'Success story' as Horncastle Homes folds tent
Bill Horncastle, owner of Horncastle Homes, is getting out of the housing markets in Christchurch and Auckland.
Horncastle, who was unavailable for comment, was looking to slow down his business life and focus on other opportunities, niche building projects and life interests, according to general manager Dayle Sutherland.
"It's a success story, a good news story, and it's quite unique because there are usually other reasons why companies downsize," Sutherland said.
The company recently sold consented land at Millwater in Auckland. But it will complete all house building contracts and honour building warranties, he said.
Horncastle said in a prepared statement that after 40 years in the industry he believed it was the right time right time to take a step back from running such a high energy business.
"I have been thinking about this for a considerable time and looking at every option.
"I have looked at selling the business or organising a management buyout but both options would probably mean I need to stay heavily involved for another three to five years which is just too long.
"Many will think it strange that I just want to downsize and not realise any profit from the business, but for me it is the easiest option.
"My name is so intricately entwined with the business that options such as selling and management buyouts are not as easy as they seem.
"We have built this business on quality and we will continue to deliver a quality product and service until the end.
"With the business in such a strong financial position, now is considered the best time to downsize.
"The house construction market is cyclical and the last several years have been extremely buoyant. Our balance sheets are strong," he said.
Horncastle was "totally committed" to its sponsorship of the Horncastle Arena, which expires in two years.
"We took up this sponsorship of the Christchurch Horncastle Arena during post earthquakes times when Christchurch needed a place for people to meet and be entertained. We are proud of that investment," he said.
Sutherland said the company had been building up to 350 homes at a time in its heyday after the earthquakes.
But the market was changing as the Christchurch housing market cooled and the Auckland market softened.
Horncastle Homes had about 150 homes to complete with 95 of them under construction. Staff numbers had reduced from 70 to about 25 currently.
"Every home has a Master Builders warranty and they will be honoured and so will all maintenance obligations," Sutherland said.
Horncastle and his wife Mrrietta have five children.
He was originally from Westport and began work as a builder aged 16, obtaining his first commercial project at 20 extending the Karamea Area School.
Horncastle Homes has operated since the 1990s in Canterbury and has been among the top five operators.
It operates as a company rather than a franchised operation under different local owners, such as Stonewood Homes, and it has offered designer homes to customer specifications as opposed to standard plans.
Meanwhile, a Westpac report has highlighted the volatile and cyclical nature of the house building business, affected by migration, interest rates and lending rules.
Large firms were increasingly dominating except for alterations, repairs and maintenance work.
At the end of 2016 there were 18,501 firms in the residential building industry with 6627 in Auckland, 2847 in Canterbury, between 1000 and 2000 in other regions.
About 42,000 workers were employed in the residential building industry, or 20 per cent of the 206,000 workers in the building and construction sector overall.