Record year and growing
Home building, sales should top 2013 at Hillcrest
By Mark Sherry
Mark Sherry photos
A small sample of Hillcrest Builders’ work in the greater Sheboygan area is seen in these photographs.

Last year was a record for Hillcrest Builders and Hillcrest Realty in terms of the number of new homes constructed and existing homes sold.

This year is already shaping up to be even better—in all likelihood significantly better—and there are several reasons for that.

While there are outside influences contributing to the significant growth of Hillcrest Builders and Hillcrest Realty over the past year, the number-one reason is Hillcrest itself—what it has to offer potential clients, how it goes about its business, and what it delivers in terms of the end product.

Owner Oyvind Solvang has assembled a top-notch staff which shares his ability to deal with people in a friendly, professional, low-pressure way. The abilities of his staff allow Solvang to spend most of his time not behind a desk at his Glenbeulah office, but at Hillcrest’s Plymouth selection center meeting with customers and potential customers. “That’s important in any business,” he said.

Staff increases

“We’ve doubled our staff in the office and added crews as well,” Solvang added. “Our team has grown very strong in terms of people’s experience and talents.”

One of those recent staff additions is on the real estate side of the business, where Lisa Darr is bringing her 13 years of real estate experience to Hillcrest Realty.

Darr was already very familiar with Hillcrest Builders and Hillcrest Realty before joining the team. “I had always done business with Hillcrest before,” she said. If one of her clients was looking to sell their existing home with thoughts of building new, they could not go wrong selecting Hillcrest Builders to do the job—and Darr was happy to bring the prospective clients to Hillcrest.

So when the opportunity arose last fall for Darr to join the Hillcrest Realty team, it did not take her long to say “yes.”

“It was just time,” Darr said recently from Hillcrest’s gorgeous selection center / model home in Plymouth’s Greystone Settlement. “I knew the product. It’s a dream job for me. Every day is different.”

Knows the area

Darr began working for Hillcrest in early November and has stayed busy right through the cold, snowy winter. She has come a long way in her real estate career from a time in which she thought it would be just a part-time opportunity. It helped that she knew the area, having grown up in Sheboygan Falls where her father was the police chief for 28 years. Although her family moved to Wausau prior to her senior year in high school and she spent some time out of the area when her husband Tim was in the Army, eventually they returned to settle in Plymouth and raise their children Tim Jr., Taylor, Alex and Sara.

Her knowledge of the area is an advantage she brought to Hillcrest, and Hillcrest has supplied her with a briefcase full of advantages as well.

“Our customer satisfaction rating is extremely high, which promotes the building,” she said. “I think the construction is superior. It’s a product I believe in.”

She added, “I really enjoy working with Oyvind, and I love learning. It’s everything combined.... We make a great team. Oyvind values other people’s opinions.”

The person who benefits the most from these Hillcrest advantages is the customer. As a builder of new homes, a remodeler and a real estate company, Hillcrest is a one-stop shop for anyone who needs something done with their home. “We always have an answer for our customer,” Darr said. “You get what you need.”

Full-service real estate company

Darr emphasized that Hillcrest Realty is a full-service real estate company which does much more than sell existing homes for customers who want Hillcrest to constructtheir new home. Whether it is the family new to the area looking to buy an existing home, a family or individual moving out of the area and looking to sell their home, a family needing to sell the home of a loved one, or any number of other needs, Darr and Hillcrest Realty can help.

While it is a relatively small, independent real estate company competing against some giants, Darr said she sees only advantages for the customer. “We can compete as anyone else can,” she said. “I think it’s a personal relationship that you create.... It’s a hand holding. There’s the excitement of the new house. It’s so nice to call one number. We have such good people working here. I love that there’s no pressure to sell, only to serve the customer in the best way.”

Darr will help fuel Hillcrest’s continued growth in 2014. Adding to Darr’s offerings to prospective customers is Hillcrest’s recent purchase of Willow Creek in Sheboygan Falls and Mueller Fields in the town of Sheboygan near the Maywood Environmental Park. Mueller Fields features architecturally unique homes in a meticulously laid out development with home/lot packages starting at $165,000. Willow Creek offers duplex condos with a clubhouse amenity and single-family home/lot packages with private back yards. Hillcrest has had immediate response from both communities based on its high quality construction. The combination of quality, design and price has made Hillcrest the area’s largest home builder. “The addition of Mueller Fields and Willow Creek will only add to our lead position in the local market,” Solvang said.

Hillcrest’s developments also include Kieland Meadows on Kiel’s southwest side. Hillcrest recently constructed another ranch home in Kieland Meadows, but there are many more picturesque lots still available in that development.

Expanding its success

Hillcrest has seen strong activity in its other communities as well. Misty Ridge in Port Washington saw tremendous activity during 2013 with Hillcrest Builders constructing new duplexes and single-family homes at a record pace. Also in 2013 and continuing into this year, Hillcrest seemed to expand the territory in which it found success. From a custom project in the Two Rivers area, to the Fond du Lac and Kewaskum areas, to added emphasis in the greater Milwaukee area, Hillcrest’s name is rapidly becoming known for quality and value. Participation in parade of home events in many of those areas last year proved successful, Solvang said. “We just put more effort into marketing in those areas,” he said. “People responded extremely well to all three of our elements—design, quality, and price point.”

Hillcrest Builders added several more design options to its already ample list last year, and it will continue to do custom work for its customers. “We basically offer everything from a competitive price point to super high end custom homes,” Solvang said.

Hillcrest Builders also continues to do remodeling projects big and small, something which helped it weather the new housing slump of a few years ago. At least for Hillcrest Builders, that slump seems to be a thing of the past.

“The economy is better so that’s key,” Solvang said. “Interest rates are still low. People can now sell their existing homes. We have lots selling at extremely attractive prices. People are taking advantage of that opportunity because that’s not going to last forever.”

Solvang said it certainly helps that Hillcrest Builders now has a track record more than a decade long behind it. “We have years of satisfied customers,” he said. And the way 2014 is shaping up, there are a lot more of those people about to join that list.