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Fusaro reflects on lifetime of learning, craftsmanship Written by Kristan Zimmer, Editor Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Home Construction in Fairfield County, Connecticut

Peter Fusaro went into the construction business as a 15-year-old Good Samaritan, helping out a neighbor’s father, a builder who was putting an addition on his house.

From there he was hooked.

I always loved working with my hands and being outdoors,” Mr. Fusaro said.

That could be why today Mr. Fusaro, owner and founder of Preferred Builders Inc. in Riverside, has 20 years’ experience in the business, has built 19 houses in lower Fairfield County, and is being recognized as Builder of the Year by the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Fairfield County.

His so-called secret to success is a simple one: “The key is to always live up to what you say you are going to do and complete it,” he said.

A majority of Mr. Fusaro’s work in his two decades in business has been “spec” houses. He buys the property, builds the house and sells it when it’s finished. He has developed a reputation among clients for his work, which is primarily focused on lower Fairfield County, from Weston to Greenwich.

His signature look is high-end, high ceilings, a lot of crown molding, big kitchens and large master baths.

In his hardwood floors, he typically adds details such as walnut inserts as borders in the living room and dining room.

“The other signature is the quality all the way around, which people do notice that are educated,” Mr. Fusaro said.

Having a signature style as a spec house builder does not mean each project has been alike over the years.

He said he learns by doing and has taken many courses in various techniques and business practices such as building code, finance and negotiating. He has also increasingly gotten involved in environmentally friendly building techniques and offers certification to other builders through the National Home Builders Association.

It began when he was working on a house in Riverside and trying to get it certified with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

“The drive with the first project was to build a more efficient home,” Mr. Fusaro said.

Although he was building it to sell and there was no buyer, he wanted the house to be as efficient for a future buyer as possible.

“The homebuyer would benefit from the monthly costs on the utilities,” he said.

Today, he said, “I wouldn’t do anything but.”

He sees green building as the future of the building industry and already sees more than 60% of all companies advertising green products. He said those that are built green today will sell for 10% or 5% more later.

In today’s economy, with the real estate market slowing from where it was just two years ago, Mr. Fusaro said anything that helps sell a house is a benefit.

He is currently not doing a single spec home.

“There are too many of them out there that are unsold,” he said.

However, he has a number of possible clients he is working with and waiting to hear from. Most of his current projects are renovations.

Despite the downturn, Mr. Fusaro said he’s confident his company will see this recession through, just as it did when he started his first spec house in 1989, before the stock market crashed that October.

“We had just put a foundation in,” Mr. Fusaro said. “We didn’t know what we were going to do.”

The company finished the project and sold it in the spring.

Although Mr. Fusaro said “it wasn’t like this in ’89,” he is continuing to learn and to offer his clients a personal and local relationship.

He has certifications through the National Association of Home Builders including certified green professional, grand master builder certified graduate builder and others.

He also lives and works locally (he’s an Old Greenwich resident) and maintains a steady staff.

“I use the same people that work for me that have been with me for, some of them, 20 years,” he said. “My customers know. They know us.”

Preferred Builders had one project in New Canaan that he still remembers today, despite the fact that it was about 17 years ago. A man and woman who were having triplets wanted an addition on their house. The woman had to lie in bed during the pregnancy and the couple was concerned about the renovation disturbing her while she required bed rest. They were able to finish the work without causing any disturbance to the pregnant woman and the job was finished when she came out of the hospital with her three newborns.

“It was pretty amazing,” Mr. Fusaro said. “That lady never had to get up because of the noise... That was something that made us all feel good and they were very thankful.

(The Greenwich home pictured above is one of dozens of spec home projects Peter Fusaro’s Preferred Builders has completed in his 20 years in business serving lower Fairfield County.)

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