Nick Lupi is president of Lupi Luxury Homes.
What’s your sense of how Calgary’s economy is doing?
Lupi: Calgary is clearly going through a rough patch economically right now. We’ve been building homes here for almost 50 years and have been through many downturns – this particular low cycle has lasted a bit longer than we had thought it would. But Calgary is a resilient city, full of people who are willing to work hard and fight for solutions to the issues that we’re facing.
It would certainly help to have all three levels of government working together to help Calgary and Alberta as a whole. The lack of pipeline capacity, rapidly increasing property taxes, higher levels of unemployment and uncertainty in interest rates are just some of the things that are negatively impacting consumer confidence overall.
Oil and gas, construction and real estate are big contributors to Calgary’s economy and when one major industry suffers, it impacts others in tangible ways. We should celebrate and encourage the growth of Alberta energy and I’m looking to a more positive outlook going forward.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a homebuilder today?
Lupi: The mortgage stress test brought in by the government last year has really affected how and if our buyers can qualify for a mortgage.
We’re supportive of the motions being brought forward to remove the rules from Alberta homebuyers since this test was enacted to deal with what was happening in Toronto and Vancouver. Buyers in Alberta are unfairly affected by these rules and again, are negatively impacted by what they’re told they can afford in a new home.
It’s been really disheartening for our clients who have dreams of building their home only to be told that they can’t get financing – and it’s purely a legislation issue, as our client base is well aware of what they can and cannot pay for.
With that said, naturally the major concern buyers have centres around affordability and keeping to the budgets they’ve set for their new home purchase. We pride ourselves in the quality of homes we deliver and we’ve built our reputation on maintaining high standards. It’s our job to work closely with our clients in managing their budgets for a new home while ensuring that the quality they receive is never sacrificed.
We’re also faced with a lot of inventory of new and resale homes on the market so there’s a fair bit of competition for a limited number of buyers.
The large inventory of homes available, paired with the increased pressure on the costs of raw material, labour and land, among other things, are a few of our challenges.
What are some of the key trends you’re seeing in the industry?
Lupi: As far as design trends go, we’re seeing a movement back to wood cabinetry and an overall organic, warm feel to the home, with textured tiles and mixed metals like copper and gold.
We all are still loving the cool greys, bright whites and marble tile and find many of our clients continue to gravitate to that look.
We get a lot of requests for homes with considerable amount of storage, four bedrooms or suites to accommodate in-laws or older children living at home while they attend school.
We talk to a lot of clients who are looking for features to ensure they can age in place – be it with elevators in the home or to add accessibility features like grab bars and safety rails.
What are consumers looking for in a homebuilder?
Lupi: I think consumers are looking for two main things. They’re looking for a home that stands the test of times, not only in design but quality; and secondly, they want a builder they can trust.
This is the single largest purchase and one of the most important decisions they will ever make and we don’t take that lightly. We’re proud of the fact that so many of our clients are repeat buyers, many times two to three times over and we’ve built homes for multiple generations of the same family. Those referrals mean the world to us and are a testament to what we as a company and as a family can deliver.
It’s gratifying to hear from clients, years later, how much they love and appreciate the quality of their home.
If you were to describe what your company philosophy is, what would that be?
Lupi: The core of our philosophy is based on one simple word – family – and that’s something that hasn’t changed since our father founded the company in 1970. We have always treated our clients, employees and trade partners like family and how we would like to be treated.
My dad always said to us, “You build every home as though it’s for yourself.” Although he’s retired today, he never fails to remind us of this.
You really can’t last in this business without delivering a quality product and treating your clients, employees and your trades with integrity and respect. We can say with pride we have maintained relationships with our clients and trade partners over the years. That’s what we’ve always aspired to do and will always continue to do.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business