Home Dreams: Homebuilder Finds Backing to Pursue His Dream

When he was 5, a neighbor asked Bruno Pasquielli what he wanted to be when he grew up. The Chicago lad unhesitatingly answered that he wanted to run his dad?s fledgling home building company.For many years, Pasquielli thought his dream would come true someday. It looked like he was on track in 1999 when he was tapped to open a Texas branch of the family business that by then had offices in nine states.The Texas office of Portrait Homes built more than 2,000 houses ? mostly townhouses and other attached houses ? in North Texas, but then the reces­sion hit in 2009, he said.?Dreams don?t always turn out the way you imagine,? said Pasquielli, who founded Dallas-based CB JENI Homes in 2009 as his family business was closing its doors.Like his father, Pasquielli started his new firm on a shoestring budget, completing 15 houses in a fore­closed Richardson community in 2009.Using his own money, a loan from his father and a small line of credit from a local bank, Pasquielli built 45 homes in 2010 and 80 homes in 2011 in Plano, McKinney, Irving and Coppell.On track to build 150 homes in 2012, Pasquielli announced in mid-September that he is partnering with JBGL Builder Finance to fund as many as 250 homes in 2013 and 400 homes in 2014.A dollar amount was not disclosed, but the real estate investment firm has committed to provide funding to help CB JENI build 400 houses annually in the next two years.?With its new affiliation with JBGL, CB JENI now has the financial strength to grow into a Top 10 builder in DFW,? said Ted Wilson, a principal with Residential Strategies, a Texas housing analyst.?This inflow of capital, matched with CB JENI?s exceptional home design, produces a winning recipe.?CB JENI was the top Plano builder in the second quarter of 2012, with 74 housing starts compared to 72 for D.R. Horton, according to a report released by Residential Strategies.Pasquielli is proud of his new business, but gives credit to the family business where he worked most of his life.As a boy, he and his three siblings helped their father ready the few houses he built, one by one, for sale ? mostly in south Chicago. Then he?d move on to the next house ? all the while holding down a job with a printing company.?We?d have Sunday brunch, then get in a station wagon ? without seat belts of course ? and drive around to scattered models,? he said. ?We?d put up signs, clean up and make sure the sales person was there.?As he got older, he gained experience as a construc­tion helper, a home salesman and in other parts of the business while earning a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin.A master?s degree in urban land economics enabled him to become director of land acquisition and devel­opment with the family firm.By 1998-99, when the business had grown to 800 employees in nine states, Pasquielli started commut­ing to Dallas to find land, then persuaded his father to let him head the Texas office.He moved his wife and three small children to Dal­las, where he oversaw construction of 2,000 houses from Richardson to Fort Worth. The parent company was among the top 25 home building companies before the 2009 recession, he said.?I ended up leaving the family business and start­ing my own company in Dallas,? he said.Pasquielli said his background in a large private company is helping him flourish in his new business, which has grown to $400 million in three years. He now has 20 to 25 employees, after starting with just two besides himself.?Certain things are absolute,? he said. ?A real ben­efit of a house built by a private company owner is that I?m out in my community every weekend meet­ing people who buy and live in my homes.?That?s a very different experience than buying from a large public company. ?Pasquielli said his family built mostly attached houses. He said he will continue to do that but is adding detached homes in areas such as Las Colinas, where houses will be up to, 5,000 square feet and cost up to $600,000.Pasquielli said his older children helped out a little when he was trying to get the foreclosed Richardson homes ready to sell.Since then, however, he has not involved his family in his new business. His oldest daughter is at George Washington University. His 16-year-old daughter plans to go to Brown University next year. The younger three haven?t decided.?I?m kind of letting them proceed with their jour­ney and see if they have any interest,? he said.