Oct 17, 2017 by Cherise Letson
For Jeff and Brittany Kitchen, buying a home is about more than just the house itself.
“I think the key to happiness in real estate is to get location and lifestyle,” says Jeff. “Housing you can change. Location you can’t. So focus on the location.”
This is the philosophy the Kitchens bring to their company, Vantage Build, a full-service real estate and development company that helps clients find, build and renovate homes that reflect the way they want to live their lives. The company serves the Greater Saint John Area.
Vantage Build was founded in 2011 when the couple was looking to buy a house themselves. Jeff had already been running his own real estate business since 2006.
“With Jeff being in real estate, you just naturally get that knack where you’re always looking to find the next flip or the next project. With Jeff’s background in contracting management and carpentry, we always gravitated to that side [of the business],” says Brittany.
“We saw a gap in the market where there wasn’t anything really interesting or unique that was affordable at the time for us.
It was a lot of cookie-cutter [places]. So we said, ‘why don’t we just create that?’ ”
Jeff says adding Vantage Build in conjunction with the real estate business gives their clients more options when searching for a house.
“We added Vantage to the company because it’s more well-rounded. We view real estate as not just buying or selling, but being able to renovate old properties to make it turnkey,” he says. “We have a lot of different options. If they want to buy, that’s great. If they want to sell or build, we can do everything.”
Vantage Build’s structure allows clients to more easily find the home and property they want by offering something called Purchase Plus, a system that makes renovating a new home easier and affordable. Basically, Vantage helps clients work out the bank financing of the home purchase and renovations so that the costs of both are built into in a single mortgage.
“They buy [a house] for $200,000, their budget might be $350,000 … We finance all of the work [for the renovation]. Then the bank pays us and it just goes on to [the client’s] mortgage,” explains Jeff.
“You don’t have to have the cash. You can have 5 percent. Go buy a house and get into the right neighbourhood, we design and do all the work and budget it. We then know the end-value number.”
This allows people to get into the neighbourhood they want first, then focus on renovating or building the house itself. As an example, Jeff talks about a client wanting a home with a garage.
“We won’t just show houses with garages,” he says. “We will show them everything and we’ll finance and just build a garage [if need be]. It just gives our clients so many more options when they’re looking to not narrow down the search.”
We can change anything in the house. If we can make the numbers work, we finance it, the bank pays us and it goes onto your mortgage … and you have it exactly the way you want it. The design, the colours, everything.”
Vantage Build has six staff including a project manager and carpenters. The company sub-contracts any additional work they need. The company works year-round and does around four large new-builds a year and 30 medium-to-large renovations a year.
“We do them right from the ground up. Everything is done 100 per cent in-house,” says Brittany. “Everything from concept stages to the design, to the architectural renderings, all of that is a one-stop-shop.”
Jeff says many of Vantage Build’s clients are higher-end – a lot of executives and doctors. But he says the company wants to work with clients on different income levels, including first-time home buyers.
“We do a lot of high-end, but we want to keep that segment open for first-time home buyers and young professionals,” says Jeff. “We don’t want to lose a grip on the lower-end, smaller-scale stuff too because it’s New Brunswick and Saint John and there’s lots of different demographics we want to appeal to.”
Regardless of budget, the Kitchens have noticed more and more people wanting to find homes that reflect who they are and how they want to live. The reason for the desire to the move away from the “cookie-cutter” house is hard for them to pin down.
“I don’t know if you can pinpoint it to one particular reason,” says Brittany, “but you can’t deny that there’s now a level of energy in the area and there’s been a resurgence of people wanting to move back or they have a connection to the area or want to retire here. A lot of the major employers are doing a ton of recruitment, which is helping with that.
“Getting people from different markets having different ideas as to what they want in a home and what they want in a city and a lifestyle, I think that helps.”
A big part of what Vantage offers clients is guidance and advice. To do this, they stay on top of real estate trends in the area. Jeff sees more people moving into older neighbourhoods in the Greater Saint John region. He says the older part of Rothesay and Uptown Saint John have grown in popularity over the last five years. And many of the homes and buildings in both areas need renovations to suit people’s changing needs.
“I think people are more into architecture and unique styles,” says Jeff. “But I think lifestyle is a really big part of it.”
Looking ahead, he sees Saint John’s urban core densifying, with projects like the new Irving Oil headquarters attracting more people to the city centre. He also sees the desire to move into older neighbourhoods continue to grow.
“I think people are going back to those old neighbourhoods, people are coming full circle and wanting those things they did 100 years ago,” says Jeff. “I think renovations will be a really big part of the next few years. I think infill will be more in need than sprawl.”