Zuccala Homes: Displaying Exceptional Quality
As a competitive builder offering an extensive and generous list of inclusions, Zuccala Homes takes pride in providing real value for money in terms of design flexibility, quality materials and award winning building processes. Zuccala has been building quality homes since 1957, establishing for itself a strong reputation for providing quality builds and service. The Australian Business Executive recently spoke with managing director Greg Zuccala for an insight into what will keep this historic business moving forward into 2016 and beyond.
Mr Zuccala has been involved with the company since 1984, when he joined as a director. It was nearly thirty years earlier when Zuccala first began, under the watchful eye of a man who still takes great pride in the company, Mr Zuccala’s father, Vic.
As a European immigrant, Vic Zuccala came over to Australia, beginning his working life as a carpenter’s apprentice at a mature age. Once the apprenticeship was finished, he went straight into building spec homes, which is how Zuccala Homes started.
“He’s now 91 years old and still comes into our office every day,” Mr Zuccala says, “because he still has a passion for this industry and this business, a business that is now almost sixty years old.”
“I started out doing pretty much everything in the field, and then the office, and that gave me a broad range of experience in residential construction. My dad has a domestic builder unlimited license, and so do I, and the business grew to about 80-100 spec homes a year.”
In 2005, Greg Zuccala became chairman of the Housing Sector Committee for the Master Builders Association of Victoria. At that point he joined the board of the Master Builders, where he sat for several years, before serving two years as president from 2012.
“I’m currently still on the board as the immediate past president at Master Builders
Victoria,” Mr Zuccala tells us, “and I have also just joined the national board of the Master Builders Association in Canberra.”
Medium Sized Builder
Spec building is where a company buys a block of land and builds a home on it, before selling on the individual property. In its early days, Zuccala would buy 30-50 lots at a time, building homes on each individual lot and then selling them.
After Mr Zuccala began with the company, Zuccala Homes started to branch out to building display homes and order jobs. The company now does around 200 residential constructions a year, with its main business coming from its display homes.
“We do work including unit developments for small developers and large developers, we do knock down-rebuilds, including the inner city, and we do our own projects, so we’re fairly flexible in the work we do.”
With its modest yearly output, Zuccala operates as a medium-sized builder. Larger builders will build typically in the high-hundreds, or more than a thousand homes per year. There are probably little more than half a dozen larger builders working in Victoria at present.
“We custom-design homes based on our display homes or the owner’s plans,” Mr Zuccala adds, “and we source a block of land for the owner to purchase, on which we design and plan a custom-design home.”
Zuccala sees itself as a niche volume builder, meaning that the company does some amount of volume, but has a fundamental difference from the major builders by offering a more flexible approach, being able to both custom-design or design from scratch.
“We focus also, very importantly, on the process, not just the product. Whilst we believe our product is a quality product, we use quality tradespeople that have been with us, some of them, for forty years, and some of our tradespeople’s children have taken over the business.”
The company has a specific group of trades-people that it uses for its builds, people who have proved loyal to the company for many years. Likewise, there are suppliers that have worked with Zuccala for fifty years or more.
“We build long, loyal relationships with our tradespeople,” Mr Zuccala says, “and with our manufacturers and suppliers. That ensures that we get constant, good quality work. We deal with trustworthy tradespeople and with trustworthy suppliers and manufacturers.”
This list includes most of the major Australian manufacturers, companies which will backup and guarantee the work. Zuccala doesn’t deal with cheap imports, which don’t offer service or warranty backup. Even though they may prove to be cheaper, the company stays away.
For Zuccala Homes, providing the right product is only half the story. The other vitally important factor is in providing the right process, a process which is all about communication and making sure the customer has all options available to them when designing their home.
Once the construction process is underway, communication with the customer continues, making them feel like they are part of the process. Office availability, as well as that of the construction supervisor, is essential to nurturing this feeling of inclusivity.
“Construction supervisors are regularly on site, and they are able to talk to them, request any changes, and meet at critical stages during the construction. So, that communication process goes hand-in-hand with the product, and that’s where we see our point of difference.”
Part of the company’s commitment to communication involves Mr Zuccala personally surveying every customer from the initial deposit stage to gauge the customer’s experience with the company.
Mr Zuccala’s hands-on approach to service continues throughout the entire build. He makes contact a second time, once the contracts have been signed and all the colours and specifications have been chosen.
“Our customer service administrator in the office here also contacts them formally, midway through construction, and then I’ll contact them at the end of construction to see how they’ve found that process, and this is all confidential and direct to me.”
Zuccala services first time home buyers by providing a thorough document explaining the whole process, from day one. This means customers are fully aware of the details of the process, and the time it will take, from initial deposit right through to completion.
“From the first time they express an interest in a home,” Mr Zuccala explains, “and commit a deposit, we’ll tell them the process of how long that block will take to settle, including the surveys and the tests we do on the block of land.”
Any site costs involved in the construction of the home are determined throughout this process, and are therefore not a surprise to the customer. The customer is then taken through the process of designing the home, selecting colours and specifications.
“We take them right through to contract signing and the process for contract signing, and then more often than not there’s finance involved, so they will organise finance approval, or we can recommend them to a finance institution or a finance broker if they don’t have one.”
This whole process, when working efficiently, normally takes around 8-10 weeks. The importance here is making perfectly transparent to the purchaser exactly what the process entails and how long it will take.
“That process may take longer depending on, if the customer takes a little longer to do things, or if their land is not titled, or if planning permits are required, or special dispensations for councils are required. So, we make that very clear to the first home buyer.”
Master Builders Association
Mr Zuccala’s position within the Master Builders Association has lasted for many years, and the work he has been a part of since joining represents a great success both for himself and Zuccala as a company.
“I’ve been on the board for the last ten years. I started out as chair of the Housing Sector Committee, where we focused on residential issues. Master Builders is representative of residential builders and commercial builders in bringing building and construction issues to the government.”
The Master Builders Association of Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation with almost 9000 members. Its primary role is to represent its members to government and the community, and provides considerable support services for its members in the form of training, industrial advocacy, and legal business and financial advice.
“It’s useful for experienced builders like ourselves to have some input into government policy before its actually legislated, so that government and its bureaucracy is aware of the industry’s view, and it can make an informed assessment on proposed new legislation.”
Mr Zuccala has recently been nominated to the Building Appeals Board of the Victorian Building Authority. If appointed, he will have input into how the industry interacts with the government going forward.
The industry has recently suffered from a lack of quality tradespeople, as new blood and apprentices have proved difficult to recruit. There has been a concerted effort from the industry, and Master Builders in particular, to try and change that.
“The other thing is, it’s important that we have skilled trades, and that the trades have integrity and pride in their work. Victoria is one of the few states that don’t have registered trades-people, as opposed to Queensland and New South Wales.”
In Victoria, the only registered trades are electricians and plumbers, whereas in NSW all tradespeople are registered. This has created a significant shortage of quality trades-people available to builders like Zuccala to employ for important work.
“Major trades such as carpenters, bricklayers and concretors should be registered – that brings accountability to a tradesperson’s work, just as a builder is registered and is policed by the Victoria Building Authority, then so should a tradesperson.”
Master Builders has been lobbying government to introduce trade registration for years, and Mr Zuccala admits that it appears that the state government is beginning to act on the issue, with a new bill submitted to parliament recently, the Building Amendment Bill.
The bill seeks to improve consumer protection, and has been greatly influenced by Master Builders, which has been able to have a significant input to government in regards the welfare of the industry and to the community.
“Registering trades is certainly one of those things, and the other thing is that, in an effort to reduce disputes, a proper disputes resolution procedure has now been proposed in this bill, and we’re pleased that that’s the case.”
Current procedures for disputes can become costly and time consuming, and the bill aims to force compulsory mediation before an issue goes to court. Master Builders is confident that it is moving in the same direction as government and consumers in seeking improvements.
In terms of the company’s major projects, Mr Zuccala highlights three that have represented significant achievements in Zuccala’s portfolio. Two of these projects are situated in display villages, each of which showcases two of the company’s homes.
The third project involves homes currently under construction, within an exciting and innovative project based in Cranbourne. The project developer is Investa Property Group, which is planning a combined business and residential development.
“This is a unique product,” Mr Zuccala says, “which is the next step up from the home office, and it displays a contemporary development which looks residential, but also caters for the business that can be run from home.”
The project design has integrated both residential and commercial use, whilst also clearly, though discreetly, demarcating between them, allowing home and office lives to remain separate whilst also being intrinsically linked.
“We’re the preferred builder in that development, and we’ve just started construction of five homes there. The home designs suite is called Duo-Duo because, it’s dual purpose business and residential. Four of those will be display homes, the other is for a client.”
The plans were the brainchild of Investa, and Zuccala was brought in to refine and develop them so they are functional and suit the purpose for a two or three-bedroom residential, as well as the opportunity for business and employment.
The development is called the Evans Park Business Village. Despite the name, it’s not an industrial estate, but rather has the feel of a modern, contemporary residential estate, where people can work from home. Zuccala hopes to have its homes open early in 2016.
“The buildings look essentially like contemporary two-storey townhouses or residential homes from the front, so it’s not a factory type setup. The residential portion is on the top level and they’ll have a rear access, which is the business component.”
The homes at Evans Park will be available between the $400-500k range, making them very affordable. Zuccala expects to build around 350 homes in total during the current phase, creating an extensive residential setting, and will be offering a fully-finished turnkey product.
“It suits not only those working from home,” Mr Zuccala stresses, “but it also suits the tradesperson who’s going to store material. So it can be an office-warehouse combo, so its quite flexible.”
The concept on display at Evans Park is something very new to the Australian market, representing a significant project for a company of Zuccala’s size to be involved in, and the beginning of something that promises to be quite special.
“It’s absolutely new, it’s the brainchild of Investa, and we got in on the ground floor with them, and helped them design that product. This will be the first development, the first display homes, dedicated to this product. It’s a ground-breaker.”
Typically, the major developers such as Frasers Property, Stockland and Investa, will buy large plots of land, with thousands of lots on them, with the plan being to build a display village. The developer will then invite builders to participate in the project.
“There may be 10, 12, 15 builders, in a large development, of which we might be one. In the case of this one with Investa at Cranbourne, with this new product, we are the only builder displaying there, because we’ve developed that product in conjunction with Investa.”
The Zuccala product is the only one being sold on the site, proving the level of confidence Investa has developed in the company to build and supply the product. This is a slightly more unusual case, and one where Zuccala act as the preferred builder.
The two other main display homes are situated in display centres, one of which is Williams Landing, probably the best performing display centre in Victoria. The homes have been open for while, a large two-storey and a single-storey home.
The Hawthorn 265 home, on display at Williams Landing, is exceptionally zoned, with all living requirements taken into account. Open-plan living flows easily to the alfresco area, and a separate living-room caters for all occasions.
Similarly, the Oxford 330 harnesses form and functionality, offering all the vital ingredients for a comfortable modern lifestyle. A combination of private and communal space is set over two sizable storeys, and the alfresco area provides another place to unwind.
“That’s our bread and butter,” Mr Zuccala says, “open for display seven days a week, where we sell our order jobs and find people land and custom design a home for them. The other one is in the Aston display village in Craigieburn.”
At the Aston Estate, the Marina 225 is both a stylish and functional home, suited to the family that loves to entertain. The kitchen, with its large walk-in pantry and meal areas, opens out to an undercover alfresco, creating a seamless blend between indoor and outdoor.
Its counterpart, the Sienna 325, is a double-storey home designed to cater for the needs of the whole family. Equipped with a delightful and luxurious kitchen, and complete with a large walk-in pantry, this home has a truly big heart.
The Sienna 325 has been perfectly zoned to offer both space and privacy to everyone in the home. This home offers a truly stylish and sophisticated design, created for the enviable family, and can also be viewed at the Aston Estate site.
“There’s another 4 or 5 display centres where we’ll be opening up early next year. We’ll have 6 or 7 centres at any one time, and that’ll bring in new home buyers, where we custom design, or they’ll design or amend from our display plan, whichever they wish.”
These projects include two homes at The Adresse in Point Cook, in conjunction with the property group Stockland, and two more at Bloomfield, Diggers Rest, which is another Investa development.
Added to these are two homes at Woodlea, Rockbank, developed by Mirvac/VIP, as well as the company being in the planning stages of two new display homes at the Cloverton Estate in Kalkallo, another Stockland development.
Zuccala makes sure to foster good relationships with major land developers regarding display centres, bringing a more personal, flexible, customer-orientated aspect to a display village, thereby complementing volume builders, which bring a lot of traffic.
“Our pitch to our developers is that, no we’re not a large volume builder, rather we’re a medium sized, family-run organisation, that brings a more holistic dimension to the display village, and that attracts a broad range of customers to the village.”
Find out more about Zuccala Homes by visiting: www.zuccalahomes.com.au
This Zuccala Homes business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:
Casabene Group: Excavation, drainage & equipment hire
Gainsborough Hardware’s new matt black range
Tonna Heating & Cooling
To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.
Editorial written by Nicholas Paul Griffin.