Custom builder Matt Ellington looks for homes in established urban neighborhoods that he can tear down and build new ones — a practice called infill building.
“Homes in great neighborhoods are aging,” said the owner of Ellington Homes, noting that his design layouts are more current. “They are not set up for the way we live today.”
His work currently is focused on Richmond’s West End and western Henrico County, from Interstate 195 to Parham Road. He typically builds custom Craftsman-style homes.
“They work really well on small lots, and they have a lot of character,” he said. “They have porches and overhangs, which makes the curb appeal of the home stand out.”
He finds that many younger families are moving back into the city.
“These homes are great for them and also baby boomers that want to move back to the city,” he said. “The lots on these homes are smaller, and there is less maintenance with a new home.”
His average home is about 3,200 square feet and includes four bedrooms and 3½ baths. The typical lot is 50 feet wide by 130 feet deep.
“We have some larger lots that go up to almost a quarter of an acre, and I have gone up to around 5,000 square feet on a home,” he said.
The majority of his homes cost from $650,000 to $750,000.
“I do some speculative building where I build and then sell,” he said. “The majority of my clients start from scratch. My goal is to design a house that meets their needs.”
Andy Litteral, of Henrico, had Ellington build his home in December.
“We started from scratch. We were able to design the home along with Matt,” he said. “He gave us tons of time to help us in the planning. He has a really good eye for design beyond being a builder.”
Even though the majority of the company’s homes are located in the city and Henrico, Ellington does build in surrounding counties such as Chesterfield and Hanover.
His clients are mix of people who are already living in the area and those who are moving into the area.
“Many of the people moving into the area are familiar with the infill concept,” he said. “It’s a newer concept to people in the Richmond area, but I think they are starting to see that it’s working.”
He thinks infill building is a trend that will continue in popular neighborhoods with no vacant lots.
“Today, the biggest challenge is finding the infill opportunity. Inventory for resale is down,” he said, noting that he works with real estate agent Mike Hanky of Coldwell Banker. “He is an integral part of finding the deals.”
When Ellington started his Richmond-based company, he was building two to three homes a year and “we did a renovation or two,” he said.
This year, the company, which saw its revenue last year grow by 40 percent over 2014, has 13 homes under contract.
“I am expecting a 200 percent growth this year,” Ellington said. “One of the big reasons for my growth is a project off of Ridge Road in the Carter’s Ridge neighborhood with nine homes. I am building all nine homes, and all nine homes are sold.”
Rob Lanphear, of Henrico, noticed some of the company’s finished projects before asking Ellington to build his home.
“Matt likes to do things the right way,” he said. “He is very level-headed, and he puts the customer first. If you want to change something, there is no problem. It’s a smooth process.”
Rob and Whitney O’Connor, of Henrico, chose to work with Ellington on their home in 2014 because of his positive approach to problem-solving.
“Matt is unabashedly professional and courteous,” said Whitney O’Connor. “Bumps and hiccups certainly occurred, but Matt’s composure and professionalism never wavered. He did a tremendous job both structurally and aesthetically. We’d work with him again in a heartbeat.”
Ellington, a graduate of Benedictine High School and Virginia Tech, started his company in 2010 after working in Northern Virginia, first for a large production builder and then for a custom homebuilder.
“I was doing something similar there,” he said.
Eventually, his company will begin building in more subdivisions in the suburbs.
“But we will keep a presence in the city and the areas we are building in now,” Ellington said. “We will build wherever we find land. We will have to broaden our horizons.”