Custom Home Building Hits Higher Pitch


Increasing interest reported as market conditions improve. Custom home building in Central Oregon looks to be on a healthy upswing after a relative lull in the wake of recessionary headwinds of the last few years, with a number of professionals and projects reporting brisk activity.

Bend’s Tetherow development, centered around the award-winning David McLay Kidd-designed golf course, has reported a resurgence of individual lot sales and new home construction, with 2012 seeing a 200 percent rise in the number of lots sold and a number of custom and spec homes are currently under construction, bolstered by upcoming activity including construction of a new 50-room lodge.

And it is a similar story at other destination resorts in the region, including Brasada Ranch and Pronghorn, which have also seemingly emerged stronger after challenging times and ownership switches.

Bend’s North West Crossing neighborhood also continues to be a poster child for thoughtful master planned development, and has built on strong interest among homebuilders, even notching annual sales increases through the recession.

The mixed-use neighborhood on Bend’s west side has received national acclaim and was recently featured in a new book by Simmons Buntin and Ken Pirie called “Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places” (Planetizen Press)  highlighting communities developed as innovative alternatives to urban sprawl.

NorthWest Crossing was noted as an example of a new community that highlights the essence of good urban design, including access to an extensive trail system, while also creating a sense of place and an economically-successful result for the developers, West Bend Property Company.

Other popular Bend communities incorporating larger lots such as Broken Top, Awbrey Glen and North Rim have also attracted increased interest, in part due to historically low interest rates and an anticipated lowering of available inventory in the future.



As an example of how the custom home process can work, a recently completed residential project in North Rim between Sun Ridge Building Co. LLC – led by Jack Tebbs, who has over 35 years experience in the industry – and clients Bob and Molly LaCroix serves an illustration of best practices.

The LaCroixs’ are busy San Diego-based professionals, with Bob Lacroix being a senior investment advisor with a major financial services company and Molly LaCroix a family counselor. They were looking to transition to the Bend area, and chose a lot in North Rim to build on, in part due to its natural environment setting.

North Rim is a 200-acre Brooks Resources development with 122 one-acre or more homesites on the northern flank of Awbrey Butte offering expansive views, ranging from the Cascade Mountains to the Deschutes River Canyon, Smith Rock to Powell Butte. Meticulous attention has been paid to preserving the native condition of the land, and the blending of the constructed with the natural environment is a core goal of the community, which is home to natural rock outcroppings, ponderosa pine, juniper trees, and a host of other native plants.

Jack Tebbs said: “This was a $3 million project initiated when the market was down and is one of the best homes in area, which shows there was still a demand for quality high-end custom work even in challenging times, and now inventory levels are dropping and demand is rising.

“Bob and Molly first purchased their lot through a local real estate agent and thereafter proved how the clients are such a vital part of the team in a custom build process – and I am pleased to say they have also become good personal friends.

“A lot of land clients want to see the potential for high end projects and I have built six homes in Pronghorn including my own. They were quite taken with our house, which has more Asian Lodge style features and a glacier stone rustic fireplace and used it as something of a starting template, though they also ended up going with more arts and crafts features.

“Tebbs Design Group, run by son Jim, was chosen for the design work and he began with programming meetings to collect information about the clients’ wants, needs and dreams for the new building’s exterior and interior designs.

“The site design theory also directs efforts to ensure that the custom building takes advantage of the best identified view corridors and unique natural features.

The home ended up spanning around 5,500 square feet, with a front entrance reflecting Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stylings, with views optimized.

Entering the interior, the lobby area is dominated by a carving depicting North West themes by acclaimed Sisters wood sculptor Skip Armstrong.

A limestone hood over the kitchen range, and limestone flare legs giving an Asian table look was part of the stone and countertop work carried out by Bend specialists Austin’s Romancing the Stone, including a meandering stone river through the kitchen block.

Subtle touches include front and office doors incorporating a juniper look which the clients liked, and use of forged iron work including a juniper silhouetted in the fireplace, and custom tile including a bathroom backsplash depicting mountain ranges.

Clear vertical wood is prominent in the great room, extended with cypress ceilings, paneling in the interior and exterior

Sun Ridge’s Matt Brown, who is a licensed engineer and third generation homebuilder, said great attention to detail was a feature of the team from early stages, including topographic work on the lot to maximize geographic features and views, including preliminary site meetings showing the patterns of the sun.

Brown added the home included scalable “smart home” features on the cutting edge of technology which many of today’s clients look for, with settings such as heat, lights and security able to be monitored and adjusted remotely.

On what drew the couple to Bend, Molly LaCroix said: “My husband has clients that always raved about Bend, and in passing it seemed like a lot of people had been there or had connections with the town.

“At our stage of life, with our children grown, we wanted to spend more time outside of Southern California, but stay on the West Coast where our kids are. We visited Bend around Thanksgiving 2007 and just fell in love with the place, as many people do.

“We visited some high-end custom homes and really liked Jack’s work, including his personal residence in Pronghorn We connected with him on that trip and told him if we came up here we wanted him to build our dream home.

“We also met with Jim who provided comprehensive design services, and he helped us select a lot when we decided to take the plunge.

“They really pulled out all the stops. Jack and Jim are true artists and Matt also did a great job to pull it all together. They also have relationships and access to the best contractors and craftsmen.

“We went with North Rim as we didn’t want a development centered on a golf course – golf is not a focus of our life.

“North Rim really is a beautiful, peaceful place as far as Bend options go and retains that pristine rural feel, with great trail access.

“We had a style of house in mind, but it is daunting when there are so many options in terms of custom homes, but we benefitted from the expertise of the team from every perspective and are just thrilled with how things came out.

“I must say we were also very impressed with the quality of the craftsmen in the Bend area, including Dale Austin with Romancing the Stone who did an impeccable job with features like the granite mural in the master bathroom.

“Everybody was excited to work on something challenging, and I think people coming to Bend for a high end custom home project would certainly not be disappointed. Bend has a somewhat low-key vibe in trying not to be flashy, but there is plenty of sophistication and talent to see and realize a vision, and we can’t say enough about how the house turned out.

“From a personal point of view, we would recommend the Sun Ridge and Tebbs’ teams for the depth and breadth of their experience both in building and design, and as much as Jack has extensive experience in construction he is also a true artist and not just following plans, and was a pleasure to work with.

“It was a good fit for us, and the fact that we have become close friends after three years says something!

“Matt is also worth his weight in gold, and we are excited at the prospect of transitioning here on a more full-time basis. It is such a great community – Bend’s natural wonders get you here, but it’s the people that keep you there.”

Sun Ridge Building has already built six homes in Pronghorn, and is currently involved in a number of other signature projects including a potential spec home at Tetherow.

As the future looks brighter on the custom home horizon and vacant lot inventory could be winding down, developers are also even tentatively looking at opening up new developments, including a preliminary application filed that could see up to 43 new home lots added on a former driving range site on Bend’s River’s Edge golf course which could be triggered if market prices continue to climb.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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