Since 1995, Farrell Building Company has constructed the Hamptons landscape, turning properties into magnificent living spaces and aiding in the iconic East End lifestyle of today. FBC creates custom homes on the East End. With approximately 25 residential properties in the works right now, founder and president Joe Farrell credits his years of success to his team.
Striving for a work environment that’s enjoyable, Farrell built a mani-pedi salon and barber shop in the office building, so his employees feel relaxed and don’t waste time or money on the weekends. The Farrell touch will always feel like home.
Joe Farrell will be honored this Saturday, July 14, at the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation’s annual benefit, “The Hamptons Happening.”
How does it feel to be honored at ‘The Hamptons Happening?’
It’s an honor to be recognized for the work that Farrell Building Company has done over the last 20 years in the Hamptons, and I’d like to thank the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation for recognizing all that we do towards building the community.
You state your process, from inception to completion, is under a year. What is the most time consuming aspect?
The finish is the most time consuming. It’s easy for us to take a house down and get it up because we own the excavating business and we control the concrete business. Then, we have 25 guys that frame for us and these people work exclusively for us. Whenever we need them, they’re ready to go the next day. We don’t have downtime between jobs, like many companies do, so that’s why we can do most things in one year or less.
We always have to meet a Memorial Day deadline, as people love their summer seasons here. So sometimes we have to build them in seven months and we do it. However, modern takes much longer and anything above 7000 square feet as well.
Why did you leave Wall Street?
I never planned to leave Wall Street. It happened accidentally. I was doing really well as an independent oil-trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange, so I could leave whenever I wanted.
I always had wanted to build houses. Finally, after about five years on Wall Street, I saved some money and bought land in Brookville [in Nassau County]. I didn’t know how to build a house, so I hired Frank Meak, who I’m still friends with today and continue to do business with. I watched him build a house and I loved being in the dirt so much that I wanted to be at my job site every day.
I decided to take a month off, which I had never done before. After about one month of going to the site every day, my whole mindset changed. I couldn’t think about going back to the Exchange, even though it was good to me. I owned a seat on the Exchange and one day I called to ask what the bid ask was on the seats. The bid was $475,000 for my seat. I hit the bid and I was gone. I quit without ever planning it. I had to follow my heart.
Since your first spec house was in Brookville, why open a construction company in the Hamptons?
I had a place at the Beachcomber in Montauk, a co-op I bought for $18,000. I used to go to Montauk on the weekends when I was building condos in Huntington. I had a few friends that were builders so I’d look at the land costs.
One weekend it was raining every day, so I drove around East Hampton and started looking at lots. The rate on return that the Hamptons builders were making was so much higher than what I was seeing in Huntington. So, I bought two lots in Water Mill and one in East Hampton and I moved. Somebody once told me, “You have to put yourself where the money is.” So, I did. And in 1996, I built three houses all at once and it just took off.
You place a strong emphasis on your team. What is a key quality in each of your members that builds such a strong, successful bond?
The most important key to my success is unbelievable relationships. In 1996, when I came to the Hamptons, I asked the owner of my lumber company if he could lend me $250,000 in lumber and such for six months without my paying him. He gave me $150,000 for three months. A year later, I owed him over $1 million dollars. From that early relationship, when my lumber supplier believed in me, extended me all that credit, I learned a lot and I couldn’t have made it without that. Then, to the relationships with my subs, my clients, and my employees, we have a team here that’s unlike any other.
I think everybody that works in this company loves being here and I have incredibly smart people like Butch Payne, our vice president. He understands every aspect of construction. We all have this fierce loyalty and work ethic. It’s a family.
What is the point of sale for a home?
From the first three houses, I always understood what people want in their floor plans. When you walk in, it has to make you feel good. Most people when they buy homes, in the first eight seconds when they walk in, in their brains, it clicks that they’re buying. Some people have to go back and forth, but for approximately 85 percent, that’s what happens.
How have you seen the landscape change in the Hamptons since 1995?
I see a market of people who no longer care about having a big piece of land. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was always a minimum of an acre, and two acres would be great if you could have it. Now we’re selling so many houses in Amagansett on a half-acre, four-tenths of an acre, with 3000-square-foot houses. Even in Bridgehampton I’m seeing this. It’s more people in their 30s, low 40s. Also, 10 to 15 years ago, we never had master bedrooms on the first floor. Now every house we build has a master bedroom on the first floor. It’s completely changed, which is interesting. I wouldn’t even build a personal home for myself without that.
Kids’ rooms are now smaller too. The houses have even gotten a little smaller in general, quality over size, and very open. Lastly, people are spending big money north of the highway, in the $8 to 10 million range. That’s the major change in real estate. Of course, technology and smart houses too.
You give back to a lot of nonprofits. What’s your favorite part of your philanthropic endeavors?
The main thing that we do, that no one knows about, is our direct impact on people, not just larger organizations. Over the years, we’ve done a lot with Habitat For Humanity, where families move right into homes. I’m also always helping somebody else build a house, every single year. Very often it’s employees, like my bookkeeper whom we helped build a house for last year, or my housekeeper of 14 years we built a home for. That’s what I prefer the most, personally, lifting people up and it lasts a lifetime.