Homebuilder eying (another) new market outside the UC

A current Zurich model home, located at 103 Trentwood Drive in Fairfield Glade.
A current Zurich model home, located at 103 Trentwood Drive in Fairfield Glade.
A current Zurich model home, located at 103 Trentwood Drive in Fairfield Glade.

FAIRFIELD GLADE – An Upper Cumberland homebuilder is looking to branch into a new market come 2017.

Cumberland County’s Zurich Homes Inc., a prominent figure in Fairfield Glade, is exploring an operation expansion into Chattanooga, said president Isaac Zuercher. It would be its second division outside the UC.

Zurich, which Zuercher founded with his father Stan in 2005, largely design-builds high-end custom homes in planned communities. If a move does happen, a decision could come in early 2017.

“Being diverse in multiple markets gives us a certain degree of stability,” Isaac Zuercher said. “I love the Upper Cumberland. The business is run here, and we plan to keep it here, but at a certain point, if we want to grow, we need to look at expanding markets. I feel like that area (Chattanooga) does have a lot of potential for future growth.”

In 2014, Zurich Homes expanded operations into another fast-growing area: Nashville; Zuercher said they focus primarily on Davidson and Williamson counties, which fetch a higher price point. That division, led by his brother, Micah, is seeing 444 percent year-over-year sequential growth. Four staff members were added in 2016.

Company-wide, revenues are projected to hit $12 million this year – a 140 percent year-over-year sequential growth. Its average sales price topped $571,000.

Isaac Zuercher.

“It took a little bit of time to gain momentum and traction there, but it’s doing very well now,” Isaac Zuercher said.

In fact, a relationship forged in the Music City may help pave the way for Zurich’s newest market. A developer Zurich is working with in Franklin, also has a project outside downtown Chattanooga.

Zuercher said they’ve been asked to build there, too.

If Zurich Homes did expand, it would start slow. Zuercher predicted they’d close on two to four units in the first year. It wouldn’t open a physical office – like in Nashville – at least initially, but it’s likely they’d add an additional staff member on the ground in a project manager role.

Zuercher says they pride themselves on communication – a key since at least 50 percent of clients, often retirees relocating to Tennessee – are not present during construction.

“We are involved in every aspect of the building process,” he said.

“There are always a lot of moving parts, and obviously, when you start up in a new market, it takes more managerial oversight,” Zuercher added. “But they’re building at a pace of 40-50 homes per year in that development, so there’s obviously a lot of traction, and they have a lot of land. And our product, at least in Fairfield Glade, is very tailored toward the retiree, so it seems like it will be a natural fit for us.”

That’s not to say there’s not still room to grow at home in Fairfield Glade. Zuercher said there’s roughly 9,000 lots total; only 3,700 have completed homes.

“It’s still a steady market,” he said. “And an interesting trend we’ve seen, we’ve had about three buyers in the last year who were coming from Nashville. They were hitting retirement age and they’re moving here to the Upper Cumberland to get away from that crazy traffic and everything else. I think that’s something good that’s going to benefit us.”



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