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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Allen Edwin Homes
(2007-09-26)
(wgvu) -
Building momentum
Allen Edwin pushes hard into GR


Sept. 27, 2007

By B. Candace Beeke
candaceb@mbusinessreview.com

Allen Edwin Kalamazoo's largest homebuilder for some time
quietly became the largest homebuilder in Grand Rapids this year and
plans to continue that trend, moving one of the company's partners
there permanently.

The Portage-based homebuilder, despite a sharp decline in the
residential market in the region, continues to increase the number of
homes built and sold every month, President Gregory DeHaan said. For
years, it has held the title of number-one builder in the Kalamazoo
area. This year, it constructed the most residences in the Grand Rapids
area, as well.

Grand Rapids will grow into a larger market for us than
Kalamazoo, DeHaan d Rapids will grow into a larger market for us
than Kalamazoo, DeHaan said from the company's new
7,000-square-foot showroom in Byron Center, now under construction.

Allen Edwin, founded by DeHaan and his partner Scott Sanderson two
decades ago, entered Kent County in 2003.
We've been rapidly expanding, DeHaan said.

That despite a sharp downturn in the number of homes built in the
region in the last few years.

Building permits in both markets are down nearly 70 percent in a
two-year period, DeHaan noted. The good news is there's still
8,000 transactions that will happen in Grand Rapids.

And Allen Edwin wants a bigger share of that. Though it moved into the
top position this year, Grand Rapids is a much more fragmented
homebuilding market than Kalamazoo. The top builder might hold less than
five percent of the overall market in Grand Rapids, he said.

In Kalamazoo, we might have 30 to 40 percent.

As part of its expansion, Allen Edwin will open a development office
near its showroom, at 84th Street and Clyde Court. Sanderson will move
from Portage to Grand Rapids to run that office.

It's a return to Grand Rapids for Sanderson, who went to high school
there and whose father, also a partner with Allen Edwin, owns a house
there. However, Sanderson started school in Kalamazoo, where he met
DeHaan. The black-and-white photo of the 1970-1971 Milwood Methodist
nursery school class still sits on DeHaan's desk.

Sanderson and DeHaan met again a few years after high school graduation
and, at age 21, started Sanderson DeHaan Irrigation, now run by
DeHaan's brother John and his partner, Dick Fridley.
About 10 years later, the partners started building homes as Allen
Edwin, a marriage of their middle names.

Since then Allen Edwin has built dozens of communities throughout
southwest Michigan in Portage, Kalamazoo, Richland, Mattawan and
Bangor. So far this year, 80 homes have been sold at its new Centennial
development in Vicksburg, now under construction. Much of the
company's success has come by providing low-cost new homes with
lots of square footage.

In Centennial, home buyers can choose from several styles of homes,
including 1,500 square feet for about $103,000; 2,000 square feet for
$115,000; or 2,500 square feet for $127,000. Grand Rapids buyers can
expect to tack on an additional $20,000 or so per house.

In Grand Rapids the land costs are more expensive, DeHaan said.
Therefore the cost of housing is more expensive.

Buyers then visit a showroom to choose features and upgrades. Beginning
Oct. 22, they can drive to Byron Center and visit the expanded
showroom.

Our customers said they wanted more choices, DeHaan said, walking
past rows of exterior lights affixed to a freshly painted wall in the
new showroom. We have 2,000 square feet (of showroom) in Kalamazoo,
and they said they wanted more .

In Byron Center, the showroom features everything from kitchen cupboard
finishes to window options to appliances. Choices begin with the basic,
included items and move through a couple upgrade options. While
Kalamazoo buyers have all the same choices, DeHaan anticipates many will
choose to travel the extra distance to the Byron Center showroom to see
them in person, possibly eliminating the need for a Kalamazoo showroom
in the future.

But this does not signal an exit for Allen Edwin from the
Kalamazoo-Portage market, he stressed. The company's Kala mazoo
development office will remain in the area, though they are anticipating
a move from Centre Street in Portage to a larger, yet-to-be-determined
space on Kalamazoo's west side, he said.

Allen Edwin also plans to build communities in Grand Haven and Holland,
DeHaan said.
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