Professional Builder
Editorial Director and Publisher

Patrick L. O’Toole is editorial director and publisher of Professional Builder, a 77-year-old publication that is read by 112,000 builders each month. In this capacity, he is also responsible for the editorial direction of Professional Remodeler magazine and HousingZone.com. Previously, O’Toole served as editor and publisher of Qualified Remodeler magazine. He started his career as a reporter for the Associated Press in Chicago. He holds a B.A. from Miami University and a masters degree in journalism from Columbia College.

Housing Giants are back!

My eight-year-old son was asked recently about what I do. After describing my activities, typing on the computer and talking on the phone, he finally told his classmate, “He’s a magazine guy.” I find this amusing because I don’t think of myself as just a magazine guy. Frankly, the focus around our office is home building. We spend a lot of time at industry events, with our ears to the ground, attempting to discern movements in this incredible business. It’s a big job. 

Our magazine readers total more than 107,000 and thousands more read us online at www.HousingZone.com. The vast majority of our subscribers represent small, local builder firms. The reason? Small, local, high-quality building is the backbone of this industry. Of our 107,000 readers, maybe 1,500 could be accurately described as big builders or production builders. So this begs the question: Why do we write about the big guys so often? I think we strike a nice balance between business tips and design ideas that can help all builders. And in this particular annual issue of the magazine—the Housing Giants issue—we do focus on the big guys, but we think every reader can benefit from the information.
 
For 45 years, we’ve reached out and asked you to provide data about your activity over the past year. The purpose is to rank the largest home building companies by dollar volume of new-home building activity. We learn a lot about the industry in the process. Each year we capture your data is like taking a snapshot of the building industry. A year ago this month, building was still very sluggish. Although there were signs of a possible recovery, it was not a given. The industry had seen its share of head fakes, false starts, and stops, so no builder was expressing too much optimism. Top builder concerns a year ago were the economy and tight bank lending for new projects. This year the economy and an improving market for new homes is the top opportunity listed by big builders. In the aggregate, this new batch of Housing Giants data unequivocally shows a strengthening housing recovery. 
 
Another unmistakable takeaway from the data is the resurgence of the industry’s biggest firms. The average year-over-year growth for the top 25 Giants in this year’s report was 26.5 percent. Moreover, this dramatic growth at the top of the industry is expected to continue for the next several years. This improvement will certainly have a dramatic impact on market share. At the height of the boom market in 2007, the top 100 builders accounted for nearly 50 percent of all new homes built. During 2011, the top 225 Giants accounted for only 29.5 percent of all new homes built. One year later and the share increase for the biggest builders is already on the move. The largest 225 builders built 32 percent of the new homes completed in 2012.
 
Big builders are benefiting more quickly from the recovery strictly from a resource standpoint. They have access to capital and high-quality finished lots. But many have done more than husband their resources through the downturn. In our special, in-depth Housing Giants issue, we tell the stories of big builders who used the housing recession as an opportunity to retool, regroup, and expand in new directions. Every builder in the country—large or small—can benefit from these stories.

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