COOKEVILLE – Best friends turned business partners, Seth Hudson and Matt Davidson have been in the residential building business in Cookeville for over a decade, ever since they founded their firm HD Homes back in 2005.
These days, it’s no longer spec houses – but higher-end custom ones, tailored specifically for each client. And Hudson, who initially got into construction after he and his wife built their own home, and Davidson, a CPA whose work with a previous firm had been in the construction field, have certainly found their place – their homes range in the $300,000-$500,000 range – and are among several young builders in the region helping keep pace with latest trends.
HD Homes has been a regular in the Parade of Homes, an annual weekend-long event hosted by the Upper Cumberland Home Builders Association that showcases inspirational new builds to the public. They helped build the first two homes at Mustard Seed Ranch in 2009 and headed a recent Habitat Builders Blitz – in which a Habitat for Humanity home is finished in a week – in 2014. And while their clientele favor the custom homes, they’re taking steps to diversify, too, including expanding into the multi-family market, which is experiencing an endless hot streak in Putnam County.
“We try to build every home like it’s our own, from the details to the financials,” Davidson said. “We’ve just found our niche.”
Hudson and Davidson, both Cookeville natives, first became friends in middle school – in eighth grade – and although they went their separate ways in their college years, they stayed in touch. Hudson started building locally around 2002-03 and Davidson landed a job in Nashville as a CPA. But when the opportunity came in 2005 to work together, the rest, as they say, is history.
“We hadn’t planned (on working together), but it just made sense for everybody,” Hudson said. “Matt added manpower and could handle the financials, and I could be more operational. These days, we really run out own separate jobs, but it just depends on what’s going on.”
HD’s first development was in Algood; 12 homes in a neighborhood called Haven Hill. In the early days, it was mostly spec builds with a smattering of custom homes in between. But the latter is where the pair ultimately landed – there was a demand, and the phone just kept ringing.
“We really enjoyed doing something different,” Hudson added. “It wasn’t the same cookie cutter thing over and over. And Matt and I have the patience for it. It can be difficult to do a custom home sometimes.”
“We’ve done contemporary, rustic…Craftsman style was really popular for a while, but the trend now is going back to a more modern, straight-line construction,” Davidson said. “Shiplap’s big right now, and so are porches, outdoor living areas, like a modern type farmhouse.”
Hudson and Matt Davidson have also recently made moves to diversify, too. They started HD Properties in 2012, and their first investment was partial ownership in a 44-unit multi-family duplex in Algood. They said they’re looking for other similar opportunities.
“(Matt’s) got three kids and I’ve got four, so we were looking for more long term,” Hudson said.
For now, the housing market’s strong; there’s more than enough work to go around, they said. HD Homes commissions roughly five or six builds a year – each homes takes on average eight months to complete – and they can afford to be selective with the projects they choose. Currently, they’ve got three homes in various stages inside Cookeville city, a rarity given the lack of lots. All are within a mile and a half. And another townhome development on Whitson Avenue is slated to begin soon. They’re returning to the Parade when it returns in August after a hiatus in 2015. It’s a great opportunity to show off their work.
“It’s got to be in the right location and the right size,” Hudson said. “It needs to be pretty centrally located for us, because we are there every day. And unless it was just a perfect situation, we’re probably booked out until next year.”
And as far as what’s next? Only the market knows.
“We definitely want to stay in residential,” Davidson said. “We like working with homeowners. At the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to make the homeowner happy. So they feel they have value in something.”
“Home building can be stressful. I think that’s why we’ve been successful,” Hudson added. “We try to make it where it’s not a nightmare. That’s our job, to make it as smooth and seamless as it can be.”