Even as the economy arrives at a new “normal,” high-end custom homes have not yet made a comeback. But that doesn’t deter John Blair, president and CEO of Blair Custom Homes of Bethlehem, from taking new chances.
Blair has done the homework to get a real estate license and now operates John Blair Real Estate Group under the Prudential Patt, White umbrella. And he’s going ahead with a new 55-plus development, Old Saucon, adjacent to Saucon Valley Country Club in Upper Saucon Township.
“Before the recession, I had five or six very high-end custom homes going at a time. Now it’s down to one or two, and I don’t see that demand coming back for at least six or so years. During the recession, we downsized the company. The phone just wasn’t ringing. We had to pull back,” he said.
Blair said with the addition of the real estate venture and the Old Saucon development, the company spans a wider range of the market.
Chuck Hamilton, executive officer of the Lehigh Valley Builders Association, concurred with Blair.
“The real estate market will come back in increments. Right now, homes in the $350,000 range are moving. Next it will be the $750,000s, then the million dollar homes. Right now, we have inventory out there for when things pick up,” Hamilton said.
He said he knows of one custom builder that doesn’t have any projects at all in the million-plus category.
Blair has a lot of faith in the Lehigh Valley real estate market.
“I can ramp up very quickly when the demand is there,” he said. “When the phone starts ringing again we’ll be ready. High-end subcontractors are always available. I’m really excited about the future.”
It all started in 1953 when William Blair Sr. got together with a friend and built a house. Blair kept building homes in the $7,000- to $15,000-price range, never knowing his son would be building million-dollar homes. In 1999, the younger Blair took over as president.