By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
Gnu Homes is a young and funky homebuilder. It prides itself on building boutique communities with well-crafted architecture, tailored specifically to each community, and great design both inside and out. By wrapping all of this up in a fun and efficient home buying process, it is able to provide its homebuyers with great value and an enjoyable experience. It’s what it calls the “Gnu way of doing things”.
Gnu Homes, which recently rebranded itself and changed it name, started as Emerald Builders in 2016. The homebuilding company was formed by Luke Yorke-Hart and Jeff Barba to inject what they call “gnu life “ in the homebuilding industry. Luke and Jeff wanted to convey their fun spirit and passion to create a relaxed and enjoyable homebuying experience while building quality, well designed homes that they would actually live in.
A civil engineer by trade, Luke worked as a developer before creating Emerald Builders together with Jeff. Jeff previously worked for a national homebuilder where he worked in various fields including land acquisitions, operations, sales and design. gnu Homes also builds homes for clients who sell the homes themselves.
“Last year, we had 17 starts,” he says, adding that it has 105 planned for the next two years. “We own half the lots and deals, and the other half is owned by third parties.” The company has established itself as a regional homebuilder that builds boutique communities with an eye towards design and a simplified buying process.
One of Emerald Builders’ initial projects, he notes, was a townhouse that it designed to have a modern, sleek look. Its latest projects include Red Fern Row, located in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood. The development consists of four-level townhomes with lofts and rooftop decks that are also adjacent to retail and restaurants.
Gnu Homes strives to take the complexity out of the home buying process. “We have curated interior design packages,” he says.
These range from its Modern Farmhouse design to its Park Avenue design, its base package. However, the base package still provides homeowners with high-quality features. “Our base cabinets are level three cabinets, and our standard flooring is five-inch hardwood,” Yorke-Hart says.
Gnu Homes is seeing changes in the home buying market in Maryland, including customers gravitating towards small homes. “The trend is more people want town homes than single family homes,” Yorke-Hart says. Millennials, he notes, are looking for 2,000-square-foot units that are efficient in their layout and performance. “[We] really started our business on those principles in Maryland,” he notes.
This includes designing the houses to use less material and less energy per square foot. The company’s homes also incorporate low-e appliances and high-efficiency windows.
“We use a far better grade window than other builders,” Yorke-Hart says. “We’re also exploring different heating options in terms of hot water.”
Yorke-Hart predicts growth for Gnu Homes, which has a positive outlook for the markets in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.
“We want to focus on improving our product and really develop not just a great house, but a great community from the beginning,” he says.
He also wants Gnu Homes to be the standard when it comes to a well thought-out, designed and built house. “We want to have that [reputation] for our design side and our customer relations,” Yorke-Hart says.