The Merchant Builders
This book offers the first full-scale account of the merchant builders, Levitt, U.S. Homes, Fox and Jacobs, and Eichler Homes prominently among them, who gave a major impetus to the postwar building boom in America and to the American dream of homeownership as an attainable goal for the average family.
The Merchant Builders carries the story from the large-tract developments that were built after World War II to the very different economic environment of the 1980s. It examines the practices of land acquisition, planning, design, financing, construction, marketing, and the organizational and operational structures of companies as they changed over the decades and across a range of firms markedly different in size and style.
Ned Eichler writes succinctly about the tract or homebuilding industry which he knows inside out. After leaving the family firm, Eichler Homes, Inc. to teach at Berkeley and Stanford, he became vicepresident of the new town of Reston, Virginia, was executive vice-president of the Klingbeil Company (builder of garden apartments), was the partner in charge of the disposition of more than a billion dollars of Penn Central properties undertaken by Victor Palmieri and Company, and served as the federal court's trustee president of Levitt & Sons. Once the mightiest of the merchant builders, Levitt was a "bleeding elephant" in the mid-1970s; Eichler reconstituted the firm as a profitable homebuilder and directed its sale to Starrett Housing in 1978. He is now visiting professor of business administration at the University of California, Berkeley.