Written by The Business Journal Staff
President, James E. Kimison, Central Valley Division
What we do:
We are a leading national homebuilder known for our award-winning customer service and high-quality homes in desirable locations along the West Coast, Pacific Northwest and Southeast states. We take an “Everything Matters” approach to homebuilding, meaning that our customers, whether they are first-time homebuyers or second-time move-up or move-down homebuyers, can expect to receive the highest level of customer service throughout every step of the home buying process.
Education: University of California, Davis. Bachelor of Science – Architectural Design
Family: I am happily married with three children ages 27, 25 and 12. My wife graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, and my two older children graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of San Francisco, respectively. My youngest is a student at St. Anthony’s school in Fresno.
Tell us a little about your career up to your current position, James?
I have over 30 years of land acquisition and development experience in the residential and commercial real estate industry in the Bay Area and the Central Valley. I joined Benchmark in 2014 and have served as President of our Central Valley Division ever since. My primary responsibilities include implementing the division business plan including the sales, marketing and construction efforts for our nine communities in the region and the timely land acquisition and development of our planned communities.
In addition, I am also responsible for supporting all of our dedicated and passionate team members in the Central Valley. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of my job, as I am surrounded by compassionate and talented people who are committed to ensuring all of our customers are provided with an enjoyable home buying experience.
I was born and raised in California with family in the northern part of the state and in Fresno, and have lived in the state my entire life. I have developed an extensive personal network with homebuyers, colleagues and industry peers, so I feel fortunate and honored to work for one of California’s premier homebuilders.
What is Benchmark’s history and footprint in Central California?
Benchmark was founded in 2010 by homebuilding professional and industry veteran Dustin Bogue. We opened our first communities in the Central Valley in October 2012. These communities, Vantage at Harlan Ranch and Pasaro at Loma Vista, are both located in Clovis and are fully built out. Today, we have nine active communities throughout the region, including two that recently opened in Fresno: Tapestry and Meadowood. In addition, we have two communities in Madera, The Groves and Cantera, two in Bakersfield, The Heights and Sundance, one in Clovis, Diamond Crest, one in Ripon, Cornerstone II, and one in Sanger, Red Hawk Estates.
What we are most proud of is that since our beginning, we have consistently been recognized and won awards for our exemplary customer service in the Eliant Homebuyers’ Choice Awards competition. This national competition includes homebuilders across the country and is widely regarded among industry professionals as the gold standard for measuring customer satisfaction, and our ability to repeatedly go above and beyond for our customers is a key differentiator for us.
How would you describe the current homebuilding market in the Central Valley, James?
The Central Valley has strong underlying fundamentals, and as a result, there is a steady demand for the high quality homes we build. The unemployment rate continues to fall nationwide and mortgage rates are still reasonably low compared to historical standards, so it’s still a compelling market for homebuyers, especially in our region. The Central Valley, in particular, is very attractive because of its robust job growth, nice weather, abundance of highly rated schools, hospitals and shopping centers throughout, and affordability – the ratio of home prices to household income provides a healthy balance. As such, it’s an ideal place to raise a family or to retire.
We like the fundamentals throughout the Central Valley and we will continue to expand our presence and open new communities in this region to meet the strong demand for new homes amongst all types of homebuyers. In fact, we will open four new communities in 2017.
What are some of the more important trends you see homebuyers embracing in new homes, James?
We have noticed more and more homes that are generationally diverse, meaning grandparents are living with their children and grandchildren. As a result, we are seeing an increase in demand for spacious and flexible floor plans with open kitchens, master bedrooms located on the ground floor, great rooms replacing living rooms, and larger home sites with three car garages.
First and second-time home buyers are looking to purchase a home with multiple bedrooms that can support their growing/completed family near top performing schools, while retirees prefer to be in close proximity to leading shopping centers, golf courses and health care facilities – which are all things the Central Valley provides.
Other important features all types of homebuyers expect in new homes are energy efficiency, technology to manage HVAC and security, wireless capabilities, drought resistant landscaping and home entertainment systems
What’s your outlook for the homebuilding industry in the next five years?
As long as the economy continues to expand, I am a firm believer that the homebuilding industry will continue to progress. With employment statistics stable and growing, I expect that this will be an impetus for increasing household formation.
What was the best advice you ever received, James?
I’ve received many wise words of wisdom over my career. Here are a few of them:
• “Listen more. Talk less.”
• “Learn something new every day.”
• “Chose optimism over pessimism.”
What are some causes or issues that you personally support?
Some causes and charities that I support Catholic Charities, Bethany Christian Services, an adoption and family service agency, and United Cerebral Palsy. Also, I’m a firm supporter of local education, including California State University, Fresno.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, James?
My first jobs were as a newspaper delivery man and gas station attendant. I learned about the importance of providing exceptional customer service and how to prioritize.
What do you like to do in your spare time, James?
I’m an avid golfer and tennis player, and thoroughly enjoy snow skiing with my family.