Sam Pitzulo Homes Builds on a Solid Foundation
CANFIELD, Ohio – Sam Pitzulo estimates that by the time one of the houses his company builds is finished, it has led to temporary work for about 100 people – among them outside tradesmen, suppliers and members of his full-time staff.
Over the last 26 years, Pitzulo has constructed 230 new houses and renovated more than 1,000 others for customers throughout the Mahoning Valley. That equates to a lot of houses, a lot of work, and a lot of jobs.
“There’s some statistics that say every time you build a new home, you create 40 jobs,” says Pitzulo, president and CEO of Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling. “I’d say between the trades and other hands-on people, about 100 touch the house before it’s done.”
Pitzulo Homes today serves as a single point of contact for homebuyers looking to build a house that fits their needs, decorating tastes and style, says the owner. “We have a custom home designer and an interior decorator. So the customer doesn’t have to run all around looking for everything,” Pitzulo says. “It makes everything simple.”
Three years ago, the owner added a design center to the front of his building on South Broad Street where Pitzulo Homes showcases cabinetry, countertops, and bathroom designs. “We purchase directly from the manufacturers, so now we’re able to provide customers with better quality at a lower price,” he says.
Once it was common practice to direct customers to different cabinet companies, Pitzulo recalls. But after one customer received pressed-wood cabinets for what Pitzulo thought was an exorbitant price, he changed the practice and discovered that he could purchase directly from the manufacturer. “Now, these are wooden cabinets with slow-close doors and premier quality for less money,” he says.
Pitzulo guides the customer through the building process – from concept, design and the interior details to finished construction. “Sometimes, the customer will have several plans,“ he says. From here, the goal of the company is to combine elements of each plan and incorporate them into a final design.
“We start off with what is called a ‘bubble diagram,’ ” says home designer Mike Pasquale. The bubble diagram is a rudimentary sketch of circles that represent spaces inside the house, such as a family area, bedrooms, laundry room or bathroom and their desired dimensions. Each circle is connected with a specific line to denote how the spaces should be positioned. “It shows how each room connects and flows within the house,” Pasquale explains
Modeling software has made designing much easier when it comes to rendering and demonstrating a house for a customer, Pitzulo adds. The software allows the customer to engage in a virtual walk-through of the interior and exterior of the house before construction begins. “We show our customers what it would look like before we ever pound a single nail into the wood,” he says.
And, these houses are on average slightly smaller than those of 20 years ago, Pasquale says. “Most houses we design are between 2,000 square feet and 2,500 square feet,” he says. Designs and tastes have also changed. Today, homeowners are trending toward open floor plans, less brick, and darker siding with white trim. “Everyone today is looking for open spaces,” he notes.
Pitzulo says an emerging market for new home construction is the baby-boomer generation, which is looking to live in smaller, easily accessible dwellings.
“We’re looking for an open floor concept,” he says. This market has led to the company considering a larger development of houses roughly 1,600 square feet in size.
An earlier effort to create such a development just off state Route 46 in Canfield Township failed because of public outcry related to a mid-19th century house once owned by the grandson of Canfield founder Judson Canfield. The house was in such poor condition that Pitzulo believed the only remedy was to raze it. He planned to use some of its bricks as cornerstones for the new houses built in the development. “The residents and zoning authorities didn’t want it demolished, so I just walked away from it,” he says.
Now the company is in discussions to develop another site in Canfield that would bring Pitzulo’s idea to fruition. “We’re going to do the project,” he says. “We’re just going to do it elsewhere.”
Another market that Pitzulo deems important to the community is developing accessible housing for the elderly. His company is the first in the Mahoning Valley to achieve the “certified aging in place specialist” designation from the National Association of Home Builders, he says.
“This is certification to build accessible housing, and it’s an easy way to stay in your home,” he says. Level entries, walk-in showers and other accommodations are features that can either be incorporated into a new, one-floor house, or added to an existing home.
“We’ve built about a half-dozen new homes like this, and renovated dozens of others to accommodate folks who are getting older,” Pitzulo says.
There hasn’t been a new housing development in Canfield in a decade, Pitzulo notes, and his company has a goal of building 10 houses per year and 50 remodeling jobs. “We have 15 employees and we’re not looking to grow fast,” he says.
Typically remodeling represents about half of the company’s business, new home construction the other half, Pitzulo says. This year, however, it looks as if the ratio is more like 75% devoted to building new houses. “New housing appears strong,” he reports, adding that his company builds within a 45-minute drive from its offices.
Canfield Township Administrator Keith Rogers observes that 12 permits have been issued for new housing starts so far this year. “It’s still early in the summer, so we’ll have more coming in,” he says. “It looks like we’re on pace to do the same as last year.”
Pitzulo believes there is still demand for new residential housing in the Mahoning Valley since the market started its rebound in the wake of the Great Recession. During the recession, several homebuilders went out of business, but Pitzulo survived.
“Ironically, our major period of growth was during the recession, Pitzulo reflects. “Unfortunately, a lot of builders went out of business and couldn’t hang on. In the last three to four years, growth has ticked up, but it’s not a fast climb.”
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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