In Germany and Austria, where lifelong rental has previously been the norm, home ownership is growing. For ELK Fertighaus, this trend means full order books and ballooning turnover. Having got into the market ahead of the curve, the building expert now enjoys a leading position in its home market and growing demand from Germany.
“We can certainly be considered as the market leader in this particular niche,” says Company Director Thomas Scheriau. “We took the early risk as a pioneer in a new market and now reap the rewards.”
ELK’s successful model is based on its turnkey delivery of a complete home off-plan. With more than 300 different house designs and layouts to choose from, ELK is able to offer its customers complete flexibility within a standardized system.
“We offer a virtually endless array of options and limitless scope for personalization while accompanying the owner at every stage of the planning and building process,” explains Mr. Scheriau, who is responsible for production and installation. “We can also tailor our service to the customer’s budget by offering either a completely turnkey house including interior decoration such as kitchen and bathroom installation, tiling and painting or by handing over the house shell for the customer to complete.”
ELK offers three quality standards under three different brands. ELK stands for its standard range, including ELK Pure Living models, which can be delivered as a turnkey project for under 160,000 EUR. Standard designs within this range are for detached houses with 96 m² of living space but these can be extended at will to suit the client’s needs. Hanlo is the company’s brand for low energy housing while Zenker covers the premium sector and permits maximum flexibility.
“Our houses are designed to be completely individual solutions rather than off-the-peg, one-size-fits- all, identikit residences,” insists Mr. Scheriau. “Our success is our individuality.”
Innovation drives new building design at ELK, while the expertise it draws on is mainly in-house. “We do 80% of the work ourselves,” confirms Mr. Scheriau. “Occasionally, we will work together with an external architect who has come to us with a building plot.”
While building costs rise slowly, land prices are starting to rise by more than 10% as building plots become scarcer and competition to acquire them grows. “Prices are soaring, particularly in larger urban areas,” says Mr. Scheriau. “However, in the more rural areas in which we specialize, it is still possible to build affordably. Nevertheless, we are looking at adding semi-detached houses and apartment blocks to our portfolio to keep prices for individual units down.”
For customers the main advantage is the transparency of ELK’s service. “As the biggest player in the market, we offer absolute financial security that the build will be completed as well as a guaranteed completion date,” says Mr. Scheriau. “Our project managers oversee every aspect of the build and provide reassurance for customers at each stage. We have the fastest delivery times in the sector. When everything runs smoothly, we can complete the build within six months, including obtaining planning permission.”
This exemplary service is achieved with a total workforce of 1,200 employees across 15 offices. In 2017, the company was named one of the best employers in Austria. ELK is headquartered in Schrems but also has several model home estates in Austria and southern Germany where prospective clients can view the different house types on offer. ELK currently generates 165 million EUR annual turnover.
“We are targetting continued growth, particularly in the hugely dynamic German market,” says Mr. Scheriau. “We have invested a great deal in the company in recent months, including in the modernization of our factory in Schrems. We have also recently begun to undertake more diverse projects such as motels and hotels. This diversification will allow us to target new markets and leverage risk as investment costs rise in the future.”