Interview by Rock Earle • Story by Katie Mayer
As you drive around Casa Grande, you may notice something sprouting up out here. And, no, we’re not talking about cotton. We’re talking about new houses. In fact, there is so much new construction in the area that we’ve coined it “the renaissance of custom home building in Arizona’s Golden Corridor.” But just who is at the forefront of this movement? It is Absolute Homes. You’ve likely seen their signs outside many new builds in the area or admired their work and not even known it. We wanted to learn more, so we caught up with owner/contractor Jim Suor. From the latest trends in master bathrooms to the surprisingly affordable costs of building your own home, we learned a lot about this exciting time in custom home building from the man leading this local movement.
Jim Suor was just 10 years old when he found an old Honda 750 street bike in his uncle’s shop.
It had been sitting in the corner for ages, but it piqued the boy’s interest. So he asked his uncle if he could ride it. “He said if I get it running, I could ride it,” Suor recalled. “Obviously, the bike was way too big for me.”
But as a naturally hands-on kid, Suor somehow got it running. And he will never forget the look on his uncle’s face when he fired it up.
“I remember him saying, ‘Your mom is going to kill me for letting you ride this,’” Suor recalled with a chuckle.
A couple years later, Suor launched his first business. Using a lawnmower purchased from a garage sale, he started cutting grass. He amassed about 10 regular clients, who kept him busy all summer, and he then shoveled snow in the winter and took on odd jobs, like painting and rebuilding cars, for extra money throughout high school.
“I used to find things that didn’t work, like record players, small engines or a saw, and I would take them all apart and somehow put them together again and make them work,” Suor said. “I can remember doing that as early as age 7.”
His curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit paid off. Today, the founder of Absolute Homes has built about 300 houses since 2002 in Arizona, with about 95 percent of them in Pinal County. Suor’s homes are all custom, and span from the very simple to detailed creations in excess of 10,000 square feet.
“I have truly simplified and streamlined the process,” Suor said. “One thing I would tell everyone building a custom or semi-custom home is to enjoy it!”
His newest project coming soon is a development called Arroyo Verde Estates. Located at McCartney and Weaver roads, it is a community with 94 one-acre lots, minimal HOA and custom and semi-custom homes from the high $300,000s. He is also building a new design center/showroom at 402 E. Florence St., where clients can select the materials for the interior and exterior of their homes.
Although Suor is helping families lay down roots in the Golden Corridor today, his own roots were laid down in the south suburbs of Chicago. His first serious experience in the construction industry began just before his freshman year of high school. He joined a family business that finished basements, built decks and fences and did remodels as a side job.
“I began working with them and, right away, I was hooked,” he said. “We worked one or two afternoons during the week and every Saturday for as long as I can remember.”
His first summer of college at Southern Illinois University, Suor went to work for a local framing company.
“They worked us to death, but we learned a ton, and we knew we didn’t want to frame the rest of our lives,” he said with a chuckle.
He later went to work with another contractor on large remodels and additions, and even though he was studying business, he continued to love with the construction industry.
In 1998, he graduated and accepted a job with Chrysler Corporation. After working on the East Coast and in Chicago, he relocated to Casa Grande in 2002. His aunts and uncles on his father’s side have lived in the area since 1974.
“I had been visiting Casa Grande since I was 3 years old,” he said. “I used to spend the summers here with my family.”
One of Suor’s bosses set him up with an opportunity to train to be a general manager for a Dodge dealer, but the gig only lasted three days.
“I was bored to death with the retail side of the business,” Suor said. “At age 26, I thought about what I wanted to do, and decided to give construction a shot.”
He added, “It worked out pretty good.”
He applied and studied for his contractor license, which he received in May 2002. Today, he not only has a thriving homebuilding business, but a vibrant family life as well. He is married to his wife Shyla, and together they have two children, Anthony, 19, and Trey, 15.
He is passionate about fitness, and has completed strongman and powerlifting competitions. He is now considering taking on a physique competition.
“I like having goals to strive for,” Suor said. “I also love muscle cars.”
Suor said his dream car has been a first ‘69 Camero since he was just 12 years old.
“I bought a ‘67 in 2010,” he said. “I have been working on it a little at a time, but it’s a work in progress.”
He added, “I don’t have a lot of free time, but do love spending time with family and friends when I do.”
But, of course, Suor also loves his work. He still remembers the first actual house he built, one year into his career.
“A family friend asked me if I wanted to bid on their house, and of course, I said, ‘Yes,’” Suor said. “I basically told them I would build it for almost nothing, just to get a house under my belt and in my resume.”
He added, “It’s still one of the nicest homes I have built, and they still love it.”
Suor said that many people think they need to be wealthy to have a home constructed by Absolute Homes, but the truth is Suor and his team can build anything from starter homes to luxury palaces.
“There is a house for every budget,” he said. “The process is also quite simple.”
And buyers can visit the design studio to pick out everything they want, both inside and out.
Suor is also passionate about giving back to the community that his given him so much and supports a number of local organizations, such as the Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Club of Casa Grande and various education and veterans organizations.
“I have been trying to figure out how to legally auction off a custom home, so proceeds go to a local charity,” he said.
To reach Jim Suor, call 520-836-6511, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit absoluteconstructionaz.com. Attend the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce Home, Health & Garden Show and visit him at his booth.
Today’s Custom Home
Tell us about your typical new-home buyer. What kind of home are they looking for?
- Interior space: Almost everyone wants an open floor plan with split bedrooms.
- Lot size: Most of my clients want elbow room, usually ½ acre-2 acres. Even if we are building a smaller home in town, we look for large lots (9,000 square feet and up).
- Location: Clients, including myself, really love Casa Grande. They love the rural aspect, but also living with the amenities of Casa Grande and even the Valley.
- Who: I would say my clients are about 50/50 locals versus imports. Either locals looking to step up into a newer home with more land or other folks looking for a new start or retirement. Many have families and even small children. I just finished a house for a young couple that has a 6- month-old baby.
- Garages: Garages are definitely the rage right now. I try to always start with a three-car as a minimum, and even do a lot of four-cars standard. Detached garages are also a huge hit. Anyone with an RV, toys, classic cars or just hobbies wants the big, detached garages. It adds a lot of resale value to an existing home, as well.
- Configuration: Almost always single-story. It’s more efficient, and has the space on a larger lot. As for basements, I’m a huge fan. I have only built a few in Arizona, but feel it’s a no-brainer. I don’t know why more people don’t want them. It’s a little cheaper than first-floor pricing and much easier to keep cool. Both homes I built for myself had basements.
- Floor coverings: We continue to do more and more porcelain tile and almost no carpet. Porcelain is the most durable, maintenance-free and a cost-effective material to use. Some still like carpet in the bedrooms, but it’s hard to keep clean in the Arizona dust. The trend is throw rugs over the tile for that carpet feel.
- Countertops: Almost always granite or quartz. Durability and pricing is No. 1. Solid surface (corian) is almost nonexistent anymore.
- Outdoors: A large percentage want a pool/spa for sure. We can even build those into a home loan. I would say outdoor living (ramada, bar, fire pit, landscaping and barbecue) is in even more demand than a pool. People still realize there is a large maintenance expense with pools.
- Lawns: Synthetic grass is for sure the rage and trend. The product looks better every year and is extremely durable. Just like a pool, real grass has a large maintenance expense associated with it.
- Energy efficiency: My clients tend to wait on solar. Some add it later, after they have lived in the house for a while. If my clients are at all interested in solar, I pre-pipe for that possibility. Pre-piping will keep some of the ugly conduit off the roof if you do add solar.
- HOAs: Most clients do have a negative attitude associated with HOAs. They can be good and bad. They keep property values up and keep certain homeowners in line. Areas with CC&R’s only have no real way to enforce the rules without an HOA.