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Perfect timing


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  • | 7:32 a.m. May 17, 2013
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In 2007, Brian Stock made a decision that saved his homebuilding and development company from the fate of many others in the homebuilding industry: He slashed prices by 35%.

No one could have foreseen the real estate collapse that ensued, but Stock was earliest among builders in Southwest Florida to recognize what had to be done to survive. “It was always about keeping momentum,” says Stock, the 43-year-old CEO of Stock Development.

This was no easy decision, because builders in 2007 predicted that the market's softness was just a temporary setback. It would still be another year before the financial crisis erupted in 2008. In fact, rival builders grumbled that Stock was being too aggressive with its prices and refused to go along.

When he faced residents of Stock communities, such as Paseo in Fort Myers, residents there were upset about the devaluation. “One got up and slammed the door,” Stock remembers at a contentious community meeting with residents.

But Stock stuck to his aggressive pricing strategy, arguing that communities had to maintain sales momentum or new development would come to a halt, slashing values even further. At the time, Stock had 350 unsold homes because many buyers walked away from their 20% deposits.

As it was with the downturn, Stock has been prescient about the recovery. In 2010, when many builders still weren't sure the economy was rebounding, Stock cleared 240 acres at its Lely development in Naples. The company spent $15 million to clear the land and build models, including $6 million to dig lakes on the property. Soon after, Stock was able to boost prices 15% for the homes there that range in price from $400,000 to $1 million.

Now, the momentum is building. To keep up with surging demand, Stock is building 140 speculative homes and another 46 models for the next home buying season. The company has a pipeline of 1,600 lots and is close to announcing plans to build in a ninth community in Southwest Florida.

Part of Stock's success is that its CEO is always on the job. For fun on weekends, Stock jumps into his car and visits homes and communities in Lee and Collier counties. “It's not work to me,” Stock says.

Stock's father, K.C. Stock, says son Brian worked at his father's construction-supply business in Green Bay, Wis., at age 13, loading lumber. “I made Brian go to work for a contractor,” says the elder Stock, who sold the construction-supply business and used the proceeds to finance Stock Development in Naples.

Although he has a reputation as a good delegator, Stock says he enjoys getting into the finer details of the company. For example, he spent two hours with landscaping consultants one evening at Quail West recently, discussing the kinds of plants that needed to line the entrance to the residential development in North Naples.

And Stock regularly discusses issues with community residents. For example, Stock redesigned the layout of 13 tennis courts at a cost of $2 million by moving the parking lot at The Players Club at Lely.

Still, Stock's open-door management policy doesn't slow the decision-making process. “Brian's always been able to make a quick decision,” says Claudine Leger-Wetzel, Stock's vice president of sales and marketing.

 

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