Keith Waters and Associates

This Eden Prairie, Minn.-based firm has been in the homebuilding business 26 years, using design/build since its inception. Supremely committed to delivering quality, true custom designs to its clients in the twin cities, Keith Waters and Associates employs five architects and outsources to three more. Each new client begins with a blank sheet of paper to ensure the home is totally unique and tailored to the needs of each client.

"We’re passionately interested in the quality of design we do. We’re not using design just to get the build. We want the best possible design," says Keith Waters, president. "A lot of builders are property or land-driven, or they’re model home driven. We’ve always attracted business through design."

Much of that business consists of projects built on challenging lots. "New developments are growing farther and farther out, so we tend to look for a lot of infill projects and control the land," Waters says, referencing a purchase of 10 to 12 acres that may be suitable for a few custom homes. The acreage he is not interested in building upon is subdivided agricultural land.

With its infill experience and knowledge of the local real estate market, Keith Waters and Associates has developed a reputation as a specialist at building on tough pieces of land.

"Oddly enough, the more difficult pieces of land make some of the more unique designs," Waters says. To ensure the project progresses smoothly, on budget and on schedule, the design and construction teams are tied together throughout the construction phase. While supers in the field are good at scheduling and quality control, according to Waters, they don’t necessarily enjoy paperwork. So a typical scenario at Keith Waters and Associates is one that pairs a project designer (who may oversee certain aspects of construction such as selections and change orders) with a field supervisor. They work together to handle the project, making it a smoother process and avoiding the "hand-off" scenario typical of traditional design-bid construction. Additionally, it allows each of the project managers to run more than one project at a time because they can team up and divide their responsibilities.

Keith Waters and Associates has participated for a number of years in the local Parade of Homes. But unlike many other custom builders, the homes are not built on spec. They are custom homes, presold to buyers at a discount contingent upon inclusion in the parade.

The practice is consistent with Waters’ interest in staying true to custom homebuilding. "You have to watch the timing a bit, but it’s a good way for a builder not to have to build a spec home," he says.