Marking a significant milestone, the Warmington group of companies is celebrating its 90-year anniversary in 2016. Today, the privately-held group, led by the fourth generation of the Warmington family, is the sum of these past 90 years and is a full service real estate organization operating in two states; California and Nevada.
With this rich history that spans nine decades, Warmington is proud to have played a unique role in the development of Southern California and beyond. In a rare display of longevity, growth, and versatility, the Warmington group of companies has been continuously operating and building a legacy since 1926. The very first Warmington company was founded by William C. Warmington in Los Angeles, California, as a custom homebuilder for Hollywood luminaries and executives, as well as prominent business leaders of that era.
In these early days, Warmington gained a reputation among such renowned architects as Gerald Calcord, Paul R. Williams, Wallace Neff, and John Byers for “delivering work of the highest order” and was well known for “giving the architect’s genius its fullest expression.” During this period, homes were built for such illustrious individuals as E.L. Cord (Cord motorcars), Shirley Temple, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda, among others. These homes were in up-and-coming locations of that time: Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Westwood, and Hancock Park. Many of these custom estate residences still stand today and are revered for their style, history, and impressive craftsmanship.
In 1933, William’s son, Edward G. Warmington, joined his father’s firm, followed by his brother, Richard, in 1937. According to an early company brochure, “Working for virtually no money and assigned to making themselves useful to any workman who could use their help, the boys began to learn the building business.” Before that decade ended, Ed and Dick had become housing builders, specializing in smaller homes of 2,500 to 3,500 square feet.
As the 1940’s unfolded, Warmington was building its first “tract” homes in areas like Lakewood and Bellflower, suburbs of Los Angeles. As it became apparent that Beverly Hills and its environs were filling rapidly and that good housing for moderate income families was needed, especially later in that decade as the post-war building boom was in full swing; that early Warmington company began to place more emphasis on tract development.
From about 1945 to 1965, Southern California builders enjoyed a period of growth that was unmatched in its history. It was this period that saw the rise of building industry giants and huge corporations. In this environment, Warmington remained competitive and rose to distinction because of its history of having worked so closely with some of the world’s finest custom home architects. The Warmingtons brought to tract housing the same comprehension of excellence and respect for quality which had been so much a part of their professional lives for so many years. This was a very busy time for Warmington and one that saw the retirement of Charles C. Warmington, and the departure of Richard Warmington as he left to become a custom builder in the Carmel Valley. With Ed Warmington now at the helm, the company was solidly engaged in subdivision development and building beautiful state-of-the-art new homes for families in pursuit of the American dream.
Now deeply entrench in the local market, Warmington enjoyed a position of strength as it entered the 1970’s, prepared to ride a 10-year wave of rising real estate prices. Having survived a series of downturns in the latter half of the last decade and welcomed the third generation of Warmingtons as Ed’s twin sons, Jim and Bob, joined the company, building activity and demand for housing was high. By 1975, Jim Warmington assumed leadership as president.
Determined to meet the strong demand for housing and recognizing an opportunity to further grow his company, Jim Warmington expanded into new areas like Cerritos, Cypress, Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana, Irvine, and others. It was during this time that Warmington began to build and market a “townhouse” project.
This pioneering effort proved to be a huge success and pointed the way for much of that company’s activities in the in coming years. Also, during this time, the company introduced several distinctive product lines or “series of homes” that offered the variety, style, and price point to appeal to all types of buyers and helped Warmington create its niche in the planned community environment that was emerging. These included Coventry Luxury Homes, Shadow Run Single Family Homes, Shady Hollow Leisure-Oriented Homes, and Smoke Tree Condominium and Townhome Developments.
The 1970’s were a time of great growth for Warmington. In addition to expanding its product line and market areas locally and regionally with its expansion into Northern California, new business endeavors saw the formation of what is today Warmington Properties, Inc., and Chateau Interiors & Design. These new Warmington companies meant increased diversification and specialization into the realms of interior design and ultimately options management, as well as building apartment communities and commercial and multifamily acquisitions, and property management in multiple states including California, Nevada, and Arizona.
As the 1980’s rolled in, the Warmington company of that day was proclaiming, “Life in California is beautiful. Warmington homeownership makes it even better!” But by the middle of that decade, the new generation of leadership that had ridden a years-long housing boom that was coming to an abrupt halt during this period that saw interest rates rise to 18 percent, experienced a deep decline in demand as the market softened and prices slid.
The slump affected builders of all sizes, and hundreds of homebuilding firms disappeared after construction activity and new-home sales peaked at the tail end of the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s.
According to the Los Angeles Times in September of 1996, “Because of today's unstable housing recovery, many privately owned builders are struggling to find a role in a dramatically changed marketplace. Their intuition and local connections are often no match for the efficiency and deep pockets of the corporate builders that are gobbling up a larger share of the market. The independent builders suffered the most during the recession because not only did real estate values and sales plummet, but credit became almost nonexistent. As a result, the independents tended to lack the financial resources of corporate rivals to weather the recession.”
Yet, in an impressive test of its strength, deep roots, and conservative business practices; Warmington was well positioned to maintain its rank as one of California’s leading builders and not only survive the slump, but bounce back from this downturn ready to take on the next wave of building activity which was ramping up as the 1990’s closed out. So confident in the future, in fact, Warmington further expanded its presence in Nevada when in 1996, it opened a division office in Las Vegas.
Enter the new millennium. By the year 2000, the real estate market had begun to regain its traction. As historically low interest rates and pent up demand fueled new home sales, the Warmington group of companies, as a full service real estate organization, was uniquely positioned to meet not only the demand for new housing and interior design services for its new buyers, but also for apartment homes and commercial space in a thriving economy.
By 2005, along with the industry as a whole, Warmington was enjoying a period of success with a variety of active new home communities selling well. It was during this time that Warmington recorded its best year ever, closing 1,100 homes with a sales volume in excess of $100 million. These were high times and offered little insight, save for knowledge of the normal cyclical nature of any real estate market, that within a few years, the market and, in fact, the global economy would be asked to pay back in large measure much of the gains these years proffered.
Transition was once again upon the group of companies as 2007 dawned. In January of that year, Jim Warmington Jr. assumed leadership of the group as President, officially beginning the group’s fourth generation of Warmington family leadership. By December of that year, the world had officially entered into “the great recession,” which was triggered by the bursting of what was later called an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble. In what would become the most dramatic contraction since the great depression, housing demand dried up, the unemployment rate soared, and the financial markets were widely reported to be on the verge of collapse. Once again, Warmington fell back on its strength, conservatism, and now, diversification; as it adjusted to these new realities and set about finding its niche in a depressed market where opportunities were scarce, buyers were scared, and competition was fierce.
It was during this period that Warmington, under Jim Jr.’s leadership, took on what he coined an “opportunistic” approach in order to not only survive, but thrive during this intensely challenging time. In addition to a corporate reorganization that reduced overhead and improved efficiency, Warmington concentrated its efforts on projects not sought after by the bigger, public builders, who generally favored those with higher lot counts and finished lots. By doing so, the company was better able to leverage the Warmington reputation and build a personal relationship with sellers, thereby gaining access to many “off market” opportunities. This included asset protection and management arrangements with several prominent financial institutions for which Warmington had a successful history of providing on various occasions dating back to the 1980’s.
Warmington focused on locations and market segments that had not been overrun by the wave of foreclosures, and distressed sales, diversity, and flexibility with the product types it was building. This included apartments, podium product for student housing, condominiums, townhomes, single-family detached, and semi-custom homes. Further, a large part of the business plan shifted and Warmington began selling certain parcels that it had entitled, instead of building homes on them.
Another strategy that Warmington employed, most significantly in Las Vegas, was to take existing condo projects and either rent them out as-is, or to redesign them as a true apartment project and build them out for rent.
To set itself apart in consumer's minds from other builders, many of which were largely public, Warmington continued to promote The Warmington Way. This guide to homeownership was intensely focused on providing an exceptional homebuyer experience and highlighted Warmington’s depth of knowledge and years of experience as a family owned builder.
As the recession gripped new home buyers, Warmington sought to reassure and remind them that the true value of a home was not in its investment potential, but in its ability to offer a place of comfort where families could prosper. The phrase ValYou™ was trademarked ,and for a while became the building company’s unique selling proposition. Particular emphasis was placed on addressing the benefits of buying a new home over a foreclosure, with its “Why Buy Used?” campaign.
In 2011, Warmington’s acquisition strategy of identifying sub-markets that were displaying strengthening demand and stabilizing prices, which primarily included infill locations within positive employment areas and low resale distress, had begun to pay off. As the year closed out, Warmington was reporting that it had acquired a total of 235 units in 10 locations throughout California due in large part to a strategic affiliation with two joint venture partners, IHP Capital Partners and The Resmark Companies.
A major turning point came in 2012 when Warmington was selected by the Rancho Mission Viejo company to build the first new neighborhood in four years within the South Orange County gated village of Covenant Hills, in Ladera Ranch. These 28 homesites were originally slated to be sold and built as custom homesites, but with the changing nature of the market, potential was seen in offering these as a collection of builder-sponsored homes instead. With prices set to begin from the low $1 millions, building and offering new homes on this scale and in this price range was a risky proposition, but one that Warmington believed in. The bet paid off, and The Legacy Collection, as it was known, was very well received because of its innovative styling that included a strong emphasis on indoor/outdoor living spaces, and its luxurious, view-oriented setting. This was a signal that the market was coming back. There was pent up demand, and buyers were ready to buy when the opportunity and price were right.
With renewed optimism and focus on the future, Warmington bolstered its land acquisition teams in all of its divisions, combining its core strengths of longevity and experience with its current model of versatility and ingenuity to acquire new deals and achieve sales success in a wide variety of markets with multiple product types. The group was actively seeking revenue-generating projects that fall within its entitlement, land development, and homebuilding expertise; and is aggressively looking for new acquisitions that maximize its primary expertise of entitling and developing land, and building homes to create beautiful residential communities.
In 2016, Warmington Residential has nearly 20 new home neighborhoods in various stages of construction in each of its three divisions: Southern California, Northern California, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Its current portfolio includes several projects that are in the due-diligence phases, and some entitlement deals on properties that will likely be sold to other builders.
In January of this year, Matt Tingler became President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Warmington Residential. Previously serving as Executive Vice President and President of the Southern California and Northern California divisions, Tingler’s leadership role has expanded as he has assumed principal oversight of Warmington Residential’s operations and divisions in California and Nevada.
Jim Warmington Jr., fourth-generation leader, is now serving as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), overseeing the management and executive responsibilities of the Warmington group of companies; which includes Warmington Residential, Warmington Properties, Inc., Chateau Interiors & Design, Studio Chateau, and Stirling Financial.
Warmington Properties, Inc. (WPI) is a full-service real estate company specializing in acquisitions and asset management. With a total value of more than $875 million in assets under management, WPI’s portfolio includes 10 apartment communities and 27 commercial properties. Its expertise covers a wide range of property sizes, asset classes, product types, ages, geographies, and demographics.
Chateau Interiors & Design was established to service new Warmington homebuyers in the coordination, selection, and installation of options and upgrades; and set the industry standard for excellence in its approach to new home buyer options and upgrades services.
Since its inception, Chateau Interiors & Design has evolved into an autonomously operating company with a variety of builder-clients. With an expansive main showroom located in Irvine, California, and regional showrooms in Corona, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada; Chateau Interiors & Design serves approximately 600 new home buyers annually. Offering a complete menu of today’s best and most fashionable design possibilities, Chateau Interiors & Design currently serves as the “in-house” design center for Warmington, as well other large and mid-size builders in Southern California.
In 2009 Chateau Interiors & Design introduced an innovative builder-specific options management software program, Studio Chateau. This has quickly become an industry standard and has garnered the attention of homebuilders throughout the country.
Through 90 years and four generations, Warmington has prospered by adhering to a set of long-established values that were set forth when, in 1926, William C. Warmington decided he want to build beautiful homes. These are traditions, a commitment to excellence, adaptability, ingenuity, and a deep respect for the business, its partners and associates, and the industry as a whole. Guided by these principles, Warmington is proud of its 90 year history and is optimistic about building its future, and plans to celebrate many more milestones in the decades to come.
To learn more about the entire Warmington group of companies, go to thewarmingtongroup.com.