If COVID-19 has done anything, it's convinced some homebuyers that more is necessary. Bigger homes, larger lots, more privacy and personal space. Or, as Mark Palumbo, sales manager at Democrat Homes' Forest Heights Estates development, describes it, to live without being "squished on top of one another."Homes Magazine
sat down with Palumbo for his insights into these and other matters at Democrat Homes, as well as his background in acting. Yes, acting.
Let's start with an easy one: How's business these days?
Business is booming. Our beautiful Forest Heights Estates site is situated 20 minutes north of Barrie in Horseshoe Valley. Every lot that we offer here is nestled into the trees and gives people the space both on their lot and in their home that is so hard to find in the city.There is no need to live crammed into a subdivision like sardines where you can touch your neighbour's house from your window. From the minute you drive into the site, the first thing you notice is the incredible towering trees on the 100-ft. frontages each one of our lots provides.People have really begun to realize that it's possible to live in a stunning community like this with the space and house you've always wanted. The affordability and lifestyle you get with this community is what has fueled the steady traffic we have seen at the model home.
How did the pandemic affect construction and sales at Democrat Homes?
It has been a crazy year! Our model home remained closed through the early months of the pandemic. We were lucky in that construction was one of the few industries allowed to continue working. We have moved to an appointment-based structure at our sales office, which allows us to control the flow of people coming through, as well as effectively clean and sanitize our model home after each visit. We also provide masks, gloves and hand sanitizing stations for people. Safety is a priority, and something we take very seriously.
How has the company 'pivoted,' in terms of virtual sales and other changes during the pandemic?
Almost all of the appointments I have now are set up virtually. All the information a potential purchaser needs can be found on democrathomes.com
. We made it a priority to make the website as functional and informative as possible. You can view everything from floorplans and site maps to quick move-in options and virtual tours right on the site.
What distinguishes Democrat Homes and its product from what else is available in the market?
Democrat Homes has always prided itself on offering people a better home on an incredible lot for much less money than you could ever hope to find in Toronto markets. We want to show people that the home of your dreams is possible and it's just an hour away from the city.But beyond that, we are a familyrun business that cares about our customers and the product we build for them. With so many other home builders out there, the process of buying and designing a new home can be cold and joyless.We offer a more personal experience that makes buying a home special. I am the purchaser's main liaison throughout the entire process, from sales to house design. This is the biggest purchase people make in their entire lives, and I strive to make the experience the best it can be.
You're building in non-GTA markets – Horseshoe Valley and Orillia. How are those markets doing?
Better than ever. In these crazy times, people have begun to realize the importance of working remotely. We offer incredible homes in beautiful areas with the highest quality services around. Bell FIBE is available at all our sites, offering lightning fast Internet speeds, so working from home is an easy transition. Not only do you have the flexibility to realize your remote working options, but our sites are surrounded by the most incredible year-round activities. Lake Simcoe is just 10 minutes away, and our site is situated with direct access to hundreds of kilometres of walking, ATV, snowmobiling and snowshoeing trails. We are a five-minute drive to Horseshoe Valley ski resort and six different golf courses. The possibilities are endless, and the markets reflect that.
Some experts say larger detached homes on sizeable lots, in more remote locations like yours, will be a growing market in future, given everything COVID-19 has taught us in terms of working from home and personal space. How do you see this?
The future is now! COVID-19 has made people understand the issues that come with living squished on top of one another. Democrat Homes offers empty nesters a tranquil setting and stunning home to retire in. We offer families the space for their kids to play and explore nature instead of being cooped up in a small home devoid of living space, or a 500-sq.-ft. apartment. There really is something for everyone here in Forest Heights Estates, and there has never been a better time to make your dream home a reality.
What's next for Democrat Homes?
We are currently focused on the two brand new sites we have just begun: Forest Heights Estates in Horseshoe Valley, and Professor's Walk in Orillia. But, the future looks bright! We plan to be providing quality-built homes to the people of Ontario for many years to come.
And on a personal note...When I'm not at the office, I am:
A husband and soon to be father!My greatest inspiration in this business is:
My father, who started this business with my uncle almost 20 years ago now. He is the best man I know, and I have learned so much from him. He inspires me every day to be better at everything I do, from our business to home life.If I wasn't in the homebuilding industry, I would:
Be an actor. I studied acting at an arts high school in Toronto, then went on to get a university degree in dramatic arts. I've been in a ton of plays, commercials and even had a TV show all about Canadian beer that I cohosted with my brother Chris.
Horseshoe ValleyEstate homesProfessor's Walk