This family-owned business has been building top-notch residences since the 1960s. Learn what it takes to survive in the busy real estate market, and how Shodeen’s signature community plays to its strengths as a local firm.
Little did Kent Shodeen know in 1961 that building his own home would snowball into a successful construction, management and land development firm. Today, his children operate his namesake company, Shodeen Homes, 77 N. First St., Geneva.
“Most individuals who go into home building start one home at a time,” says Craig Shodeen, president of Shodeen Homes. “My father built a home he intended to move into with his wife, Joan, and daughter, Beth. His plans changed, though, when someone offered to buy the home for a profit. My father then began building more homes, one by one, because he realized he could make more than the average income back then, and it was something he really enjoyed.”
Kent’s reputation as a quality homebuilder grew as the years went on. By the early 2000s, his Shodeen Homes was building about 200 homes per year. Craig became involved with the company in 1982, following in his father’s footsteps and making a quality product that invokes a feeling of pride.
“We always put the best quality we can into each home because our name is on it,” Craig says. “It’s a small town, and everybody is familiar with the family name. It’s important to build something that we’re proud of at a good, reasonable value.”
To date, Shodeen Homes’ most ambitious project has been Mill Creek, a community in Kane County with more than 2,400 single-family and multifamily residences. The project began in 1995 and in 2004 won national recognition as the second-best community for smart growth. The 20-year project is just finishing up; only a few single-family homes remain on the market. Several new luxury apartments are being built in the village center and some additional apartments will eventually be built on the northwest perimeter of the development.
To build a new community, the first step is buying land and then working to get the land re-zoned – which can take several years. Like any residential project, Shodeen faced zoning challenges when organizing the master plan for Mill Creek. The company had to receive approval from 22 governing bodies, since the community is part of both Geneva and Batavia, and falls under the jurisdiction of Elburn fire department, various libraries and schools that extend into St. Charles.
“Considering how many governing bodies we had to go to, and how long that process took, I’d say zoning was the biggest challenge,” Craig says. “I think a lot of people thought the project was a little too grand at the time – since it was definitely a big project for its time – the largest residential development in unincorporated Kane County. Despite its large size and scope, there is no suburban sprawl at Mill Creek, and it has turned out to be a wonderful and well-received community.”
Kane County requires lot sizes to be an acre and a quarter, and it permitted Shodeen Homes 1,600 acres to work with. So, within those boundaries, Craig and his family wanted to make sure that every house had a nice view.
Driving through Mill Creek, there’s no feeling that the houses are crowded together. If you pull into an entryway, you won’t see eight houses on your side of the street.
“We were able to take entryways and say, ‘OK, let’s not build anything within 300 feet of a main road,’” Craig says. “‘And let’s eliminate the lots as you pull into the neighborhood.’ We made it so that people who maybe didn’t have a lot of open space had the benefit of an open space. So, when you drive through, it just feels nice and open. We wanted that feeling for everybody.”
People who live in Mill Creek come from all over the country and the region. The community is diverse in terms of size options, so over the years, many Mill Creek residents have moved up or downsized within the community to fit their family’s needs. The opportunities are plentiful to move into apartments, townhomes and village homes that range from $250,000 to more than $1 million on custom homes. Craig tries to attend the closings of each home so he can meet Mill Creek residents personally.
Even as homebuyers dwindled after the housing market soured in 2008, Shodeen Homes persevered.
“I think being in a small town, people know our name and wherewithal,” Craig says. “If you work in the right communities and you have a good product, I think you’ll continue to do well. I think we’re more hands-on than a national builder. I’m out in the community every week, and I always enjoy meeting the people who buy our homes.”
As the final phases of Mill Creek wrap up, Craig reflects how this project has affected his career.
“Working on Mill Creek has been the majority of my time here. I mean, I’ve been with the company for 30 years, and we’ve been doing Mill Creek for 20 years. So, it’s certainly the largest project and I’m definitely the most proud of it,” Craig says. “Mill Creek is hard to beat. It’s a very special community.”
Shodeen Homes maintains its solid reputation by standing behind its products. Craig makes sure homes are finished at least five days before occupancy, and he provides up to a 10-year warrantee. He’s also consistent in how he treats people. By using a care and maintenance manual that describes what Shodeen Homes will and will not do, Craig treats all homebuyers equally and fairly.
He also makes sure all homes keep up with current expectations. Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and wood floors are the norm.
“Buyers are so much more educated now with everything on the internet,” Craig says. “They know what they want and what’s available, and we rise to keep up with their expectations.”
Beyond homebuilding, Shodeen Homes upholds the same high standards for all of its commercial construction, land development and property management. Craig’s No. 1 piece of advice to anyone in business is to take pride in your work, no matter what it is, and stand behind it.
“I feel good about what we do,” he says. “I know, at the end of the day, that we provide a quality product.”
He also knows the value of having a good team of employees. Building in the right location, negotiating costs to offer reasonably priced homes, and handling customer service well are all part of what makes Shodeen Homes a successful business.
“We have some great people here,” Craig says. “Everyone can be proud of themselves at the end of the day.”
For many years, Shodeen Homes worked exclusively in the Geneva/Batavia/St. Charles area. Now, the company has expanded into Elburn, Oswego, Maple Park, Sycamore, Lake Geneva and Fontana. The largest upcoming project is set to take place in Elburn.
“That’ll be another big project,” Craig says. “We’ll be developing a variety of single-family homes and, eventually, apartments. Again, there will be a lot of open space in that community and a little something for everyone.”