Getting To Know Ocala’s Home Pros

Ocala has no shortage of experts in the home building industry, but getting to know these pros one-on-one isn’t easy.


Ocala Style posed some illuminating and light-hearted questions to the biggest names in the local building industry to learn more about them. Here’s what they had to say about what’s important to them, the best advice they’ve received, some not-so-great home trends, and more.


SCOTT WOLF
AREA MANAGER FOR TAMPA NORTH & OCALA, MERCEDES HOMES
21 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Undercover government work. I love being in-the-know on sensitive issues.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? As a manager, never lose touch with how to sell one-on-one with customers. You never know when you will have to do it again.


What three non-survival items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? A solar powered DVD/TV with surround sound, Big Builder magazine, and boxes of 100-calorie snack bars.


What makes Ocala special? The three seasons, topography, and, of course, the horses.


GREG STEINMETZ
PRESIDENT/CEO, GREG STEINMETZ CONSTRUCTION INC.
14 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Communicating their expectations to the contractor. A close second—but also hand-in-hand with the first—is not letting the contractor know when they’re upset with something. Sometimes the contractor finds out way too late or, in some cases, never at all. This leads to a valuable customer going away less than satisfied.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Popcorn ceilings! Especially popcorn with glitter. It’s a mess to repair and clean up, and try explaining why there’s glitter on you when you go out with your friends.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? My Bible, for reading; a guitar, for relaxation and fun; and last, but definitely not least, my wife so I’d have someone to sing to.


A.L. MILTON
PRESIDENT, A.L. MILTON CONSTRUCTION
28 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Choosing a builder based solely on price and not taking the time to find out exactly what they’re getting—or not getting—for that price.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. There is nothing in this life more important than my relationships with my wife, family, and friends.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? An airplane pilot. But if I were a pilot, I’d feel guilty because you can’t call flying planes”work.”


What makes Ocala special? Its natural beauty—the springs, rivers, oak trees, national forest, and horse farms—and the friendliness of the people.


JOHN REED
PRESIDENT/BUILDER, REED HOMES OF CENTRAL FLORIDA INC.
25 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? I wanted to be a professional guitar player.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Always do the right thing.


Describe youR most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My motorcycles. I love the sound and freedom of open-air riding.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? My golf clubs, my guitars, and my Big Dog K-9 Chopper.


What make Ocala special? Ocala’s location near the center of the state provides a reasonable commute to Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and other surrounding areas.


GEORGE RUSAW
OWNER/PRESIDENT, RUSAW HOMES
37 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. While I’ve been blessed with many tangible possessions, I don’t have an emotional connection with any of them. Family, friends, and long-term relationships are most valued by me.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Writing. Life’s storytelling is a gift that improves the human condition.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Treat people well on your way up because you will most certainly meet them on your way down.


What makes Ocala special? The people, horse farms, history, and culture.


MICHAEL BEARD
VICE PRESIDENT, ICL BUILDERS GROUP INC.
12 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Building a house that they cannot afford.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? A full-time musician because it’s the only thing I love as much as building.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? I would love to develop a great golf game simply because I’m sick and tired of chasing that little ball from left to right.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Always do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.


RUSTY STOUT
PRESIDENT, ICL BUILDERS GROUP INC.
22 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? They don’t spend enough time openly communicating with the design/build team, explaining how they need a house to perform for their family.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Some time ago my wife gave me a banjo because I asked for one. I just thought a native Ocalan named Rusty ought to have a banjo. But I have no idea how to play it.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? My wife, Jennie, because she tans better than I do; the novel Gone with the Wind to prove to my mother that if I was deserted on an island, I still wouldn’t read it; and that banjo.


ANDRÉ NADEAU
VICE PRESIDENT, NADEAU CONSTRUCTION UNLIMITED INC.
37 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Making the structure too small and spending money on upgrades that could be done later.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? An economist, so I would know the principles of the how the world operates.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? I don’t think a mirror on the bedroom ceiling is such a good idea.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? The Fed. It’s the inside story of how the world’s most powerful institutions drive the markets.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Writing, so I can better communicate with people.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Never give up on your passion.


W. PAUL STENTIFORD
PRESIDENT/OWNER, STENTIFORD CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC.
28 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Thinking that there won’t be any changes.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Marketing. I do my own, and I enjoy it immensely.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My greatest gift is my family. They keep me motivated and give me purpose.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Trust in God and live by the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? The Way to the Top. It gave the best advice from over 150 of America’s top CEOs and business leaders. Good stuff.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? The Bible because I’d have time to read it all; a cell phone (can’t live without it); and a surfboard. I’d have time to learn to surf.


JIM & PAL BENNETT
BENNETT CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC.
27 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Jim: Most people do not realize how affordable it can be to design a custom plan. A home is one of the biggest investments they will make. It should also be the biggest expression of their personality and style.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Pal: Mauve and peach kitchen countertops and cove lighting.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. Both: Our family is what we treasure most.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Jim: Golf—it’s a love-hate relationship. It can never be mastered and that’s the challenge I love.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Jim: A mentor in business once told me, “You don’t just build buildings; you build valued relationships.” I’ve taken this philosophy and applied it to my personal life as well.


What makes Ocala special? Both: Even though we are continuing to grow, Ocala still has that home-grown, small-town feel.


DAWSON A. RANSOME
CEO, THE RANSOME GROUP
6 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Trying to make every choice the “perfect” one. You will always forget something or wish you had done something different. Remember, once you move in, the infinitesimal difference in paint color won’t be a daily concern.


Describe your biggest vice. She is 5 feet 9 inches tall and is the most beautiful soul I’ve ever met—my wife, Missy.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Ministry and/or counseling because the world is often a hard, unforgiving place. I would like to be more able to help people with their real needs.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? The foam banding/accents. To me, they make homes look like something out of Walt Disney World. I just don’t get it.


GEOFF ABBOTT
PRESIDENT/GENERAL CONTRACTOR, MEGA CONSTRUCTION
OF OCALA INC./HOMES BY GEOFF ABBOTT
35 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Rushing the process. People should take the time to enjoy themselves and allow for their own creativity and personality to shine in the building of their home.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Playing the guitar. It’s something I’ve often thought about attempting and have yet to set about pursuing.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Early in my building career, a business associate of my father told me, “Never fear taking on the jobs that others refused to consider, as there are great lessons to be learned from accomplishing what others dared not attempt.”


MIKE KAUFMAN
OWNER/PRESIDENT, MURPHY KAUFMAN BUILDERS INC.
14 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Popcorn ceilings! Never done it and probably never will.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? I’d like to play power-forward for the Orlando Magic and help them bring a world championship to Orlando! In the NBA off-season, I’d partner with Roger Federer to play doubles at some of the majors.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. Being a husband and a father. When I began to live for someone else, that’s when I found myself.


VICKI CASTELLANO
SALES MANAGER/REALTOR, ADAMS HOMES
9 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Not planning the square-footage needs they really have; they usually under- or over-build.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Photojournalism would be something I think I might like. The traveling and the ability to show people the world through your eyes would be awesome.


What’s one skill—not home related—that you’d like to master and why? The game of golf, so I could get out of the office like the guys do.


What three non-survival items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? A box of chocolates, my Tempur-Pedic pillow, and an iPod with old Elvis songs. I could indulge myself with chocolate, rest my head on my favorite pillow, and listen to The King while lying on a beach. What else could you ask for?


CHRIS ARMSTRONG
PRESIDENT, ARMSTRONG HOMES
23 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Definitely shag carpeting and avocado-colored appliances.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? Joel Rosenberg’s Epicenter is all about the Middle East crisis and how it affects the United States and the rest of the world.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? My father always said to concentrate on the negatives because the positives take care of themselves..


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you TAKE with you to a desert island and why? Photos, my Bible, and my fishing rod.


SCOTT ARMSTRONG
OWNER/VICE-PRESIDENT, ARMSTRONG HOMES
28 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Not getting an accurate specifications sheet with their contract. It is very important that an owner has in writing with great detail what they are buying.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? I have often thought of and have been interested in manufacturing.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? My father taught us not to concentrate on our pay, but to make sure what we do is the best. Compensation will always follow quality work.


What makes Ocala special? You have to live here and experience its people to appreciate it. I’ve traveled a lot and every time we leave, my family can’t wait to get home.


BRENT PORTER
VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES, ECCLESTONE SIGNATURE HOMES
9 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? People tend to forget how much time they actually live in their kitchen and family room. This is the focal part of my home, so I hate to see people not make these rooms big enough for life.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My two beautiful daughters—Julia, 6, and Christina, 3—can make any bad day good once I step through the door.


What makes Ocala special? Its people. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.


PAUL M. IRVIN
CEO/OWNER, IRVIN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY INC.
8 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Cooking. I know wine, and I know where to get good food. I just wish I had the time to learn more about cooking.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? Pictures of my family (the reason to get off the deserted island), golf clubs (another reason to get off the island), and if it’s in the fall, a TV so I can watch the Georgia Bulldogs play football.


What makes Ocala special? The people. I have lived in large cities; it’s hard to get to know anyone. In Ocala, it’s hard not to meet someone and get to know them.


LLWYD
ECCLESTONE III
CHAIRMAN/CEO, ECCLESTONE SIGNATURE HOMES
28 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Not spending enough time with the plans before they sign off on them to be sure that all the furniture is placed properly and the plan functions with their lifestyle.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? Cross by James Patterson. I enjoy all of his books because once you start reading them, the suspense won’t let you put them down.


What makes Ocala special? The rolling green pastures, the history, and the distinctive charm.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? The technology industry because it has always interested me.


MICHAEL L. FERRENTINO
PRESIDENT, ARTHUR RUTENBERG HOMES
20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Trying to design their home without the professional assistance of a builder.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. Our condo on Clearwater Beach. It is our retreat to decompress from the everyday stress of life.


What makes Ocala special? The beauty of the land. I love horses and to be able to drive a short distance and see the beautiful farms with mares and new foals. What could be better?


DUSTIN OWEN
VICE PRESIDENT, OWEN CONSTRUCTION
7 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Being indecisive. Not making decisions can cause delays and changes.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? I would like be a professional fishing guide. I love the water and enjoy interacting with people.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. It would have to be my Snapper riding lawn tractor because I enjoy spending time in the yard.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Although it takes more than one skill, I have always wanted to restore old boats.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? I would bring a coffee maker for obvious reasons, horse shoes for my midday entertainment, and a Karaoke machine so I can have all the islanders over for evening entertainment.


DAVID OWEN
PRESIDENT, OWEN CONSTRUCTION
32 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Second guessing their initial decisions when building.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. I don’t consider any material possession prized, so I would have to say family.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Golf so I could actually enjoy a four-hour round.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? To practice my golf game. Funny how the advice was given by one of my golfing partners.


MICHAEL OWEN
VICE PRESIDENT, OWEN CONSTRUCTION
15 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


Describe your biggest vice. Finding a golf course on a beautiful Florida afternoon.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Rocket science. It sounds pretty legit.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? Go, Dog. Go! because my son likes to read it every day.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. Our home because of the hard work we put into building it and the sanctuary it creates for our family.


What three non-survival/frivolous items would you take with you to a deserted island and why? Twelve people, a TV camera, and the host from Survivor so I could get voted off the island.


What makes Ocala special? The sense of community, awesome geography, and skilled local builders.


MICHAEL D. IVEY
PRESIDENT, IVEY CUSTOM HOMES
35 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Including something just for resale purposes or solely because it’s a trend. Homeowners should just get what they want. In most cases, you’ll find buyers have similar tastes.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? The ’70s bold-colored shag carpet that required raking. It was hard to keep clean. The bold colors also made it hard to change the look of the rooms, therefore dating the home.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. This is a great book on global economics and the future of business.



JIM & MARIA ARVANITIS
OWNER, DEMETRI HOMES
37 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Jim: Not knowing their “true” budget limits. There are a lot of things to consider when trying to determine the actual cost of a construction project. People get so caught up in the designing stage of their home, they forget the budget.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Jim: I would be a trial lawyer. Convincing a jury to see things my way has always intrigued me.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Maria: Popcorn ceilings. No, wait, lighted kitchen soffits. No, it’s gotta be avocado green bath fixtures…


JOHN PLUNKETT
PRESIDENT, TRIPLE CROWN HOMES
20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Understanding the current market conditions. There is no better time to build a new home than right now. Interest rates are low, cost of construction is very reasonable, and building times have been drastically reduced.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? Pilot. I have always been fascinated with flying.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? When my father said, “Marry Arlene. She’s a great woman.”


OLIVER PLUNKETT
OWNER, SPARTICUS BUILDERS INC.
40 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Wishing to build a bigger and more expensive home than they can afford.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? I would like to own a very successful and very profitable Thoroughbred racing stable because it would be exciting and, like most Irishmen, I’ve always loved horses.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Impact fees.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? To become a more proficient cyclist.


What makes Ocala special? The rolling hills [that] remind me of the land of my birth, Ireland, and all the wonderful people from all walks of life that I’ve met in Ocala since moving here some 25 years ago.



CHRISTOPHER G. LUETGERT
PRESIDENT, LUETGERT DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
22 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Budget. This is probably your largest investment. Don’t underestimate your budget.


Describe your biggest vice. Automobiles. I love fast cars, old cars, Jeeps, trucks, and even boats.


If you weren’t in the home-building industry, what other profession would you like to attempt and why? I love to fish. I would move to the Florida Keys and be a fishing guide.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett. I love books written about fishing, adventure, and the tropics.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My company. I thrive on challenging situations and construction is managing the unmanageable.


TERRY CARLSON
OWNER/CONTRACTOR, T.L. CARLSON CONSTRUCTION CO.
20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Taking the lowest bid without comparing apples to apples.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? The Fair Tax Book. I really believe we need to fix the tax system. It’s a joke.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My brain. Sometimes it reminds me of what I was supposed to do yesterday. Also, my sense of humor; hopefully everybody gets it.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Dancing. My wife and kids want me to.


What makes Ocala special? The rolling land, trees, horse farms, wildlife within minutes, and the great mix of people that have made Ocala their home. We have the best of the best. Ocala has been a great place to have a business and raise my family.


JEF FABIAN
OWNER, FABIAN DINKINS CONSTRUCTION INC.
27 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house? Building to what their lender tells them they can afford and not what their lifestyle allows them to afford. We try to educate everyone so that they are not married to a mortgage payment and can maintain their lifestyle.


What’s one trend in homebuilding from the past that—when looking back—you wish had never been popular? Electricity, heating and cooling, and indoor plumbing. Just think how affordable homes would be if we built them like the ones the Flintstones lived in.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My family because, let’s face it, when the day is done that’s pretty much all we have.


What makes Ocala special? Its friendly people, the weather, the available recreational activities, and the opportunities Ocala has to offer.


JIM CLAEYS
PRESIDENT, CLAEYS CONSTRUCTION INC.
9 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY


What’s the most common mistake people make when building a house?  They under-utilize their space. For example, they build rooms they never use, or they don’t incorporate the external surroundings into their layout.


Describe the last book you read. Why did you choose it? Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? My son selects my reading these days.


Describe your most prized possession and why it’s important to you. My family—they keep me grounded.


What’s one skill—not home-related—that you’d like to master and why? Becoming a musician because music moves people.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Buy low and sell high.


Know A Home Pro?


Do you know a home pro who is changing the face of Marion County? We’d like to hear about them. E-mail your nomination(s) for our next building industry round-up to www.homepros@ocalastyle.com

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