April 2009

Brian Dralle Wants to Build Your New Home

Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: photography by anne

“I grew up around (construction) all my life. My dad used to buy ‘fixer-uppers,’ renovate them, and sell them,” said Brian Dralle. The growing up part was in Chicago. All that sawdust must have gotten to him. His degree, from Ohio State University, is in finance and construction management. He founded Grey Oaks Builders in 2005, to build custom homes in the Lowcountry. “I like being able to have that hands-on experience,” Dralle said.
Right out of college, he tried the corporate life. He worked for the large drug wholesaler and medical supply manufacturer, Cardinal Health, and oversaw construction of distribution centers and warehouses across the country. He also worked with CBRE, the huge real estate services company, on international projects.
But the lure of that “hands-on experience” brought him back home. He and a partner did renovation work on Chicago’s north and west side, and in the Lincoln Park area, one of the Windy City’s tonier neighborhoods on Lake Michigan. But he wanted to build new homes. “In the Chicago area, you’d have to go way out in the corn fields to do that,” he laughed.
So he followed family to the Lowcountry and started Grey Oaks. “I love the people, seeing what they like. I like being on site, seeing that the projects go from start to finish. I really enjoy working with homeowners and making them happy. In the end, my goal is that first, they have a house they’re in love with and second, they’d want to refer me to family and friends,” Dralle said.
That seems to be working. Even in this down market, Dralle is building homes. “Right now, what I’m seeing the most is that I have low overhead. That’s by design. I don’t aspire to be a 50-homes-a-year builder. Customers get full service with me, and my full attention. I’m on site daily, checking the progress, staying on budget,” Dralle said. “In these times that’s so important. Before, when people were getting 10 or 12 percent appreciation a year on their houses, they didn’t care if it was over budget. That isn’t the case today.”

Dralle considers all of Beaufort County his market; the southern half is what is keeping him busy. “I build all over, but Oldfield is keeping me pretty busy. I have five homes going in there now. We’re also building in Hampton Lake,” he said. He is also “in the discussion stage” with owners in Colleton River and Berkeley Hall.
The people he is building for run the gamut. “I’ve got people working here, like are doctors. There are some second home owners. Others have lived down here and were renting until they finally sold their house. As far as ages go, I’m building for everyone from younger families, in their 30s, all the way up to retirees,” said Dralle.
As far as renovation goes, Dralle said he knows that some homes have thousands in value and people might question whether putting more money into a house is a good idea. “I’ve been talking to people who have lost $100,000 and more in their property. You could put $50,000 or $100,000 in it. You might see some return on that. No one knows. But what you essentially will have is a new home,” Dralle said.
People also ask his advice about the real estate market today. Dralle takes a very pragmatic approach. “What I tell people, the real estate market is like any market you invest in. I don’t think anyone can say ‘this is the bottom.’ If you invest in a stock and it goes under, the value is gone. With a home, you might say it’s not worth what you have in it, but you still have a tangible asset. It’s your home. Over time, the value will change. With real estate, like any market, nothing moves in a straight line.”

To learn more about Grey Oaks Builders, visit www.greyoaksbuilders.com.

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