About 10 years ago, most housing developments serving the retired and semiretired markets in and around Fargo, North Dakota, were further away from the interstate and, thus, further away from certain conveniences. Tyrone Leslie, owner and president of Fargo-based Heritage Homes, noticed this fact, and was inspired to create something different: a retired/semiretired community with easy access to all Fargo has to offer.
Heritage Homes is all about family. The company was created by a family, with families in mind, and it employs a team-based approach to treat its members like family.
With close ties to Nebraska-based Woman-Centric Home Builders since 2009, Heritage Homes concentrates on trying to understand its buyers’ personalities and needs before the buyers know them themselves. The company pays attention to the fact that 91 percent of home-buying decisions are made by the woman of the house, so it tries to tailor its offerings to women’s needs.
Company president Tyrone Leslie officially started in real estate when he received his license at the age of 18, but his family had been involved in the development business since before he was born. In fact, Leslie’s father began taking him out to job sites when he was just four years old, and the precocious tyke would pepper contractors there with questions.
Raised in Winnipeg, Canada, Leslie moved to Fargo, ND, in 1998, a few years after his parents did in the early 1990s. It was there that he cofounded Heritage Homes with his father and brother, and their company grew to become a major figure in the community, even building three homes for ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The company eventually won the 2012 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award from the US Chamber of Commerce, cementing itself as an area ambassador.
At the time, his company was preparing to work on its next project. Leslie selected the prime location: a 10-acre tract that would eventually become the 64-home development now known as Evergreen Estates. Located only a minute from the highway and just five minutes from the area’s main thoroughfares, the community site would provide accessibility to shopping, health care, and entertainment. Homeowners between the ages of 50 and 80 were drawn to the development, and Heritage Homes’ dual focus on both the individual and the community ultimately hooked them.
“We wanted to make a destination you felt proud to call home. Projects are all great, but what makes them worth it is the people.”
—Tyrone Leslie, Owner & President
“They say building a home can cause a divorce,” Leslie says, “but we’ve created a system that makes homeowners want to build another home.” The company’s polling has actually determined that 98.3 percent of customers would “absolutely recommend” Heritage Homes to their friends and family. This level of satisfaction is largely achieved through a seven-step process that includes the creation of a custom vision for each customer, one-on-one attention from staff throughout the entire build, and continued support from the company’s HomeCare department long after closing. Heritage Homes also uses four “lenses”—entertaining, destressing, flexibility, and storage—to ensure that it’s always meeting its clients’ more particular needs. The company applies these steps and lenses to the construction of both its detached homes and its duplexes and fourplexes through its woman-centric approach.
For the Evergreen Estates development, Heritage Homes erected the shells of 7 fourplexes and 18 duplexes before clients specified what they wanted inside. Homeowners could then request anything they desired for modifications, as long as the requests were structurally possible.
Heritage Homes wanted Evergreen Estates, as a planned development, to still have consistency and uniformity, so the company found ways to achieve this skillfully by placing the duplexes along the outside of the master plan and the fourplexes along the inside. This way, residents peering out their windows are more likely to see homes different
from their own.
Additionally, Heritage Homes attached each of the development’s fourplexes together via a central garage, which allowed natural separation and helped create the feeling of living in a single-family home. A double-wall system with a sound barrier in the middle further enhanced this effect.
Even though the West Fargo area had not seen a development like Evergreen Estates before, Heritage Homes sought to set it further apart from potential competitors by downplaying its roads and concrete in favor of natural landscaping. The site’s concentrated vegetation creates a natural barrier from the day-to-day bustle of city living and creates a peaceful environment in which neighbors feel free to interact. And, though the development’s prime location is a major selling point, it’s still designed as an oasis, with lake views, a park, and walking paths.
From planning to the landing of its final tenant in late 2012, the project took nearly eight years to complete. Leslie attributes this to the company’s commitment to quality. Heritage Homes stuck to its original vision for the sake of its clients, rather than fast-tracking the project and completing it with cheaper materials after the 2008 downturn. The development is meant to evoke a sense of class, a sense immediately amplified by the 22-foot-tall spruce trees—22 in total—lining the two entrances. “We wanted to make a destination you felt proud to call home,” Leslie says. “Projects are all great, but what makes them worth it is the people.”
One of the top complaints in the homebuilding industry is the prevalence of economic surprises, but Heritage Homes’ polls show a 100 percent rate of customer satisfaction in this area. It’s a testament to the ways in which the company sets itself above the average builder by remaining committed to its vision. “It’s all about the client’s dream,” Leslie says, “and we make sure that dream becomes reality.”