DiGreen Homes is a Markham, Ontario-based builder that specializes in high-end residential homes in the Toronto area. Construction in Focus last featured the family-owned company in the November 2017 piece “How This New Builder Is Striving to Be Green,” where we discussed the now six-year-old business’ dedication to creating only a small number of high-end, eco-friendly communities every year.
Now, we follow up with Abubakar Masood, third-generation builder and President of DiGreen Homes, to talk about what’s in store for the company this spring.
Since we last spoke with Mr. Masood, the business has completed the upscale Residences of 16th Avenue in Markham, which now has happy customers living in it. Caledon, Ontario’s Stowmarket Springs community, known for its urban-country chic style, has sold out of its first two phases and is now selling its third. Swan Park, a community of limited release townhomes in the greenest part of Markham, near Rouge National Urban Park, has just been launched, as has Vellore Walk, a series of luxury townhomes for the Vaughan community. DiGreen is also commencing its first venture into the commercial market, building what will come to be its new head office.
Indeed, it has already been a busy year for DiGreen, and things are just getting started.
The DiGreen Homes company mission is to be a leading builder of entry-level luxury homes that help owners express and affirm their own social and environmental conscience. Still fairly new in the industry, the DiGreen team has worked to establish a reputation of being the builder that goes the extra mile to deliver many features as standard that are traditionally thought of as upgrades. High ceilings, high-end flooring, and permeable pavement on driveways are some of the many lovely features that DiGreen offers to all its customers, regardless of which of its communities they choose to live in and whether or not they choose to upgrade.
Other ways that DiGreen Homes enhances its communities is through its participation in local social and environmental causes. Masood, for example, is an avid tree planter who always strives to replant more trees than the builder cuts down to create new homes. Moreover, DiGreen Homes is a strong supporter of many local hospitals and charities. DiGreen Homes is a proud donor to the Markham Stouffville Hospital, Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital, and Brampton’s William Osler Health System Foundation. It also supports cancer non-profits, women’s shelters, and local sports teams.
Mr. Masood was driven to give to healthcare in particular after his father required an operation at Toronto General Hospital. “Just by looking at the kind of care they are giving, and the kind of care that is needed, hospitals seem like a pretty good starting point [for providing financial support], because we have experienced their service firsthand and we’ve realized how critical it is on multiple occasions,” he remarks.
That being said, DiGreen is careful of the local causes it aligns with. “I don’t just give money to a hospital because they need money to operate; we try to make everything really personal to us. Cancer research is something that holds a dear spot in our hearts. Another local charity that we support is called ALS Double Play, more on the research side. There was this gentleman I personally knew who lost his life due to ALS, and the whole foundation is dedicated to him,” shares Masood.
One other issue that is near and dear to DiGreen is water pollution. While trees are crucial to our planet’s overall health, so is clean water – something many people in the world do not have access to. DiGreen Homes is always open to supporting non-profits dedicated to improving water quality, whether at home or abroad. “I have personally seen the kind of water that is being consumed in some parts of the planet, and it is not good,” says Masood.
Indeed, generosity is a quality that this niche builder has come to be known for, in its philanthropic efforts as well as its customer service. “As I mentioned in our last interview, we want to build a superior quality product,” states Masood. “I want a homeowner to walk away and think, ‘I got a deal even though my house is a million bucks – this is worth a lot more.’ That is the kind of brand that we want to establish.”
The company’s goal is to have residents be able to identify a DiGreen home while casually driving through their communities. To establish a brand this strong, the builder has begun the unique process of literally branding each of its homes.
“We started putting our logo on all the houses. It is subtle enough that if you are looking for it you will find it, but if you are not looking for it you are not going to find it,” Masood tells us. “If I am putting my name on every single house that I am doing, it better stand up to the test of time. It keeps me in check that our name is going on these houses, and there is no plan of stopping.”
Part of the DiGreen strategy is to undersell and over-deliver, and so far, it has been rather effective. Many of DiGreen Homes’ exceptional features aren’t advertised per se, and though they were mentioned during our discussion, they will not be revealed in this article; Mr. Masood prefers to leave some of DiGreen’s wonderful offerings as an extra surprise for the company’s loyal customers. However, we will say that they are features that would be greatly appreciated by any nature lover.
“We want to distinguish ourselves from other builders, and that is why our standard features and finishes are considerably higher than the competition. We are almost custom builders. I don’t like calling us custom, but would I like to build a product that competes with the custom market? Of course I would,” adds Masood.
DiGreen Homes’ commercial property is likely to be built and finished according to the same schedule as Swan Park, and both are to be located in Markham. The tentative title for the modern, 16,000 square-foot office and retail property is DiGreen Square, and it will be located just off Highway 407 and Woodbine Avenue. But while Mr. Masood believes that the Canadian economic market is currently favourable to the commercial building sector and DiGreen Square marked a great opportunity for DiGreen to build its own space, the commercial business isn’t an area that he actively wants to pursue in the future.
“It was more of the market dictating what to do, instead of me thinking to venture out there. From a business perspective, from a demand-supply perspective, it just made sense,” he recalls.
That isn’t to say that DiGreen Homes will never build another commercial property again. It very well may, if the right opportunity presents itself for the right price, but the company’s bread and butter will always be high-end homes. However, a new area that DiGreen Homes would like to actively pursue is the high-quality, mid- to high-rise market.
“We need to keep filling the pipeline,” Masood says. “We haven’t achieved that sweet spot when it comes to production. I still want to ramp up production and hopefully get to a level where it makes financial sense but it doesn’t compromise on quality. Previously, I was thinking that number was 500 homes a year, but I might be revising that number to go a bit lower. It makes no sense to compromise on quality just to achieve numbers.”
Going forward, we may see DiGreen Homes’ luxury, branded communities as a mixture of singles, mid-rises, and high-rises that total about 400 a year – no more than what the builder can handle while maintaining the standards it has come to be known for. Perhaps down the road, the Masood family would consider starting a sister company to compete in the standard housing market, but DiGreen Homes will always be focused on quality, sustainability, and outstanding customer service, surprising new home buyers with extras that are on the cusp of custom.