Twenty years. We can’t quite believe it. As we approached this major anniversary, many people asked us how it all came to be. So, this seemed like a good time to pause and take a look back and appreciate all of the amazing people and projects that have made us what we are today.
First in the Phone Book
One of the best parts about taking this walk down memory lane is that it makes us chuckle. Because, like many businesses, the path from our beginning to today was rarely straightforward. In our case, our story begins several years before we actually founded the company in 2000.
It goes back to 1990, the year MC Hammer debuted “U Can’t Touch This,” and Sinead O’Connor told us “Nothing Compares to U.” A young Chad Keune began working as a trim carpenter, learning the trade but also evaluating the building landscape.
What he saw prompted him to go back to school to understand the financial and management side of the business. While he was taking exams and learning to master spreadsheets, he continued to take on side jobs in home-building.
By 2000, just after the world successfully emerged from fears the millennium computer would disrupt business and infrastructure, Advantage Custom Builders was born. The funny part is how the name was selected. The team wanted a name that would place the company first in the phone book alphabetically (smile). Hence, they landed on Advantage. But they also wanted to convey the company’s top goal: to build unique, high-quality custom homes. That’s where the custom builders part emerged.
From the start, the company grew quickly. It began with remodeling large-scale kitchens and finishing basements. Over the years that turned into building fully customized homes across the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Corridor.
Let’s Be Different
The path to founding Advantage may not have been a direct one, but the purpose was always clear: to be different. From day one the team focused on quality, but they also wanted to do something bigger and better. By the mid-2000s, Advantage had created a name for itself in terms of setting the standard in structural and energy innovation in home building.
As we were expanding our knowledge in every area of home building, a few members of our team earned their REALTOR® licenses. We knew this would help us better understand the market, but it would also translate into helping customers navigate the process around lot purchases and home builds.
Recessions and Breakthroughs
When the housing market slumped in the 2008 recession, our team made a pivot, which is what every business has to do to ensure they make it through these types of economic pressures. Remember that education in business, management, and spreadsheets? Here’s where it paid off. Our team began consulting for banks as lenders tried to develop or sell neighborhoods that were going bankrupt. This experience added another layer to our growing understanding of real estate, in particular the financial side. It’s also what led us to branch out eventually and start Advantage Development.
Having emerged from the recession, by 2010, our pivots, education, and innovations were paying off. We built a home in Mackinaw Village in Iowa City that was in the top 2-3% in the country in terms of energy efficiency. That was a major achievement for us and something that really set us on a path for success.
By 2019, it was clear that the level of energy and structural innovations we were bringing to homes was in a class of its own. That year, Chad received the Master Certified Green Professional™ designation. One year later, he earned the Master Certified Graduate Builder designation, which is reserved for veteran builders who have advanced knowledge of all aspects of the industry. Currently, he is the only person in the state of Iowa to hold both designations.
So What’s Next?
As we look back, we remember all of the dream homes we’ve been able to build and all of the customers who trusted us to make it happen. We are incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities and all of our partners who have helped us succeed.
Where do we go from here? Our plans are simple: to continue innovating so we can keep building award-winning quality homes where our clients can make memories for years to come. We can’t wait to see where the next 20 years takes us!
Ready to build your dream home? We’re ready to put our 20 years of expertise to work for you. Reach out today!