Since 2007, the economic recession led to the loss of nearly 8 million jobs in the United States.
Those in the housing sector were among the most affected.
Alex Skobel had just graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a master’s degree in construction management.
“I got a job working for a national homebuilder that was building four-story condo buildings in Orlando,” Skobel said. “I did that for about a year and a half, and after that, they laid me off because the economy was turning and getting really bad.”
Instead of looking for a new job, he decided to make one for himself. He came back to Gainesville and founded Skobel Homes.
Because of the economic downturn, Skobel was able to buy up large plots of land from the banks at very low prices. Even though his company was still small, the low land prices allowed him to price his homes competitively – a crucial factor in the early stages of his business.
Skobel said Skobel Homes is a customer-oriented company. While many homebuilders leave out many luxuries in homes, Skobel Homes makes them standard.
“When we started the company,” he said, “the objective was to create nicer homes that were affordable for everyday people.”
Skobel’s homes are also all Energy Star Certified by the Environmental Protection Agency; it is the only homebuilder in Gainesville committed to making all of its homes meet this standard.
Skobel has brought together his family to work for his company, including his brothers Michael, a lawyer, and Adam, a computer programmer. His father, a former surgeon, even came out of retirement to join his son’s company. Skobel’s long-time girlfriend, Loree Schulson, also works for the company as vice president of sales and the company’s broker.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to see a business start from the very beginning and be a part of helping it grow into a big company,” Schulson said.
Schulson said the company gave her an opportunity to use her skills, such as design and marketing, to “really take that as the part of the business that I could help develop.”
While Skobel Homes may have only sold one home during its first year, it grew rapidly as the economy recovered. Within the past two months alone, Skobel Homes has sold eight new properties.
Skobel is extremely optimistic about the future of his business. He has sold all of his properties in the Willow Oak Plantation and Belmont neighborhoods and is now working on building in several other communities in Alachua County. Skobel plans to expand out of the area and try again in Orlando in the next four or five years.
“I really like running this business. I really like home-building,” Skobel said. “I like working with the customers and working all the way until the neighborhood is finished, and you can see what you completed, the product you’ve done.”