Stratford Homes expands to new markets but keeps local focus
By Matthieu Vollmer
STRATFORD – Stratford Homes has been building custom modular homes since 1973 and in recent years has expanded from primarily Midwest markets to Northwestern and Canadian markets.
According to Russ Marti, vice president and general manager, “In North Dakota there is no place for oil workers to live. There were small communities that needed infrastructure in place, which somewhat slowed the building process.” Marti, a Stevens Point resident, has been with Stratford Homes for 26 years and has been in the industry for 32 years.
By expanding to North Dakota, the company was able to tap into the demand for residential and commercial homes influenced by a rapidly expanding energy economy. The company is currently working on five townhomes, equivalent to 68 individual living quarters, to be sent to and erected in Dickinson, N.D.
Prior to the U.S. housing market crash in 2008, Stratford Homes produced over 250 homes per year. After the downturn they produced 70 to 80 homes per year. Since then the company has seen consistent increases in business of 10 to 12 percent each year over the last three years.
According to Marti, Canadian housing markets did not crash in 2008 like U.S. housing markets did. There was an opportunity to make up for lost sales in the U.S. by expanding to Canada.
“Traditionally, doing business within a 250 miles radius was ideal. But because of the economic downturn, we were forced to expand out of our general geographic area,” said Marti.
Despite the expansion, Stratford Homes’ primary markets are still in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The company employs just over 100 people, most of which live within 40 miles of Stratford. 86 employees work on the production floor, and 18 work as support staff or management.
The company boasts an 110,000-square foot production facility, which includes two-and-a-half production lines that churn out 7,600 square feet of modular homes each week.
The company lobby showcases dozens of plaques and awards the company has received for home building excellence in addition to recognizing community involvement and generous donations and sponsorships to which the company has contributed.
“We try to support the community as much as we can. We recognize that the children in the community are the children of our employees. So we try to stay as involved as we can,” said Marti.
When asked why Stratford is a good location for the production facility, Marti said, “We encourage home builders to look local. Individual contractors know the business at the local level. Historically, there were a lot of camper builders in Central Wisconsin. So the home building suppliers are here. This makes it convenient for us. We always try to look as local as we can. For example, our windows come from Weather Shield in Medford.”
According to Marti, there seems to be a basic misunderstanding of modular homes among consumers, which is most likely the result of an industry that started in the mobile home business. Most of Stratford Homes’ business, 80 to 85 percent, is in residential home building.
The company emphasizes the advantages of modular homes.
“The homes are built inside so that all the materials are acclimated to the temperature and not exposed to the elements, unlike homes that are built onsite. The home is wrapped in plastic before it goes outside. So we completely eliminate the vulnerable stages of home building when the home could be exposed to rain or snow. The quality of our homes is scrutinized by building codes. We have a third party inspection agency and our own in-house inspector. So the reporting is much more elaborate than it would typically be for an onsite build,” said Marti.
Marti also said that the modular home industry has come a long way since they began building mobile homes. There is more customization than ever before. “We are one of the premier custom builders. There isn’t much that we won’t try to do,” said Marti.
When asked what he would recommend to someone who is interested in building their first home, and potentially a modular home, Marti replied, “First, go online and gather information on the advantages of building a modular home. Talk to local modular builders, and get references. Understand the process better, and come to Stratford to look at our models. We’ll take you through our showroom and production facility.”
Stratford Homes builds custom modular homes, including chalets, ranch style, and two-story homes. The company offers a variety of home designs within their Lifestyle Series, Cornerstone Series, and Rustic Retreat Series in addition to offering Universal Design.
Stratford Homes is offering a seasonal sales promotion. New home builders save two dollars per square foot now through Nov. 30, 2014. Stratford Homes is located at 402 S. Weber Ave., Stratford, WI. To learn more visit www.stratfordhomes.com or call 800-448-1524.