Low supply and high demand keep market inflated with building costs high.
With nearly 12 years of experience under his belt at this point, Phil Stevenson has a seasoned perspective on the ebbs and flows of the valley’s real estate market…
Wanted everyone to know that this has been a banner year for TCCG Real Estate, especially over the past several months, when we have had fifteen closings, most recently three closings on three consecutive days. With the memory of these most recent closings fresh in our minds, we wanted to share a few reminders to prospective buyers as closing day approaches:
- Be sure all utilities (electricity, propane, water and sewer) and service providers (trash removal, snow removal, and so on) have been notified of your closing date and transferred to your name. As part of our caretaking services, The Clear Creek Group can pay all your bills and interface with the utilities and service providers.
- Check out the different options you have for TV, internet, and land lines, and make your selections a week or two in advance of closing. Many of these service providers have a fairly long lead time for service calls, and you will want them at your new home the day you close.
- Make sure your property and liability insurance are in place.
- Arrange for a security service. Depending on what service the seller has, and what service you would require, the security firm might need to do some work around your new home.
- Make arrangements to get keys and clickers at closing.
- If some furniture or other personal property items are included in the sale, check a day or two before closing to make sure everything is still in the property.
- Check to make sure nothing adverse has happened to the property since your initial inspection, including working appliances.
- Make arrangements to have the locks on the house changed the day of closing.
An imposing list, to be sure, but the good news is that at TCCG Real Estate, we handle all of the above and more, with an objective of making your closing and the transition to your new home ownership as pleasant and seamless as possible.
Whether you’re considering selling or buying in Jackson Hole, we’d love to talk with you about your real estate needs. Just call me at (307) 690-3503 or e-mail at email@example.com, and one of our team members will get right back to you.
John Jennings of Peak Builders has built not one but two homes for Phil Stevenson. The first Phil and his wife Betsy bought in Indian Trails and had John, the original builder, renovate. When a fire claimed their beloved house, they turned to John and once again, he impressed them as a person and a craftsman. Now friends, they share top clients and life milestones: Phil hired John’s fiancé as his first employee and then attended their wedding, even offering the Stevenson home as a venue for their big day. Needless to say, the two maintain a close working relationship built on a strong foundation of trust and integrity.
Recently Phil sat down with John to talk about his long and storied career in Jackson Hole Realestate development:
Phil: Being a broker is all about adding value for your clients. When a client is considering purchasing a piece of land, they want to know who we would recommend to design and construct a house for them. Of if it’s a renovation, they come to us for recommendations. John is at the very top of our recommended contractor’s list. We have recommended John and Peak Builders to multiple clients and they have been very happy. My job, as a broker, is to add value, not just shuffle paper. Some brokers are reluctant to make recommendations because of liabilities. We feel like that is part of our job. We have worked together on three or four homes. Here’s a good story about one of those homes: We were representing a client looking for a property several years ago. We found a gorgeous piece of property but the house was tired. The client said, “I love the property, but I need to be assured that I can build my dream house when the time comes.” We consulted an architect and checked with the county and determined that could be done, and introduced the client to John and his team. They purchased the house. John and his team renovated the kitchen and bath.
John: We dressed it up inside: we redid the carpets, painting, the bathrooms. We made it liveable to their standards for a little while.
Phil: Then, last year, they had an architect move on with drawings for the house.
John: We tore down a little barn that was there and put the foundation in for a man cave with a gym, and renovated the guest house on the property. And then last year, we started the main house. It has been a great project, great clients. We would have never have met them if Phil had not brought us in on the original idea of facilitating this niche that a lot of people are missing in the real estate world: Bring an architect and contractor in while clients are looking to give them ideas and estimates. It helps them with their due diligence work.
Phil: This is part and parcel of what I do because for 30 years, I was a commercial developer. It’s in my DNA to involve an architect and contractor. It’s a good client service.
John: It works out well. It’s been great for us. We’ve met some great people through Phil, and I, in turn, introduce you to some of my clients.
Phil: John built a very nice house in HHR. He introduced us to the homeowner who was thinking about developing a rental program. We subsequently signed them up, and they remain a client. Just yesterday: we were working with a client who was looking to buy a house with particular requirements. One house was very, very close, but didn’t quite meet all of her requirements. So I called up John and said, “Could you or one of your guys meet me up at the house and help me through this?” This was on two hours’ notice. So John sent his right-hand man up there. I got an architect to come too. We figured out a way to make the house accommodate the client. In the meantime – John, you don’t know this – we showed the client a gorgeous piece of property with huge Teton views. She got really excited about that. Today, we put that piece of property under contract.
John: You did? That’s spectacular.
Phil: It’s a symbiotic relationship. John had one of his guys drop whatever he was doing and help me out with this house.
John: Which we do all the time. We do whatever we can to go over and help Phil. We have a great friendship and relationship in that respect.
Phil: In that instance, the structure didn’t end up being the one the client purchased, but John’s crew was very helpful. I’ve got a good memory so when that client asks for my recommendation of a contractor, it’ll be John. It’s helping each other to better help our clients. John, you’ve got an interesting background, if “interesting” is the right word. Tell about your surfer boy days.
John: I grew up on Maui and California. I was a surfer and started at a young age with carpentry, summer work and such. I wanted to live in a ski town and leave the world I was in at the time which was a little too much excess. I was 17 years old; it was 1985. I was going to hitchhike and was thinking about Squaw Valley but then I heard about Jackson Hole – this place nobody was skiing, so I hitchhiked out here. I lived in a teepee and did what I could for work. I built a lifestyle here, fell in love with it. I went back out to California for a little while and came back with the mother of my kids in 1989. My son was born in 1990. I always had ambition, so I started my business in 1992 doing remodels, decks, fences, laying wood floors – whatever I could. By the mid-90s, we were starting to build a portfolio of reasonable homes. By the end of the decade, we were well-established in Jackson Hole as a custom home building company.
Phil: In Jackson, unlike in Atlanta where I come from, there are not mass producers of homes. We don’t have any neighborhoods where people put up spec homes. Virtually all of the nice homes are built by pretty small shops like John’s where the owner will typically be finishing up a project while another one is starting and one or two more are in the estimating phase.
John: That’s exactly it. My job is to stay at large and be out at the sites. I finish off the projects – that’s an important part of the Peak Builder name.
Phil: John’s not above putting on a tool belt and swinging a hammer.
John: I do it all the time. Of course, the essence of our business is quality – everybody says that, but ours truly is. We try and represent quality the best we can.
How do The Clear Creek Group and Peak Builders complement one another both in the types of businesses you run and the types of clients you serve and ultimately the types of projects you work on together?
Phil: We are both relatively small.
Phil: We are both relationship-oriented. It is far more important to have a successful relationship than to make a nickel on a given day. We both take a long-view of things. We both get a lot of clients referred by existing, satisfied clients. The emphasis that John mentioned and is particularly proud of (rightly so) is on quality. We have quality homes in our portfolio that are well taken care of.
John: We are dealing with a certain type of client: clients with a high-standard who know what they want. Because it is relationship-based, we usually stay friends with all of our clients afterwards. I think that is really important in this day and age. Quality in performance whether it’s in our construction or The Clear Creek Group’s direction and execution of how they handle a home. Personally, I think TCCG is as high-end as you can get for a property management and property rental firm. I know this not just through Peak Builders but also my personal relationship with Phil and Betsy and my wife working for the firm. I was going around with her a lot to see how the homes were being handled. I saw how the operations went and I was very impressed.
Phil: Another differentiator for John – there is a threshold for contractors: you’ve got to be a good builder. John has a particular emphasis on quality, but there’s something else he does that not many contractors do. John has what my wife Betsy would say is a “good eye.” He will come up with creative solutions and suggestions on how a structure can be built with a better outcome for less money. Sometimes that’s aesthetic and sometimes that’s structural. John is very good at working in a team environment with the client and the architect. The objective is not to have the prettiest building or cheapest building, but to have the best building however the client might value best.
John: It’s true. I’ll lose money before I turn a house over not done to our standards.
Phil: And you studied architecture, right?
John: I did – in San Luis Obispo. We are a very in-house company. We do our own excavation, cabinetry, painting, all of our own carpenters. We have a well-facilitated company.
Phil: A lot of contractors sub that out.
John: We are one-of-a-kind company in Jackson Hole in terms of the things we truly do in-house. This is a fact: we have more collective tenure of any company in Jackson. Nobody can add up to our amount of years collectively. I have some of the people that have been with me since the early 90s and most have been with me since the late 90s.
Phil: His crew was so good in doing our house that my wife Betsy – who is also a partner in the firm and sort of a dear heart – would take it upon herself to get the guys pizza.
John: She was awesome. We love Betsy. She’s one of the best homeowners ever.
Phil: To the detriment of job efficiency.
John: I know! It upset me sometimes, but my crew sure loved it. I’d say, “You guys are on break again?!” And they’d respond, “Well, she started it!” Speaking of job efficiency, I’ve built pretty much everywhere in the valley. We are currently building three projects, all over $5 million homes, one over $10 million. We try and do it in a progression. We never start two jobs at once. We do have to do things with an overlap. We have the right crews on each one to facilitate the work. We have been turning down jobs this year. We will not over-stack our load. Only if we can staff it properly and have the proper management. One thing you learn in almost a quarter century of having your own business is how not to do business. You learn tricks along the way. Paperwork is a big one. Our presentations are well accepted by everybody. We strive to get better each time we set out.
Can you describe your ideal client?
Phil: We like clients who are intelligent, decisive. Clients who will listen. We both think we bring value to the table. That’s not to say a client will always do what we recommend, but we like a client who listens. We like a client who is responsive: Tell me yes, tell me no, tell me something.
John: Indecisiveness is one of the biggest killers. I love it when they are to the point, one way or another.
Phil: The very best clients are appreciative. That’s not a prerequisite. It’s gratifying when someone is appreciative.
John: That’s a big one, a big fuel – getting a pat on the back. A client letting you know you are doing a good job, for me and for anyone who cares about what they do, that means a lot. It carries the weight and allows you to be happy with the artistic and creative things you do. There’s nothing worse than a client being disappointed.
Phil: A client who trusts you. You have to earn their trust, but once you do, the client implicitly knows that what you are telling them is from the heart and as true as it can get.
Would you define your proximity to one another as a collective competitive advantage?
Phil: From my standpoint, absolutely. From the client’s perspective – the property buyer – they have a need that is impacted by the construction process either new construction or renovation or some combination. To be able to, as I did two days ago, pick up the phone and at two hours’ notice to have a heavy-hitter show up at the job site, that’s impressive to the client. It’s not just me, there are people I believe in and work with who I can bring to the table to their benefit.
John: Our offices are in town as well. We can drop whatever we are doing when Phil calls. One of us is always able to jump out and help Phil.
Phil: Partially born of friendship and partially born of professional common sense. You help somebody out and they help you out.
John: We are really happy. It’s a great relationship for us. It’s always been more than business with Phil.
Phil: In a small town like this, that’s really important because your company people are everywhere.
The first thing you notice when you step into Phil Stevenson’s office at 120 West Pearl Avenue are the windows. Stretching from floor to ceiling and occupying nearly all of the available wallspace, the windows are a charming, albeit unavoidable distraction into the magnetic buzz of daily life in downtown Jackson. Phil’s back is turned to all of them. Surrounded by stacks of neatly organized spreadsheets, The Clear Creek Group founding Partner and Responsible Broker sits unconcerned, completely engrossed in his work.
In the ten years since leaving Atlanta and staking his claim in the competitive Jackson Hole real estate market, Phil has emerged as one of the leading brokers in the valley. Formally the development partner at the largest real estate firm in the southeast, Stevenson moved to Wyoming with his wife Betsy in 2004 to embark on what he refers to, with a smile, as his second act.
Personally, Stevenson has very little of the highbrow manner you might expect of someone with an industry leading portfolio, and given the significant nature of his accomplishments, he is exceptionally modest. In many ways Phil is both a perpetual optimist and an uncompromising idealist. His belief that the most profound outcomes are a result of the smallest details have helped to make The Clear Creek Group synonymous with an upper echelon of personal service.
For all of Phil Stevenson’s driving convictions – the idea that motivates his decisions most, the one that guides his philosophies, that sometimes keeps him at the office late into the evening is the notion that authentic personal relationships have the power to move mountains. Still, as he reflects on life, work, community and his love for the Jackson Hole lifestyle, he occasionally slips into the offhand intellectual persona so familiar to his colleagues, clients, and family.
Who is Phil Stevenson?
(Laughter) what a question. First and foremost I’m a family man. Betsy and I have seven children and nine grandchildren, and my family is really what keeps me going. I also think I’m basically a happy person, a disposition which is reinforced every day by living in this very special place.
What about Phil Stevenson the Professional?
A gentleman I used to work with in Atlanta had a saying – it’s a bit of a truism, but it’s always stuck with me – he would say; “People do business with people they like doing business with.” I’ve always tried to be relationship oriented. To be an effective broker, you need to be able to build relationships based on trust. You just can’t do that without putting others before yourself.
Jackson Hole is one of the more competitive real estate markets in the country. How did you carve a foothold for yourself?
Jackson Hole is the most beautiful place in the country, but 10 years ago if a family wanted to come out here and rent a nice house – not a mansion, not an estate – just a nice house, like they were used to back home, they couldn’t do it. At the time we saw that as an opportunity, but we knew we had to make the market on both ends, identifying both homeowners who wanted to selectively rent their homes and guests who appreciated the quality inherent in those homes. When Betsy and I were first introduced to Morgan Bruemmer, who subsequently partnered with us to form The Clear Creek Group, it was clear right away that he shared our passion for quality. There was this confluence of seeing a market opportunity and wanting to do things in a high quality – high touch way. That concept of exceptional levels of service is what we stood on and what we continue to stand on today.
“People do business with people they like doing business with.”
You work with many people from various specialties; real estate, architecture, interior design. How do you manage professional relationships across so many industries?
Our clients are extremely intelligent and sophisticated. We very much – Janet Helm, Reynolds Pomeroy, and I – feel that we are here to add value to their experience. We do not want to simply move papers around – “Here’s an offer. Here’s a counter offer. What do you think?” – and we generally go so far as to recommend service providers to better serve our clients. These service providers are organizations that we have built relationships with based on trust and quality of work. We seek out specialists for their ability to raise the bar for our clients, and in turn these types of specialists look to us for the same reason.
What excites you?
In terms of business? In terms of the day to day?
In general. What gets Phil Stevenson going?
Personally it’s family. Spending time with them is what I look forward to. But I also love my work, and I often feel that I’ve left the office too early and at the same time arrived home too late. On the professional side I love seeing the look on a client’s face when we exceed their expectations. When our clients feel good about it, when we’ve been able to help them make their dream a reality, that’s what makes it fun.
“I often feel that I’ve left the office too early and at the same time arrived home too late.”
Does anything tick you off? What are your pet peeves?
(Laughter) this is silly, but people who don’t check their text messages before sending them.
Yes! When you go to check a message and all you end up getting is a lot of “gobbledegoop”, it’s frustrating. Beyond that. . . when I first started in business, I thought that if you just did good work and kept your nose clean you could rule the world. I came to realize pretty quickly that those first two things were prerequisites, but you also had to be able to communicate effectively. I have always been a bit of a nut about grammar, punctuation, spelling. It comes down to doing things thoughtfully. I think my pet peeve is when people don’t care enough to do something thoughtfully.
What’s next for Phil Stevenson?
I’m going to continue doing what I am doing here at The Clear Creek Group as long as it continues to be fun, and I’m effective in what I do. I’d also like to grow the company into exciting new areas along with Betsy and Morgan, and I can foresee some extraordinary developments for our firm in our not so distant future.