MarkSystems Community User of the Month - Julie Mastriani

MKSYS Blog Userofthe Month March 2020

Our MarkSystems Community User of the Month is Julie Mastriani, President of Miramonte Homes in Arizona. In this interview, Julie discusses the changes in the home building industry, as well as the challenges they face and how they overcome them.

Tell us a bit about your role and your company.

Miramonte is a private home builder and land developer, building homes throughout the state of Arizona, with divisions in Tucson, Sedona, and Flagstaff. We currently build around 120-150 homes a year, both multi-family and single family. Starting as a custom home builder in 1992, we have since developed several thousand lots and built, sold, and closed well over 2,500 homes.

How long have you been in your role/or working in the new home construction industry?

I’ve been the President of Miramonte Homes for four years and working in new home construction for almost 24 years - almost all of that time with Miramonte.

What was your career path to becoming President?

I think my career path is unique because I’ve been with Miramonte for almost 24 years. It’s somewhat rare now days to see that type of tenure with one company. My professional growth has followed the company’s success over that time. I was the Chief Operating Officer of the company for many years when we were acquired by Standard Pacific Homes in 2004. We operated as the Tucson division of Standard Pacific Homes for approximately four years and were purchased back by the company founder/CEO, Chris Kemmerly in 2008. It is really interesting and very helpful to have operated in both the private and public world of home building – which has unique differences.

How do you see your role evolving over the next few years?

Really depends on where we see opportunity in the marketplace. I am very involved in sales, financing, partner relations, risk management, and new project due diligence.

I plan to continue to devote my time and energy to supporting our management team, especially the newer, younger members who represent the company’s next generation of leaders.

What's the most challenging aspect of your job? What do you do to overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge is helping our team manage and control costs and cycle times. Over the past couple years we have seen rising land costs, development costs, direct costs, and delays in the field due to a limited trade contractor base – all of which have been extremely difficult to manage. It’s taking longer to build and it’s more expensive than ever – affordability is elusive. In Tucson, we have an established trade base however there are a number of production builders in the Tucson market so production volume puts a lot of pressure on that trade base. In Flagstaff, there is lower overall volume, but it’s more expensive because of the limited trade base.

In order to overcome these challenges, we are actively expanding our trade base, using third-party quality control partners to ensure best practices and quality control in the field and also focusing on additional, better and more consistent communication with trade partners to align and track schedules and ensure deadlines are being met. The Internet ToolKit helps provide that open dialogue with trades.

How have you seen the home building industry change in the last few years?

Affordability is a huge challenge. We have generally been a first or second plus move-up home builder, but regardless of what product level you specialize in, profit margins continue to shrink. When you consider the significant increases in direct costs over the past couple years, combined with an aging trade base and increased labor costs, it’s extremely challenging and a very real problem.

How long have you been using MarkSystems?

After we transitioned from Standard Pacific in 2008, we started looking for a system and ended up choosing MarkSystems.

What’s the one MarkSystems’ feature that you can’t live without or helps you be more productive/efficient?

Rather than one specific feature, it’s the fact that the data is integrated through all the different areas of our business which is so important.

When we looked for a software solution in 2008, most of what was available for home building was accounting-based and you had to look to other software “add-on modules” for sales, design studio, customer service, scheduling, etc.

We felt strongly that an all-inclusive integrated system is what we wanted to ensure data integrity, reliability, and efficiency. Having it all-in-one system is so much easier than managing multiple modules from various software sources.

Do you have any specific successes you'd like to highlight?

In general, our ability to survive the Great Housing Depression is what I would consider a success and victory! Not only did we survive, but we also grew our business and opened new markets.

With the strong leadership of our founder and CEO, Chris Kemmerly, we were able to negotiate what, at times, seemed to be overwhelming challenges. Thanks to well established relationships with our construction lenders and project partners, we were able to find creative solutions to the innumerable obstacles those years presented. In some cases, we were approached to step in and complete failed communities or projects. We fortunately had the staff and expertise required to work through the complicated steps it takes to successfully manage those types of projects.

What was the best career advice you received?

Manage by exception. Details are important but don’t get overwhelmed by analysis. Be flexible, think outside the box, and absolutely never give up! Persistence and diligence make up for a lot of other shortfalls!

Do you have any tips or advice for those entering the home building industry?

Our founder and CEO, Chris Kemmerly, has always said that home building is a noble profession. He’s right. We build the spaces where people’s lives unfold, raise their families, plan their hopes and dreams for the future, and create their memories in the houses we build. You can be proud of being a part of the industry that makes all this possible for so many people!

Favorite thing to do outside of work?

My husband is an avid triathlete and got me interested in mountain/road bike riding many years ago! Living in Southern Arizona gives us the unique opportunity to take advantage of amazing weather and terrain. Bike riding, especially in Southern Arizona, is a wonderful way to clear your mind!

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