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Unity Builders Group: Building a House of Homebuilding Companies
Unity Builders Group (UBG) was founded in 1998, and has grown to be one of Alberta’s most diverse real estate management companies and has set the precedent for homebuilders across Canada in little over a decade. Operating under a mandate to build quality homes across North America, offering all with the care and responsiveness of a local builder, UBG has developed into an umbrella underneath which regional builders unite expertise, financial and managerial strength in service of the customer.
“What sets us apart is that we are a really comprehensive real estate management company,” asserts Tom Chisholm, president and CEO. “We are the parent company to a variety of homebuilding companies that act independently, but are all overseen and coordinated by UBG so that operating teams work together, which has helped us especially after the downturn to remain competitive and be as efficient as possible.”
More than just building and managing homes, UBG strives to build a clientele base that will grow along with the company. UBG does this by focusing on developing beautifully crafted properties – single-family homes, apartment-style condominium, row and stacked townhouses, as well as mixed-use and resort properties – that appeal to a diverse range of tastes, lifestyles and price points.
“We focus on strategically going after specific consumer groups with a particular brand of ours, and we make sure that that brand can attract a variety of buyers throughout their lifetime,” explains Chisholm. “We sometimes compare it to buying into the BMW brand. A consumer might start out with the Mini Cooper, upgrade later in their life to the 600 Series, and then when they make it really big, they might switch brands entirely. Our idea is to make that consumer a homeowner for life, so we created a family of brands that cater to buyers from all walks of life, from first time home buyers in the single-family market to buyers who have started a family and need more space, all the way until they need to downsize again when the nest is empty. We aim to tackle the region from every market possible so that we can grow with our consumers and earn that kind of customer loyalty. That’s what UBG does.”
The region that sees the highest concentration of UBG developments has been the Edmonton area, where Greenboro Homes operates, but the firm also has properties in Calgary, Canmore and in the state of Colorado. “The Edmonton market is actually a larger market than Calgary. We can build larger developments in the Edmonton area because many of the buyers in the area have ties to the oil and gas industry, so we have tried to provide them with a variety of communities to move amongst as they are transferred around,” explains Chisholm. “Our second largest market would then be Calgary and then Canmore, where we actually have a considerable amount of product. We are probably the largest builder in that area.”
Juggling Diverse Brand Identities
Not only does UBG build homes for people from all walks of life, but the company's associated builders also cater to all tastes. “We have product in Canmore, Alberta, that is targeted towards a very outdoorsy clientele that’s in the market for a hiking, fishing, and mountain getaway under our Wilderness Homes by Riverdale. These are homes for people who spend most of their time outdoors, which is a very different market than our Alpine Homes clientele, who are in the market for an amenity package,” explains Chisholm. “Alpine Homes are targeted to the client who looks for the clubhouse amenities, complete with a community swimming pool and movie theater in the clubhouse.”
UBG's variety of different brand identities, which total 10, has proven integral to pairing clients to their dream concepts. This is why UBG as a parent company prefers to stay out of the spotlight. “We don’t name our developments after the parent company, and even though we might be one of the largest homebuilding companies in Canada, there isn’t much association between the family of brands and UBG. We like to keep a relatively low profile precisely because we want the brands to speak for themselves and to maintain an identity separate from UBG and also separate form one another,” says Chisholm.
Building for the Future
One of the firm’s most recently opened communities is the Currie Barracks development, built in partnership with the Canada Lands Corporation, who acquired the land in 1998 after the Calagary Air Force Base there had closed. “It launched about a year ago, but it was an exciting project for us as it was the first LEED-ND Gold Certified development in Canada,” says Chisholm.
The LEED-ND certification is specific to neighborhood developments and has strict regulations for community design and storm water treatment especially. The development encapsulates UBG’s business model by preventing a variety styles and housing options, including single-family starter homes, multi-family townhouses, and urban estate homes. The homes range in price from the $700,000 range up to more than $1 million, and the designs of each are infinitely customizable. The show model, for example, can be rearranged and added onto in styles ranging from Queen Anne Victorian, to Modern Classical, Prairie Style, and even Romanesque, increasing the square footage from just over 2,000 square feet to more than 4,000 square feet.
“This project was a real estate development project we were honored to be considered for,” states Chisholm. “As a company, we are only interested in pursuing relationships with companies equally interested in establishing long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships that can live up to our very high standards. The Canada Land Corporation has not only that, but also has a great understanding of the market place.”
Successful projects such as the Currie Barracks development have proven the value of the UBG customer-focused operations model, and Chisholm does not expect the company to slow down much. “We are working on developing a number of things throughout Alberta that I can’t quite mention yet, but we are definitely looking to grow,” he says. “In the coming years, we will be looking to continue to establish solid partnerships and to continue to uphold the standards that we have become known for. We’re going to restart aggressively buying land in Colorado Springs and really work hard to strengthen all of our brands.”
Constantly strengthening ever greater standards of excellence in service, technology, management and innovation, UnityBuilders Group has established its longevity as the preferred choice of discerning home buyers, investors, suppliers and partners.