to have your finger on the pulse and make changes on what you believe the people will resonate to,” Kal says. “It’s a lot of trial and error that goes into whether you’re a successful builder.”
With over 1,100 houses to their credit—and counting—one can surmise that the Takhar brothers have learned their lessons well.
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