Keene homebuilder adds to legacy with each house
When David Wright of Keene graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1979 his career path was uncertain at best. He’d majored in business administration and minored in economics and figured that, with his training, “I thought I might be an accountant.”
Wright has managed to crunch more than a few numbers over the years, but they haven’t been in an office — his calculations have led to a successful career as a custom-home builder, a calling he fell into and never let go of.
“I always liked working construction and working with my hands,” Wright says. “With the economy bouncing back, I got the opportunity to work with a local developer to build a house on Spofford Lake, and that was the beginning. I was a young, inexperienced kid, and this was a complicated project with a lot of detail work. But it was a quick way to grow up fast, and there’s no question my education give me a leg up on the business end of construction.”
Since that first solo building in 1982, Wright has overseen the construction of more than 60 custom homes in the Cheshire County area, ranging in price from $200,000 to $1 million. His company, Wright Associates Builders, gets almost all of its projects through referrals from satisfied homeowners, says Wright, adding that he treats each house as part of his legacy.
“Each one is special — a reflection of particular challenges, but always ending with a new home and a great place to live for my customers,” Wright says. “When I drive by a house I’ve built, I remember the building (process), but it’s the relationships that matter most. I try to make it an enjoyable process for them, because if you are going to spend the amount of money people do for their houses, it’s important to be honest to reach a level of decision-making everyone agrees to.”
Wright is “calm and cool, and I don’t get ruffled easy.” This cool demeanor was noticed by Mitchell Greenwald, a Keene real estate broker and small commercial developer, who hired Wright in 1986 to build his family’s three-story house in a rural enclave of Peg Shop Road in Keene.
“I work a lot around construction people. We interviewed many builders, but we quickly settled on David because of his ability to relate and to understand what you’re saying, even if you’re not sure what you are. We developed a great relationship, which is one of his gifts,” says Greenwald.
The 4,500-square-foot modern Victorian built for the Greenwalds was a complicated design with open spaces and open lofts, but Wright “showed real creativity on his part, and his attention to detail was remarkable,” Greenwald says. “He made it all work. The time and materials all came in on budget, and we had zero problems. There were no callbacks for cracked walls or leaks.”
When Greenwald and wife Erika decided to undertake a major remodeling of their house, Greenwald says “there was no choice. David would do it.”
Wright has a crew of up to nine employees, depending on the size of the project. Once in his 22 years in business – during the 1990s recession — has he had to lay off some employees. For the most part, Wright and his crew work year-round – although he admits the long winters “do wear on you as you get older” – building, on average, two to three houses a year, most around 3,300 square feet in size. He spends almost all of his time on site, personally supervising his workers and various subcontractors. Because his referral rate is so high, he rarely needs to advertise in trade magazines, though he sets a booth up each year at a local home show.
“We’re not like a commercial construction company. I have a niche, and really we can only be so big. We don’t travel too far, so that makes it easier for my employees and me,” he says.
That niche status has not meant a lack of recognition. Greenwald says it means something in the Monadnock Region when people say they “live in a house David built.”
In fact, Last year, Wright won a Gold Award in the New Hampshire Home Builders Association annual building and design awards competition. The firm was honored in the category of single-family homes in the $750,000-to-$1 million range.
Wright says one of his most complicated projects was completed last year on Silver Lake in Harrisville. The 3,800-square-foot home was designed by esteemed Boston architect John Battle and took over a year to build.
“It was extremely detailed and was designed to blend in with old-style houses built (a century) earlier. It was cedar shingle-style with arch stone masonry and exposed beam work and all woodwork with no sheet rock, says Wright. “The house, which was highlighted in a three-page photo spread in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, also included a number of high-tech additions, including a radiant floor warmer on the second floor.
“When we finished, that was a special feeling of accomplishment,” Wright says.