A local family creating homes for local families is the heart of Severyn Development, a custom home building business led by father William (Bill) Severyn, Sr. and sons William and Alex Severyn. Severyn Development has also spearheaded numerous housing rehab projects throughout our region, including their recent historic renovation of the Florida Street rowhouses in Buffalo now called, Cold Spring Heights.
Bill Severyn has worked in the real estate industry for decades, starting out as a real estate agent over 30 years ago and working as a broker for the past 20 years, currently licensed with Hunt Real Estate. His sons grew up in his office and it didn’t take long for their curiosity about their father’s work to lead them into their own ventures.
When Alex and Will were 11 years old, their father offered them a job cutting grass at an apartment building he had purchased. “I think it was probably the first day I took them over there – of course, they were 11 so I drove them to their job – and they started asking questions about who lived in this building and why they live there,” Bill said. “I told them that the people that live there are paying rent and started explaining that I have a mortgage on the building so it’s not paid for. Then the question was, ‘What’s a mortgage and how does this work?’ That’s probably the very first conversation that I remember and from there, they just kind of instantly had an interest in real estate.”
Alex and Will started working for new-build home contractors while they were still in high school, picking up work on nights, weekends, and in the summertime, and learning the tricks of the trade, from painting to kitchen and bathroom remodels. “We started our first company when we were 16 years old,” Alex said. “It was landscaping at first, and then that got into painting and home improvements. That’s really what put us through college.”
From 2007-2009, the brothers gained a lot of experience assisting homeowners with renovating their properties to help prepare them for sale. “It taught us what was necessary to appeal to the masses,” Alex said. “We were essentially practicing house flips with other people throughout Western New York, and we helped all of them sell their homes within about two weeks.”
Once they gained that hands-on experience, paired with their father’s real estate expertise, they were ready to start buying and renovating properties on their own. They started with their first three houses while they were students at Canisius College. “We would go to school and then we had our work-study jobs at night,” Alex said. “So I would drop Will off at the house, then I’d go to my work-study job. He’d worked for three hours then I would come pick him up and we would alternate doing that every single day, working all weekend. We really wanted to learn the process by doing it all ourselves. Our father would come help us and we experienced a good amount of success with our early projects, and they taught us a lot.”
Their segue from renovating to building came when they purchased a property in Lancaster that came with a vacant lot. They decided as a family that they would try to build their first spec home. “We had never built before so we decided hey, we have the lot for free, let’s take the risk,” Alex said. “Because of all the learning curves, we didn’t end up making that much, but it taught us the process.”
From there, Severyn Development grew into the custom home building company that it is today, designing and building homes throughout Erie County and Western New York and combining Bill’s real estate expertise and knowledge of the market with Alex and Will’s expertise on home renovation, design and building. “The early days were long, we used to work day and night,” Alex said. “I give my dad a lot of credit. He had a full time job, but he would still work with us. We would work until midnight and then we would spend an hour sitting in the house, just looking at what we had accomplished. That’s how much we enjoyed it, we were never in a rush to leave. To the point where my mom would call and say, ‘Hey, are you guys coming home?’”
Bill’s attention to detail was a skill he aimed to impart on his sons as he worked alongside them, and he points to that as the reason for some of those late nights. “I’m always the critic,” he said. “I’m always the one that walks around and picks things out, probably at midnight when they think they’re finished and I’m walking around looking for things that need attention or things that need touching up. I know I know they weren’t usually happy about that, but hopefully that always helps them to self-critique as they move along.”
The emphasis on quality work was one of Bill’s “million dollar secrets” that he shared with his sons as they grew into the business together. While Bill would tell you that his sons have surpassed his knowledge in some areas of real estate development, he still has many more years of experience working with tenants and clients, and knowing how to build good relationships. “He calls them his million-dollar secrets, but I think that they’ve saved us a lot more than a million dollars,” Alex said. “Really what my dad has always taught us is to treat people right. He’s always been great to his clients. He’s very level-headed. He’s always been very professional and I believe he’s always treated people with respect, which is why people really enjoy working with him and in turn, have agreed to work with Will and I.”
As they look to the future, the Severyn family hopes to keep growing their company by building more custom homes while maintaining their focus on their customers’ needs and creating a high quality product. They’ve seen many home builders in the market focus on mass producing homes as quickly and cheaply as possible, and they intend to steer clear of that trend. “I think it’s nice to know that a family’s building your home,” Alex said. “I think that’s lost right now as we’re getting a lot more national builders. If I was building a home, I’d want to know that a family was building it and that’s how we try to approach each build. You know, how would we build this home? How would we like to be treated?”
Behind that mission is a father and two sons building a business together, who genuinely enjoy having the opportunity to work together every day, bouncing ideas off one another and tackling new projects together. That familial bond is perhaps their biggest source of motivation and the reason for their growth and success as a company. “Honestly, the biggest thing for me is to have the opportunity to work with them on a very regular basis, Bill said. “I’m excited for the future for us, but more importantly for Alex and Will, and to see what they can accomplish. I just enjoy seeing the enthusiasm and the hard work that they put into it every day. I’ve worked for different companies and this is probably what I’m enjoying the best.”
To learn more about Severyn Development and their current homeownership and rental projects in the area, visit https://severyn.co/