David Hosking is vice president of Fairfield-based Silvermark Construction Services, a relatively new company but with thousands of home projects under its belt.
Since March 2018, the company has been building 135 homes in the Coffey Park, Wikiup-Mark West-Larkfield, and lower and upper Fountaingrove neighborhoods on the north end of Santa Rosa, where over 5,000 homes were destroyed in the October 2017 Tubbs Fire.
Of those, 95 are rebuilds and 40 are speculative homes, 22 of which have been completed and occupied, three of them by fire survivors.
In the following interview, Hosking, a panelist at the Business Journal's May 29 Building the North Bay conference, talked about how Silvermark transitioned from a previous life as an heating and air-conditioning contractor to a large-scale contractor that is getting involved with reconstruction after Northern California wildfires.
What’s a thumbnail sketch of your company?
We’re a fairly young company. When you look at the name Silvermark, basically, we’ve been around for about three years. But prior to that we were a much bigger company, called Blue Mountain Properties.
Blue Mountain was a heating- and air-conditioning company that evolved into a remodeler, then a builder. Over the past 10 years, we did roughly 12,000 homes, and 9,000 of them were flip homes, where we bought the house on the courthouse steps then remodeled and sold them. We completely gutted them and remodeled them with brand-new kitchens, brand-new bathrooms, new paint, everything. It was a new house by the time we were done.
We did homes in all 50 states. Most of that work, 95%, was in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Hawaii and the South.
After 2008, a bunch of builders went out of business — a lot of them. They had these big projects sitting out there in the Central Valley, even right here (in Sonoma County), that had to go (bankrupt). We ended up buying those vacated projects for 10 cents on the dollar. With that, we were able to build approximately 3,000 brand-new homes (from the) ground up. That’s how we got into the ground-up business.
Investors in that company bought the owner, Greg Owen, out. He thought he was going to retire, but instead decided to have some fun flipping houses.
And then all of a sudden this fire happened in October (2017). We didn’t come over here until February (2018). We had no intent for a mass (rebuilding) effort. We just figured we’d build one or two.
Was it because people saw your doing one project and wanted you to do theirs as well?
That’s how it initially happened. And then after five months, we put an ad in the paper.
What’s happening with construction costs on the fire-area projects versus other projects you have undertaken in recent years?
When we first got here, we figured we would use local contractors, but they all jacked up their prices. So we had to bring in our subcontractors from outside the area, ones we’ve used in the past. That effort alone allowed us to come in at a very competitive rate, which was basically our same rate we had before the fires.
We’re at $250 a square foot. Always has been; always will be.
Now, I believe (local subcontractors) got a reality check, and they’re not all as busy as they wish they were. So they’ve got their pricing in check.