Mike Thompson Homes Finds Success by Following Trends
By Kathy Bowen Stolz
He loves walking to work in five to ten minutes. He loves having a grocery, pharmacy, health club and restaurant nearby. He loves having parks and retail shopping easily accessible to all 2,500 residents.
But most of all he loves the variety of architectural styles that combine to make River Ranch the top traditional neighborhood development in Louisiana.
According to the development’s web site, www.riverranchdev.com, “the diversity in Louisiana’s culture and customs is clearly reflected in the architectural styles that flourish throughout the village. These seven major architectural influences are Caribbean, French, American Colonial, Creole, Acadian, Spanish and Neoclassical Revival. Each style has its own distinct character and personality, yet all work together to provide variety and interest throughout the many neighborhoods.”
Mike Thompson contributes to River Ranch’s character with the five or so custom homes he builds in the development each year; he has built 45 homes in the development so far. Although he also builds on an owner’s property anywhere in Lafayette, he purchased several lots in the Village of River Ranch and is building them out.
He most enjoys the design elements of building. “It’s exciting to come up with a concept. I use a lot of historical materials, such as antique pine flooring and beams, depending on the type of design.” He also uses a lot of natural materials, such as stone and travertine marble. “People want character in a home.”
He’s found success by following trends and anticipating what people will want. “We’ve been blessed. Our ideas have been accepted by the market. People like our design ideas, and they like the quality of the product we produce.
“We build for the way people live. They want a comfortable home. The trend is now away from formal, old traditional to transitional, which is between formal and ultra-contemporary, better described as ‘casual living.’ The man always says ‘I want a nice shower,’ while the woman wants a free-standing soaking tub in the master bath.”
He builds in all styles but noted that the Caribbean style – with its use of bright colors, porches and verandas – is quite popular now. The trend is away from early American to transitional between ultra-contemporary, he said.
Mike’s wife Cheryl handles the interiors. “We have our areas of responsibility, which works very well for us. Cheryl does an excellent job on the interiors. I don’t personally know what light fixtures, plumbing fixtures or colors will be on the wall until I see them. Our customers are very comfortable with her selections if they’re too busy to make their own.”
Mike and Cheryl act as their own construction managers. They closely supervise each home, both stopping by each project site several times each day.
The Thompsons test their ideas against the market by participating in the Parade of Homes each year. “The Parade of Homes has been a very good marketing tool for us. Every year two or three of our custom home customers can be traced to the Parade of Homes, which has a long shelf life because a customer may not emerge for several years.”
Typically Thompson has two projects, with one of them being a spec home, underway at any given time. The price range on those projects is $500,000 to $1 million, which includes the price of the lot. It takes six or seven months to complete construction after the slab is poured, he said.
Although his company has the capacity to handle more projects, he and Cheryl like to space their projects out so their subcontractors can dedicate themselves to doing top quality work.
Thompson said the quality of his subcontractors’ work sets him apart from other builders. “I find good quality people that stand behind their work. I don’t use the lowest priced workers but rather people proven to be reliable and have good track record [of doing a good job].” He has used some of his subcontractors since he started his company in 1978 and now, 36 years later, uses some of those subs’ children as subcontractors.
“I’m always looking to build a better house. I’ve learned something every year since I’ve been in the business.”
When Thompson started Mike Thompson Homes, he was a volume builder putting up tract homes. But he transitioned to building larger homes and fewer of them. Nowadays he never builds the same house plan twice. “I’ve built over 350 homes in my career. Everything now is custom; even my spec houses are semi-custom.”
Because of his company’s reputation, Thompson doesn’t do much marketing. He usually puts a sign in front of a home during construction, and he welcomes realtors to bring clients by Mike Thompson Homes’ building sites.
Mike and Cheryl Thompson plan to continue building custom homes, just as they’ve done for years. “The homebuilding business is very rewarding. We love seeing people enjoy their homes, sharing them with their family and friends, while building their future wealth. A home is often the biggest and best investment most people ever make. Many of our clients are our neighbors and friends. We love being part of our clients’ future, and they part of ours.”
Mike Thompson Homes can be reached by mailing 514 Princeton Woods Loop, Lafayette, LA 70508 or by calling 337-984-0687 or by e-mailing [email protected].