Seeing one of his homes emerge from the ground to completion gives Ted Lowe of Lowe-Bo Homes a certain thrill inside. “I look at building as an artistic business,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that. They just think construction. Sticks and bricks.” But there’s a lot more to it, Lowe said.
Building is an art
“There’s something about taking something scratch or a piece of dirt and creating a home,” he said. “Like an artist creating a painting or a sculptor creates a statue. There’s something artistic about it and I don’t think a lot of people realize that. And I don’t think a lot of builders realize that. But I really appreciate being able to build people’s homes.”
Lowe has appreciation borne of having worked his way up through the business – twice. As a young man with a fresh civil engineering degree from the University of New Mexico, he decided that might not be the life for him.
“I went to school with the intent of sort of maybe becoming a builder, but I got a civil engineering degree,” Lowe said. “But I found that I didn’t necessarily want to be a civil engineer. After I got my degree, I found out it’s kind of boring and unless you own your company, you’re grinding out design work for bridges and sewer systems. I thought, ‘Hmmm, not sure I want to do that.'”
Runs in the family
So he decided to follow in his father and brother’s footsteps. “My dad was a custom builder so I kind of grew up working for him,” Lowe said. “Back in those days it seemed like all of us worked more as we were younger. So he would drop me off at houses and I would sweep houses out and clean houses.”
Working alongside as an adult, however, didn’t seem like the best option. “I wasn’t so sure I wanted to work for my dad,” Lowe said. “I probably could have, but I didn’t want to be that second generation, going to work under my dad’s coattails guy. Plus I think my dad and I would have butted heads. I’m pretty stubborn. He’s pretty stubborn. Same thing with my brother he’s pretty stubborn, so I don’t think we could work well together.”
Instead, Lowe went to work for a large, national builder in Albuquerque, turning in two decades of solid work, even to the point of earning national recognition. “We won some awards for customer satisfaction on a national level,” he said. “We were the number one builder in customer satisfaction and I was in charge of that.”
Company highs and lows
It was all part of the process as he grew with the company. “I worked my way up the chain of command there,” he said. “My goal was to be the division president and I almost got there. And about the time I was about to get there, the market completely crashed.”
And, shortly thereafter, so did Lowe’s career. “It was horrible the last three years,” he said. “All we were doing was laying people off. The builder I was working for got bought. And if you had a counterpart in the company that bought us that was any good, you were displaced.”
Which is what happened to Lowe, although it gave him some perspective on life. “I was pretty cocky at one point,” he said. “We went through the biggest building boom in the history of the country then went through the biggest crash. And I had no experience with that. I went from peak to valley so it was pretty humbling.”
Creating his own path
With nowhere else to turn in 2009, Lowe turned to custom building like his dad had done. “I didn’t know what else to do,” he said. “I think if you start at the bottom you have nowhere to go but up.” Actually, up and up as Lowe-Bo Homes is doing quite fine.
“I have a pretty hard work ethic and stuck with it,” he said. “I took care of my customers. I consider customer satisfaction pretty key in my business. I’m personal with all my clients. I spend quite a bit of time with my customers.”
The buildup was gradual but steady, Lowe said. “Slowly but surely through word of mouth, business has come to me more and more,” he said. “I’ve been in Parade of Homes 10 times now. Slowly but surely, business has been getting better and better. At one point it was a struggle, but now it’s to the point where I’m actually making a living.”
And not only making a living, but making a difference as he encourages his customers to go green whenever possible.
“I’m also a certified green builder,” he said. “There’s still a pretty big interest in green building. When all the incentives were out there for building green, it was huge because it was actually cheaper to build green than not green. All my homes are basically green although they’re not necessarily certified green because when talking to people, nobody wants to pay the extra money to have a certified green home. Now when the city was cutting impact fees in half and the state was giving big tax credit, everybody wanted to go green, it was less to go green.”
With the incentives coming back, however, it will make fiscal sense to go back, Lowe said. “I’m going to go right back into building certified green because the state has brought the incentives back,” he said. “So for about $2,000-$3,000 worth of costs, they’re going to get about $6,000 back. So they’re actually building green and saving $3,000. It’s kind of interesting. Everything is market driven.”
All in all, Lowe said he’s pretty happy where things stand. “My niche is to design and build homes for people that want something unique or something they can put their own stamp on,” he said. “Most of my homes are designed from scratch.”