Hampden contractors see uptick in new housing construction

The Maine Construction Group recently constructed this executive ranch on Stetson Drive in Hampden.
Maine Construction Group
The Maine Construction Group recently constructed this executive ranch on Stetson Drive in Hampden.
Posted April 11, 2014, at 8:42 a.m.
Standing in the center island kitchen located in an executive ranch built by Maine Construction Group are the company's partners, Ron Francis (left) and his son, Ryan Francis. The kitchen features Brazilian granite countertops, a GE Profile propane stove, a GE Profile refrigerator with French doors and a bottom freezer, a wine rack, under-cabinet LED lighting, and carmel maple cabinetry.
Standing in the center island kitchen located in an executive ranch built by Maine Construction Group are the company's partners, Ron Francis (left) and his son, Ryan Francis. The kitchen features Brazilian granite countertops, a GE Profile propane stove, a GE Profile refrigerator with French doors and a bottom freezer, a wine rack, under-cabinet LED lighting, and carmel maple cabinetry. Buy Photo
 In an executive ranch built in Hampden by Maine Construction Group, the master suite features a 15-by-12-foot walk-in closet.
In an executive ranch built in Hampden by Maine Construction Group, the master suite features a 15-by-12-foot walk-in closet. Buy Photo

If inquiries indicate an uptick in housing construction, then spring 2014 could see more new homes being built in central Maine.

“We’re slammed,” said Ryan Francis, who along with his father, Ron, owns Maine Construction Group in Hampden. “We are currently working on five houses,” and Ryan senses that housing construction is on the upswing.

“There has been a slow, steady increase since it (new home construction) bottomed out in ’08-’09,” Ron said.

Figures published by the National Association of Home Builders bolster his observation. The NAHB reports that housing starts reached 921,000 in 2013, up almost 18 percent over 2012; the association forecasts that total housing starts will rise almost 25 percent in 2014; an ever greater increase, 32 percent, should occur in single-family construction.

Maine Construction Group designs and stick builds different styles of homes, but a particular style described by Ryan as an “executive ranch” has recently caught attention. Despite its name, an executive ranch bears little, if any, resemblance to the one-story ranch-style house that appeared so often in 1950s’ subdivisions in Maine

According to Ryan, an executive ranch usually features “a sprawling floor plan, an open concept, large bedrooms, a master suite with a large walk-in closet and a master bathroom.” The interior often features hardwood floors and high-end finishes.

The exterior of an executive ranch could blend “a mixture of rooflines and fancier rooflines, maybe fancier trim,” Ryan said.

Since Ryan launched the company four years ago, Maine Construction Group has built two executive ranches in Hampden and three other different-styled houses in Bucksport, Old Town, and Hampden. “There is a lot of interest in executive ranches,” Ron said.

Potential homebuyers intrigued with the flexible design offered by an executive ranch soon discover that “there is no inventory for this type of house,” Ryan said.

Maine Construction Group also specializes “in high-end renovations, mainly kitchens, some bathrooms, and garages,” said Ryan, a 2003 Hampden Academy graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management Engineering Technology at the University of Maine in 2010; he also minored in business and economics.

Ron holds an accounting degree and spent 30 years “in corporate management” before joining Ryan at Maine Construction Group. While building his own house years ago, Ron taught Ryan “some foundation in construction, and he has built on it from there.” Interested in building construction since his youth, Ryan built a 2,400-square-foot colonial while in college.

“I was backfilling the foundation during my February break from school,” said Ryan, who was 23 at the time.

Maine Construction Group offers homebuyers full design, estimation, and construction services. Ryan spent considerable time working in the construction trades between high school and college and even while attending UMaine. He uses specialized computer software to design a house or renovation project and estimate its costs, unlike other builders.

“We can build any house a customer wants,” Ryan said. With the design software he can help a homebuyer “figure out a [construction] project that will work for them and their budget.”

“We work on making homes as energy efficient as possible,” Ron said.

Whether new construction or renovation, each project handled by Maine Construction Group differs substantially. “What people want is very specific to them,” Ryan said.

Referring to the executive ranch, he explained that “there are very different versions of this house.

“It’s a great retirement home for people who need only two bedrooms,” Ryan said. However, many people “want three bedrooms and two bathrooms, all on one floor. Every house is different.”

Father and son — Ron insists that “this is a son-father company” — work closely to provide homebuyers with “the attention they need, they product they want,” he said. While Ryan handles design, estimating, and construction, Ron handles administrative duties, including contract negotiations, estimating, marketing, and materials. He is also an insurance public adjuster.

Ryan and Ron are noticing some renovation trends. “Opening spaces up is one trend,” said Ryan. He recently built his own home in Hampden; the executive ranch features a modern kitchen that opens into the dining room. No wall disrupts the view from the kitchen into the dining room and as far as the front door.

Recessed into the dining room’s ceiling are LED light fixtures. According to Ryan, “LED lighting is the fastest growing lighting trend,” fueled particularly by LED’s sparse consumption of electricity; in each recessed fixture in Ryan’s dining room, the 13-watt LED provides the equivalent of 75 watts of incandescent light.

“People want nicer spaces with their kitchens and their baths,” Ron said. Almost requisite in a new home is “a nice master bath with a bigger shower, [and] granite countertops.”

Ron has noticed a particular trend that will affect housing construction for the next few decades.

“The baby-boomer demographic, which represents 26 percent of the population, is retiring at a rapid rate,” he pointed out. “Baby boomers want to move from an existing large, older home to a smaller house … with everything on one floor.

“This is a pent-up market that I see potentially growing exponentially as the years go along,” Ron said.

Maine Construction Group will be an exhibitor at the 44th annual Bangor Home Show, slated to be held April 11-13 at the Cross Insurance Center. For more information about the company, call 862-6272 or 949-6272 or log onto http://maineconstructiongroup.com/.

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