Land

United Homes Group Strikes Again On The Red Hot Southeastern M&A Front

UHG's purchase of Coastal Carolina's Creekside Custom Homes will catapult it into the top three or four positions in a top-25 U.S. market for new home development and construction.

Land

United Homes Group Strikes Again On The Red Hot Southeastern M&A Front

UHG's purchase of Coastal Carolina's Creekside Custom Homes will catapult it into the top three or four positions in a top-25 U.S. market for new home development and construction.

January 29th, 2024
United Homes Group Strikes Again On The Red Hot Southeastern M&A Front
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Continuing a shopping spree that has turned the Southeastern United States into homebuilding's 2024 land acquisition super feeding grounds for public and Japan-owned private companies, United Homes Group headed into its sophomore year as a land-light public with its announcement of a deal to acquire the business and assets of Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based Creekside Custom Homes, LLC.

According to a press statement from UHG following the close of trading today on Wall Street:

The Creekside acquisition nearly doubles our presence in the fast-growing Myrtle Beach market and allows UHG to control an attractive future lot position consistent with our land-light strategy,” said UHG Chief Executive Officer Michael Nieri. “The coastal markets in our footprint continue to benefit from a favorable quality of life and affordability that is driving in-migration from all over the country.”
Jamie McLain, owner of Creekside, will stay on as the Coastal Division Land Manager of UHG’s associated land developer, and the Creekside team will join Great Southern Homes’ Coastal division. Born and raised in South Carolina, McLain formed Creekside in 2004. He is a graduate of Clemson University and is a Horry County native with over 20 years of building and land development experience. “I am very pleased to be joining the UHG/Great Southern Homes team,” said McLain. “It’s exciting to be a part of the UHG story early in their evolution as a public company. The homebuilding business is one that benefits from scale, and this combination will go a long way towards achieving that in the region.”
“The acquisition of Creekside meaningfully improves our market share in the Coastal South Carolina market and is consistent with our strategic vision following the acquisition of the Herring Homes team in August and Rosewood Communities in October,” said Jack Micenko, President of UHG. “Jamie and his team have a proven track record in identifying and developing successful communities in-market, and by partnering together we expect to accelerate growth at the Coast in coming years.”

With the purchase, UGH gains an accelerated growth springboard in a Southeastern market rife with M&A discussions, negotiations, and deals. Just last week, Daiwa House-backed CastleRock Communities and Century Communities each gained platform-level positions – each of them launching pads to regional growth – in the Central Tennessee region through M&A deals that came to light last week.

The backdrop of intensifying homebuilder M&A is a double-helix of acquirer motivators: 1) a worsening undersupply of vacant developed lots, particularly in some of the nation's most sustainably resilient and fastest-growing local economies, many of them in the more-affordable U.S.; and 2) a slew of advantages to deeper local scale for access not just to present and future lots, but to front-line contractor labor, materials supplies, not to mention home-buying customers seeking both affordability and lifestyle advantages.

At the same time, a slew of access-to-bank capital challenges have made competitive prospects all the more daunting for smaller private operators whose go-to for acquisition, development, and construction financing has typically been local and regional banks.

In a conversation with The Builder's Daily as the UHG-Creekside combination was announced, UHG Chairman and CEO described the predicament for some of homebuilding's less deep-pocketed operators in the current operating environment.

To me, this interest rate level is a short-term issue," says Nieri. "The problem is, is when you need money, the banks typically won't give it to you. Some of these guys are getting squeezed a little bit harder. They're on personal guarantees and all that. I know that feeling and have been there."

The deal to buy Creekside – effective immediately – gives UGH its third acquisition since the end of August 2023, and runs consistent with a rifle-shot M&A strategy that seeks to counterpoint glitzy, big-dollar local and regional combinations by heat-seeking less conspicuous, under-appreciated over-achievers in a market.

The game plan – spelled out in earlier stories in The Builder's Daily – draws on UHG's sense that it can stand apart from other potential strategic and financial acquirers as the "acquirer of choice," owing largely to UHG chairman Michael Nieri's salt-of-the-earth, self-starter reputation in the region, along with a deep and motivated trove of ready capital.

This fellow Jamie McLean, he's about 18 years younger than I am," Nieri tells The Builder's Daily. "He's a Clemson grad, similar to me. It was funny because when Jamie and I talked the first time, I said, 'Hmm, Creekside Homes, ... I own some apartments and Clemson called Creekside.' He said, 'Yeah, I lived in there when I was in college, and I just decided to use that name for the company.' You'd have to be from Clemson to know all that stuff. So, he was a forestry major and cut his teeth in the development side of the business and then got over into the home building. Anyway, he approached me, and I think we were eighth and seventh or eighth and ninth in the Myrtle Beach market. Now, between the two of us, we're closer to the third or fourth-largest. We look at that as an opportunity to get the phone call on land third or fourth instead of never getting called. So, it's a good merger. Jamie's going to stay on, develop some land as a third-party developer, and do some scaling for us on the land side. That's the plan. This way, we can go up into North Carolina I imagine."

As we've noted, after a almost a two-decade build-learn-improve-rinse-and-repeat scale-up in South Carolina, Nieri's fluency in talent, trusted relationships, land strategy, building operations, and customer delight readied him for a go-big and go-bold play that – when it's fleshed out in the real world – may bear strong resemblance to none other than NVR.

We started this company and decided to be a land-light company and start a public company the right way," Nieri says. "We're trying to do all the things that we and the other guys have seen and learned over the last 15 years. At the same time, we're trying to put ourselves in a position not to make the same mistakes that can take you out, so to speak."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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