Part of our highlight of Bay of Quinte Home Builders and Realtors over the next several months. Find a HOME in the Bay of Quinte Region here: www.bayofquinte.ca/living
By Jim Barber
A family owned and operated business, Gordon Tobey Developments has been designing and building unique, environmentally responsible homes in the Brighton and Trenton area for nearly 40 years. At the core of the philosophy of the company started by an experienced engineer, Gordon Tobey, in 1976 is a desire to provide high-quality customization and personalized service, while also creating homes that are at the apex of sustainability.
“If you go back to the history of environmental housing in Canada, in the late 1970s and early 1980s you had higher gas prices and things like that and people’s attitudes about houses were changing, everyone was concerned about relying on oil for heating. And at the time the government said they would work on energy efficiency regulations for housing. So back then, for my dad, it was a way of getting in on that trend and really differentiating ourselves the company. And we have been on the forefront of energy-efficient homes ever since then,” his son Stephen Tobey, now the company’s president. While this is still a major part of the firm’s ethos, Tobey believes it’s now expected from a home buyer to provide a domicile that has a modest environmental footprint and lower energy costs. “The one thing I have learned is that if you try to sell houses strictly based on energy you will lose because people now expect a certain amount of energy efficiency. There are building codes for a reason. House buying is a highly emotional business. If you try to make it too technical, you will lose,” he said. So it’s all about unique design for Gordon Tobey Developments these days. “We offer customization and we have an in-house design team. We can also work from standard designs. We have this big house that we are working on down by the water and the concept is for a Cape Cod house in Ontario, but with some modifications. And we will work with the client to make sure they get exactly what they want in every detail,” Tobey explained.
“One of our niche markets is with our big custom homes. And then we also do a very modern design for our subdivision homes. We don’t use the term ‘open concept’ because that’s the wrong idea for us. The term we use is ‘great rooms.’ We have got rid of formal dining rooms. For the most part we do one dining space and one exceptionally great, great space. “And we have said that our basements aren’t basements any more – they are living spaces. So we have increased the size of the windows and revamped the underfloor with insulation and sometimes even underfloor heating. We have made our basements warm and dry and every bit as good as upstairs spaces.” A large proportion of the Brighton-based company’s clientele is made up of seniors moving to the area or those already living in the region who are looking for a home with more modern amenities or one that will be more accommodating and comfortable as they age. “We tend to build more for a retiree clientele here in Brighton, that’s our market. We know that people coming here are looking for an elevated level of customization, so we are doing a lot of pro-active things like ensuring there is always a level entryway, we are doing grab bars which are concealed, wider doorways and wider hallways which you don’t even notice in the homes,” he said. “We do a lot of roll-in showers, but we work hard to make sure they don’t look like institutional showers. We try to make them every bit as much of a fancy shower as it can be. We can also do vanities where you can remove the cabinet should you end up in a wheelchair later, so you can roll right under the sink. We are making houses accessible: we call it living for today, living for tomorrow. We want people to be able to stay in their homes for as long as possible.” Tobey said Brighton and Quinte West is becoming an increasingly popular destination for retirees.
“I would say 60 to 65 per cent of our customers come from outside the area. Most of them come from the GTA, from Toronto, Pickering, Ajax and Whitby, to a lesser extent from Mississauga. We have a lot coming from north of the city, in the Markham area because of the high resale values there,” he said. “These people want what they want and they come to Brighton because they can get what they want. A lot will come here because they have one child in Toronto and maybe another in Ottawa or Kingston, so they are halfway between any grandchildren. Plus they have access to Highway 401 and they are still far from airports because many of them also go south for the winter.” Tobey’s own family history is an interesting one. “We have relatives buried in the Loyalist cemetery at Adolphustown. My great-great-great-great grandfather is buried there. But the funny thing is our family lived in the area in the 1800s and then everyone packed up and left. We didn’t come back until 1967, and we came back to the exact same area. Our family farm was down near Cherry Valley in The County. So we are a sixth generation United Empire Loyalist Family,” he said. He said the business environment in the Bay of Quinte region is one where personal service and building a reputation for honesty, integrity and professionalism is key to success.
“When you are dealing with actual people across the table and build relationships in a smaller market like the Bay of Quinte region through the Quinte Homebuilders Association, you learn that people will help you and you can help them. It’s surprising for some people to hear how well we all get along and do business together here,” said Tobey. And it is also a bonus to not only be able to make a living and build a thriving company but also raise a family in the Bay of Quinte Region. “Your clients and your competitors are your neighbours, and that’s a nice thing. It’s those small town values. Lack of traffic is a big draw and it’s great for those of us who live here too. So many people tell me they are just happy to have a beach to walk on and trails to hike and be close to the water. We have an amazing lifestyle here.” For more information, visit www.tobeydevelopments.com.
- Jim Barber is a Napanee-based journalist and author. Contact him at [email protected]