Case Studies

Tommy Jones – Stanley Martin Homes

Using data to determine what homes to build

Classic diners, like the ones you’d find in New York City, are known for 20-page menus with everything from scrambled eggs and toast to lobster and filet mignon.

Tommy Jones is a fan of diners, but he says his role as the director of corporate manufacturing for Stanley Martin Homes is different from that of a diner’s cook, who stands ready to make anything, even for the most challenging and allergic of customers.

“We have more than 400 unique plans for our single-family homes,” Jones tells Blueprint from the road one day in late January. “Our mantra is outstanding, but limited, choices. We have something for everyone.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in mid-March 2020, the housing economy has gone berserk, he says. So much so that Stanley Martin Homes oversold its goal by more than 800 homes. Because there’s way more demand than supply, prices for construction materials, like lumber, have skyrocketed. Even so, houses are still selling, he adds.

The changing landscape in home design

With more and more people working from home—and children learning remotely—Jones says a lot of new home buyers are adding office space and outdoor living options, like patios and screened-in porches, to their list of must-haves.

“We’re taking every opportunity to create the kinds of environments—indoors and outdoors—for families to take advantage of their space,” he notes.

Because of the pandemic, most people have spent less money in the last 12 months on dining out and travel, and interest rates are very low. For a family building a new home, that means there’s more to spend on things like upgraded cabinets and kitchen appliances, more expensive flooring and luxury items like tiled showers, finished basements, bonus rooms and more square footage.

Jones says it’s an opportunity for Stanley Martin Homes to emphasize some of its unique offerings, like pocket offices and larger kitchens.

Plans, plans and more plans

When your company’s home construction portfolio contains more than 400 designs, it’s inevitable that not all of them are going to be popular, Jones explains. In fact, there are many plans that sell only once or twice a year, if at all.

Since he came to Stanley Martin Homes as a regional director in February 2020, Jones has focused on ensuring the company is building the same houses repeatedly, which helps control costs and makes construction more efficient. Additionally, he and his team use analytics and data gathered over 12 months to see which home designs are selling and what plans can be eliminated.

“We look closely at our margins, meaning what a design sells for and how much we make, the numbers of homes sold for each design and how many different elevations exist for each plan,” he says.

If a home sold 22 times in the past year, but with only an eight percent margin, Jones says it was underpriced, leading to higher sales.

The process, which he expects to continue into 2022, includes meetings with company executives and general contractors. He says each department—architecture, estimating, procurement and purchasing, local sales and marketing, and construction—are involved with each design plan.

“We probably have too many options, and too many options mean too much material,” he says. “We don’t need all that stuff.”

Reducing the number of designs available will lead to reduced labor costs, reduced construction times and an increase in trade proficiency because the contractors will have more work building the same designs over and over again, Jones says, making them faster.

“Generally, we know what sells in our markets and what doesn’t, and hopefully the data backs that up,” he adds.

Experience and future plans

Stanley Martin Homes builds houses in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The company is based in Reston, Virginia, though Jones works remotely from South Carolina.

“Like a lot of our team members, I’ve been more productive while working from home,” he says.

After studying architectural engineering in college, Jones worked for builders and architecture firms before opening his own shop in 2013. He spent two years as a project manager for Kephart, then seven years at Beazer Homes. He was a founder and partner in the Gordon/Thomas Design Group for six years and the director of construction services for Essex Homes, prior to its acquisition by Stanley Martin Homes in February 2020.

While he’s not ready to hang up his hammer and put down his pencil, he sees his role continuing to evolve.

Much like a cook must be ready when somebody orders shrimp scampi and clam chowder at the local diner.

“At Stanley Martin, we are focused on creating outstanding, but limited, choices better targeted to the buyer needs and wants,” Jones says.

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