In the depth of the recession, one local homebuilder was born.

Partners David Ollanik, Gregg Sasse and Jim Campbell founded Mesquite Homes in 2009 to build out infill developments that were stagnant.

Today the company has seven communities, primarily in Tucson’s city limits, and an estate lot division, said Zach Hinman, president and chief visionary of the company that he took over in 2014.

Focused on colorful, intimate infill communities, Mesquite Homes has stayed competitive by creating a personal experience for homebuyers.

“Since the creation of Mesquite Homes, I’ve personally met or directly communicated with 95 percent of our homebuyers,” Hinman said. “We are building homes, not houses. I’m sure that cliché is well-worn, but I think it’s the most important truth in what we do and it’s the one that’s most often lost as companies grow.”

As one of a handful of local homebuilders left in the Tucson market, Hinman said the personal touch is critical to setting locals apart from the national builders.

“It’s impossible to ignore the nationals and their competitive advantage from a cost perspective,” he said.

National builders can buy land, labor and materials cheaper because of national contracts and volume.

“Simply put, in a market where affordability is perhaps the single most important consideration of home ownership, the nationals have a significant advantage in terms of delivering homes at much lower prices,” Hinman said. “We compete with a more original, localized product and by being more personal in the buyer experience.”

Hinman is passionate about Tucson, having moved here when he was 10 years old and grown up in a 1930s adobe hacienda on the city’s east side while attending Tanque Verde Elementary, Emily Gray Junior High and Sabino High School.

He’s a graduate of Arizona State University, but adds, apologetically, “I did, however, go to ASU home games wearing blue and red and cheered for Lute and the guys. I was not popular.”

Mesquite Homes has an annual revenue of about $5 million and seven employees.

“When Zach took over the company he made it his single goal to ensure that Mesquite Homes delivered on the expectations of every homebuyer,” said Ollanik. “In essence every Mesquite Home is semi-custom and built to fulfill the dream of the future homeowner.”

Some of the subtleties found in Mesquite Home communities include narrow roads for intimate streetscape, Hinman said, and three- and four-tone exterior paint schemes with rustic metal touches.

“The goal is simple,” he said. “We build homes we would want to live in ourselves. We build neighborhoods that embrace you as you enter.”

Hinman moved into his own Mesquite Home in 2010.

The company sells between 15 and 25 homes a year, “with no intention of increasing beyond that,” he said.

“We would much rather build 25 very special homes, tweaked to match our buyers’ exact desires, than be a conglomeration trying to stamp out 100 homes with little personal contact with our buyers.”

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com

Reporter

Gabriela's newspaper career began at the Tucson Citizen in '86 as the "movie-times girl" where she'd call local theaters for showtimes. Since then, she's written about crime, education, immigration, trade and business. She's been with the Star since 2007.