Power 100 2020: Ralph Huff
By John Koob Gessner
70 | owner, H&H Homes; partner, Coldwell Banker Advantage
Local homebuilders once held pivotal roles as civic leaders in many communities statewide. But like newspaper publishers and local retail-store owners, their ranks have waned amid industry consolidation. An exception is Huff, whose H&H Homes remains among the few large builders still based in the state.
H&H completed more than 800 homes last year with revenue of $240 million, a company record, and expects to add nearly 1,200 this year, reflecting strong demand across the state, Huff says. Builder magazine ranked H&H 66th on its 2019 list of the nation’s largest homebuilders. It employs 160 people.
Plans in 2020 call for about 350 new homes in both Fayetteville and coastal markets, 200 in Raleigh and Charlotte, and 90 in the Triad, Huff says. The UNC Chapel Hill graduate is expecting a record year for the company, which he and his wife started in 1992.
Huff also is a partner in Coldwell Banker Advantage, which expanded in November 2019 by acquiring the Triad’s Coldwell Banker franchise, which employs about 300 agents selling in Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem. Earlier last year, the group bought the Coldwell Banker group that sells in New Bern, Havelock and some adjoining communities.
The real estate agency owned by Huff and partners Gary Rabon of Raleigh and Tim Milam in Wilmington is the second-largest Coldwell Banker affiliate in the country with more than 1,700 agents in the Triangle, Triad, Fayetteville and along the coast from Havelock to Georgetown, S.C. Coldwell Banker’s corporate parent owns its Charlotte franchise, making it unlikely that Advantage will expand there.
“The whole world is about consolidation, and if you have one relocation department instead of four, you can be more efficient and effective,” he says. “There’s a lot of power in having a strong brand.”
North Carolina’s housing market is strong and shows little sign of weakening, Huff says. “Housing isn’t overheated by any stretch. We’re still not building the normal number of houses that we were back before the recession [from 2007 to 2009].”
Huff, who grew up in Hoke County, spends about a third of his time on his homebuilding business; a quarter on the real-estate agency; 15% on apartment and other development projects; and the balance on efforts promoting Fayetteville. He’s a longtime supporter of a proposed downtown history center that will focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction periods in North Carolina. The project hinges on a $46 million state investment that is hung up in the N.C. General Assembly debate over the state budget.
“Job creation is always a challenge in Fayetteville, and we’ve got to bring in more higher-paying jobs that are independent of the military,” Huff says. “But we’ve got a great economic development group that is making it possible.”
— David Mildenberg