ay Dulla has been involved in all aspects of the homebuilding industry, from financing to construction and marketing.

Location remains prime factor for Meritus Homes

By Jean Murphy
Daily Herald Correspondent

Throughout his career, Jay Dulla, executive vice president of Meritus Homes, has followed the progression of baby boomers and Generation Xers — building the types of homes they needed and wanted as they went through life.

He got his first taste of the homebuilding industry when he worked for a financial lender that specialized in loans to real estate developers. Then he took a position with a small custom builder of high-end houses on the North Shore called The Baxter Group. It was there he truly learned the business, getting his feet wet in the entire development process, from zoning to marketing.

rom there Dulla went on to run the real estate operations of Plote Excavating, where his most notable project was Boulder Ridge Country Club in Lake in the Hills. In 1992 when D.R. Horton came to Chicago (before they purchased Cambridge Homes), he took the reins and built it into one of the area’s leading homebuilders in less than five years.

Around the millennium, Dulla started his own firm, Remington Homes. Then, during the long recession, he worked on a variety of small projects before, most recently, he took over running day-to-day operations of Meritus Homes based in Deerfield.

Meritus was founded in 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession. It was formed by two former Pulte executives and their investment partner, Gary Janko of the Janko Group.

Meritus purchased parcels from other builders at bargain prices. But it only chose properties that were in great locations where land was in short supply and high demand, Dulla said. Meritus has been building single-family homes on those parcels ever since.

What is your company’s philosophy?

“Overall, Meritus works to deliver quality homes that include the latest trends, which feature unique architectural details and offer the flexibility for owners to use rooms in a variety of ways.

“Meritus is a semi-custom builder, which means we will work to make the customizing changes to our existing plans that our customers want.

“Although the baby boomers have always been a big target, we continue to build communities for mixed ages because there will always be active adults who want to continue to live with other age groups. But we are building more ranch homes in those mixed-age group subdivisions because empty-nesters want them, but so do an increasing number of younger families.”

The details:

Meritus Homes is building subdivisions in St. Charles, Lake Villa and Addison. Another small community in Lake Forest is expected to open this summer.

In addition, Meritus is purchasing older homes in select communities like Winnetka, Wilmette, Glencoe and Northbrook, tearing them down and building new, state-of-the-art homes for those who want to live in those enviable communities, but also want a new house.

Meritus’ current subdivisions are The Reserves of St. Charles, which has 60 lots remaining; Lake Vista in Lake Villa, where 21 lots remain; and an age-targeted, maintenance-free 87-lot community at the intersection of Army Trail and Mill Roads in Addison.

What is the best part about being a builder?

“It gives me such a sense of pride when I know that I have had a part in creating a community that 150 to 200 people call home, and where they spend their holidays with family and friends. I really enjoy driving back through those neighborhoods and seeing how they have developed.”

What are the biggest changes you have seen?

“From the standpoint of a new-home builder, the biggest changes I have seen are that, because home values have not risen as much as they have in the past, builders are making much smaller margins. So we are decreasing the sizes of the homes we are offering and we are eliminating many of the volume spaces we used to offer. We have to stay within the price constraints of any given market.

“But we are always getting the latest designs from our national architects. For instance, in some designs we are building the laundry room directly next to the master closet with just a pocket door in between, for added convenience. So we are staying on the cutting edge, despite the fact that we are building smaller.”

In addition, Dulla said, builders have to be more cautious now about picking their locations and not become overloaded on land positions.

“We generally choose infill properties that are close to expressways and shopping and in municipalities where existing residents want to stay.”

What do you expect in the future?

“During 2017, I expect Meritus Homes will build between 30 and 40 homes and then in 2018 that number will be up to between 60 and 70 homes.


Original Story: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20170211/insights/170219997/

Empty Nesters Flock to One-level Designs

An Illinois builder finds that its ranch-style layouts are a hit with 55+ buyers for a number of reasons.
Every empty nester has a different story, but one common theme when it comes to this group’s housing choices is their preference for ranch-style homes. In fact, according to the NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council, 64 percent of baby boomers favor single-level living.

That statistic is evident at The Reserve of St. Charles, a Meritus Homes community of semi-custom and custom homes near St. Charles, Ill., where recent ranch-home buyers demonstrate the broad appeal of single-level floor plans. The Reserve of St. Charles includes 133 homes, with semi-custom home and lot packages priced from the $505,900s.

It’s always interesting to talk to our empty nester buyers because despite their very different lifestyles and motivations for choosing The Reserve of St. Charles, the thing they often have in common is the priority they place on ranch living. For these buyers, the fact that we offer new-construction ranch homes in a highly desirable location like St. Charles is a win-win. Many have roots in this area, so they appreciate that our ranch homes allow them to stay here long-term.

For example, one empty nester couple recently purchased a second home at The Reserve of St. Charles to be closer to their children and grandchild. Having raised their family in St. Charles, the couple had moved to Arizona seeking warmer weather. However, when their daughter, who still lives in the Fox Valley area, had her first baby, the couple realized they wanted to live part of the year back in the Chicago area to spend time with their grandchild.

For this couple, it was important to have the flexibility to be back in St. Charles as often as they wanted, so owning a place of their own was a priority. When they started looking at floor plans, our ranch designs just made more sense. Not only are they slightly smaller in square footage, which means less to worry about in terms of upkeep, maintenance and furnishing a second home, but there was also the consideration of single-level living and the independence it would allow them for years to come.

Another empty nester couple who chose to downsize to a ranch plan at The Reserve of St. Charles are Brett and Jennifer Becker, lifelong residents of the Fox Valley who raised their children in a large, five-bedroom home. When their youngest left for college, they started looking for single-level living options in the area to remain near their jobs and network of family and friends.

For the Beckers, who see themselves living in this home long-term, a ranch plan was a great fit in terms of allowing them to comfortably remain here even as they grow older, adding that the two single-level designs at The Reserve of St. Charles offer downsizers generous space. The Marquis measures 2,610 square feet, while the Kingston offers 2,828 square feet.

Most downsizers coming from a larger two-story home are looking more for a reconfiguration of space rather than a significant step down in square footage. They appreciate that our two ranch plans feature an open family room and kitchen configuration that fits with a more causal retirement lifestyle, but at the same time offer formal space such as a separate dining area for hosting family gatherings and a den for those who continue to work from home.

Boomers and empty nesters also typically want a high level of finish in the home they choose for their retirement years. They want to simplify the space in their home without giving up the beautiful quality and special touches for which they’ve become accustomed.

Homes at The Reserve of St. Charles feature 10-foot first-floor ceilings; site-finished hardwood floors in the foyer, powder room and kitchen; a gourmet kitchen with 42-inch cabinetry, granite countertops, preparation island and stainless steel appliances; and a spa-like master bath. Home sites are fully sodded and landscaped, including trees and foundation plantings.

See the full article at Builder Magazine

Midwesterners Are Mad About Mudrooms

The mudroom is undeniably the workhorse of the home throughout the year. But when winter hits in the Midwest, this functional home feature is quickly elevated to superstar status. From corralling coats and boots to keeping winter slush outside rather than in, here are the top three reasons local builders and architects say Midwesterners love their mudrooms more than ever once Old Man Winter comes to stay:

Clutter Catcher and Organizer
During a Midwest winter, when boots, snow pants, hats and gloves can become a daily uniform, a mudroom serves the important purpose of “drop zone” for all extra outerwear. At Greenbrook at Highland Woods, a Meritus Homes community in Elgin, all homes feature an oversized mudroom off the garage, with plenty of space for individual cubbies for each member of the household, as well as bins and hooks to help with organization.

It’s a huge help to have a designated place for all that gear to be stowed and organized when everyone arrives home from school or comes in from outside, so you’re not running around looking for that misplaced glove or mitten before leaving the house the next day.

Third home’s a charm for family in Inverness

After moving twice in the past seven years, Jennifer Andersen-Smith and her husband, Don, knew exactly what they were looking for in their third new home: new construction and a good school district for their two young children.

Relocating from California for Don’s job, the couple did research to narrow their choices on new homes.

They zeroed in on Meritus Homes’ Creekside at Inverness Ridge, a gated development of 27 estate-style, single-family homes in Inverness.

“My husband was the first to visit the community and knew with its location within Barrington School District 220 and beautiful homes that it would be perfect for us,” Andersen-Smith said.

Creekside at Inverness Ridge is surrounded by mature trees and conservation areas, which also played a part in the couple’s decision-making.

“Our home overlooks trees and natural areas, which we love. And the fact that it’s maintenance-free is certainly a perk for us, since we’re both so busy with work and family,” Andersen-Smith said

The Smiths chose the 3,716-square-foot Dunberry plan, with four bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths and a split-bay three-car garage. The plan is priced from $554,900.

“We are so happy with the way our home turned out, from the classic Tudor-style exterior to the gourmet kitchen, which is definitely my favorite room in the house,” Andersen-Smith said.

The kitchen features high-end standard finishes such as hardwood flooring, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, 42-inch cabinetry, a pantry, double ovens and a preparation island.

“And then there are the features we didn’t even know we’d love, like the split staircase that gives me direct access from upstairs to the kitchen and laundry room,” Andersen-Smith said.

The children favor the Jack-and-Jill bathroom connecting their bedrooms. “They think it’s so much fun to run back and forth to each other’s room,” Andersen-Smith said.
But the feature that has gotten the most use since the family moved in this summer is the guest suite.

“We have family and friends from all over the world, so we have a lot of overnight guests. In fact, we had company the very first night in our home, and all our guests have appreciated the private bath attached to the bedroom,” Andersen-Smith said.