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Unlocking Potential: Insights from St. Pete’s #1 ADU Builder

In this episode of the Palm Harbor Local Podcast, delve into ADU construction with expert insights. Explore the growth of entrepreneurship and construction in St. Pete and real estate development trends in St. Petersburg, Florida. Discover the process and benefits of building ADUs, from cost-effectiveness to personalized living solutions, and gain valuable tips on navigating the construction journey from industry professionals.

Additionally, for our valued listeners, Calin’s team is excited to offer a special promotion: a FREE bathroom finish upgrade for anyone who reaches out to us because of this podcast. To claim this offer, mention “Palm Harbor Local – Podcast” in the description section of your inquiry form (https://caskconstruction.com/contact-us/)

Listen to the podcast episode here!

We’ve got another great one for you today. Today we’re sitting down with the founder of St. Pete’s number one ADU builder Calin Noonan his company Cask Construction specializes in building accessory dwelling units or ADUs. That is all they do. Kevin has a diverse background in construction and decided to focus on ADUs after his friends and family experienced the benefits of having an ADU on their property.

Now in this episode, we talk about Calin’s beginnings in construction, how ADUs is growing in popularity throughout the Tampa Bay area, and the different types of ADUs, you can build on your property whether it’s attached to your property, or detached from your property.

Calin has a giveaway for anyone who listens to this episode. So stick around to the end to get all the details. And this episode starts now. Welcome Calin. I’m excited to have you on the podcast man and just chat with you more.

Excited to.

So let’s start with why. Well for anybody that doesn’t want ADU, Additional Dwelling Unit or Accessory Dwelling Units? Why specialize in those?

I started the company probably six or seven years ago, at this point, actually just over seven years ago. And I worked construction most of my life and was able to move down to St. Pete. And luckily enough, I bought a house with an ADU. And that extra money and flexible spending that came from owning that ADU allowed me enough comfort to know that my bills are paid.

That is why I left the construction company I was working for and started my own company. So it was it was a big leap forward. It’s a big reason why I’m here now and, and able to own a successful construction company. So it’s been a great journey. And I had that experience. And I think we speak well and share that experience and shows in our company.

What did you do before starting this company?

So I’ve been in construction, most mostly my whole life, starting at 18. Laying tile, where I became a structural engineer, worked several construction jobs through college and then moved up to Manhattan, worked on all the East River bridges in Manhattan as a structural superintendent. So Brooklyn Bridge I was on for four years doing a big renovation there.

And then, with the same company, I moved down to Florida, where I was born and raised in Florida. So I moved back to Florida and started doing the high rises and hospitals down in St. Pete. The goal for moving to New from New York back to Florida was to kind of get off of the journey that I was on, which is, getting high level in a big construction company.

That grind is 70 hours and, starting jobs at four in the morning and crazy pouring concrete at two o’clock in the morning. And, I wanted to have kids and, and have a better work-life balance. So, my overall dream was always on a construction company. So my pursuit to move down to Florida was to start that journey.

Where did that dream start? 

I think as a kid, I just always enjoyed business and entrepreneurship, the way you kind of work on yourself to kind of working on yourself through your business now,  I need to grow into the position that allows me to own a bigger company and more, more employees and have them have that same mindset and get excited about it. I think that’s a big part of what draws me to stay in entrepreneurship.

Interestingly, you said that because I don’t think every business owner has that mindset, I need to grow personally into this position or this role.

For sure. I don’t think a lot of business owners do I don’t think a lot of, maybe not a lot of people. They do I just think that it’s it’s just not as direct maybe. But, I mean, I’m young, my early 40s and late 30s kids, so it’s definitely in that mindset need to grow to become a better father phase so I think a lot of it depends on what phase you are in life. That’s what’s always drawn me to it. So people probably have very similar journeys and different forms.

So you started, I guess commercial construction space before you moved down here? And then what led you to finally commit to Okay I’m gonna start my business.

No, it wasn’t so the US wasn’t at us wasn’t that big in St. Pete. Over the past 20 years, there were over the last decade, there was only there was less than 100 ADUs built in St. Pete. And 40, just under 50 of them, almost half of them were built last year alone.

So the journey of ADUss, it’s the city understanding that they need the city to grow, and they need to push density so they can get more jobs to come in. And they need more affordable housing. And the way the city is seeing this area growing all of Pinellas County growing is density and business. And so that’s really their, their, their business plan.

And so last two years, they’ve focused on ADUs. So before that, there were 28 ADUs built the year before that there were 12 or 15. I don’t know what’s planned to be built this year, but we plan on building 28 ADUs for just our company. So we’re we’re going to build 60% of the ADUs that were built last year, probably build 40% of all the ADUs, that are being built in the area Why do you think why do you think the growth of ADUs has happened? Is it because of the density and just stability for short-term rentals, Airbnb ease, and all that stuff?

So short-term rentals it’s it’s not allowed to be technically insane in St. Pete, and most of Pinellas County, their pockets allow it for sure. But that’s not the goal of Pinellas County. And it’s not just St. Pete pushing at us. A lot of Pinellas County is getting on board with it. They want density they want. They want affordable housing. And it’s so expensive to build now. They’re trying to rezone things so that you can have multifamily dwellings in multiple in more areas in the city. And that’s everything from big housing developments and this where I live in South St. Pete, there’s probably 10,000 units going in, in the next five years. And as needed if St Pete’s not growing, then we can’t afford to bring good jobs here.

If, the housing market is going up everywhere, well, then we’re not going to attract higher-paid jobs. So to, to, to get to keep business coming in. And I think that’s talking with the city a lot. That’s a big part of their growth strategy.

So that make sense? Because there’s there’s no land left landing. They can’t You can’t just have a development outside of Tampa and have them commute into Tampa they need to travel another 45 minutes the past 1000s of jobs to get into St. Pete. So that has to be their plan for the city to grow.

So circling back to, when you started your your company cast construction? , what was your What was your vision, then? What were your goals then?

So really at that time, I wasn’t, I didn’t have a focus new entrepreneur, just really trying to figure out what a niche would be figuring out how I could step out from a high paid position in construction, doing running big buildings, to remodelling rooms and bathrooms.

So I started in my journey, flipping houses, okay. And I was still working. I was working for a local engineer, I left my construction position as a superintendent to work for an engineer who was more flexible on hours. Those get-rich schemes, come to our come to our seminar and learn how to flip houses.

I went and I bought it and man, I’ve maxed out two credit cards to try to figure it out And it was a great experience for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to many people because I think I think it probably has more. There you could probably lose more than you gain.

For sure but it worked for me. my wife and I were both bought in. We didn’t have kids.  I said our house was paid for. So well, we have some big credit card debt if this doesn’t work, and if it does, then. And we had already moved down here, I’d already bought a second house, and I was already thinking of trying to flip it.

We’re trying to figure out financially, how to buy a third. And I just realized I was, the amount of money I’m going to pay for someone to teach me how to do this. I’m going to lose in the next couple of transactions. So I might as well learn how to do this at a high level. So that the coaching side of life and businesses it’s always worth the money If you can afford how to pay for it.

At the end of the day, you said, you gotta pay for it anyway. You got paid for it anyway You got to pay for it. And in, in on losses, or in losses that you’re not planning for? Or you might as well plan for it.  Something I found interesting on your website, you had different types of ADUs, but I never thought about that before. But, explain the different types of ADUs.

So really, we build whether people want to garage below or not, is a big difference,? A one-story or a two-story. Building with a garage below is the main difference. And then we’ve built in as small as,  300 square feet. And as big as 800 square feet, with three bedrooms.

I mean, the house I grew up in South Florida, was 950 square feet. So it’s an ADU now. Yes. So, I mean, the one we just finished is it’s massive. It’s a whole house. It’s three, three bedrooms, one bath, big, nice, beautiful kitchen.

And we’re finding that a lot of people are moving into the ADUs and renting out their big houses, a lot of retirees are finding out that this is the way they get to retire and have bigger cash flow than they wanted so they don’t downsize.

Well, that is downsizing, downsizing onto their property investing in their their biggest asset, which is their house, most of them. Interesting Well, that’s, that’s probably 20% of our customers. Is that the situation there?

What type of people are building at us? So really, there are a few different types.  It’s two main categories, more or fewer people that are looking for rental income, whether that is retirees that are saying, I want to either rent that backspace out and start to enjoy the next phase of our life travelling, hanging out with family, incentivizing their kids to come to stay in there ADU with, with their grandkids, that, that that’s been a lot.

It’s young professionals who are trying to figure out how to grow wealth and invest in themselves in their homes. One-on-one of the last customers we just had they were having their second kid, and their wife was going to stop working. It was scary to figure out how they were going to transition lose a whole income,  and have more expenses.

They planned to build an ADU. And that thing’s renting crazy. They’re, they’re super happy that they did it So that’s on the rental side, that’s most of the pieces. Some investors are looking that are starting to look into it, because now the houses don’t cashflow the same that they used to cashflow five years ago, two years ago.

So there just seemed to be getting in there. So that’s kind of three different people on the rental side. And then the non-rental side. Many people are looking for extra space, flexible space,  maybe I rent it out, but mainly my parents are going to come help with the kids.

Aging-in-place families saying I want to be able to have my mom not be at a nursing home and be on our property. That’s uh that’s probably the other pool houses stuff that kind of, okay. That’s probably the majority of all of our customers are those different people looking to expand their house in different ways and not just have it be an addition because the flow might not work on addition. 

I’ve seen that I’ve seen in just a minute but alone I’ve seen two houses that are now there’s three now that are that are adding an addition Um, we had an audition that was done before we bought ours but it’s off the master? So you have to go through the master bedroom to get to this room.
You said the flow of it doesn’t make sense. So I have that idea of just having in the cost it’s probably pretty similar.  If anything, you don’t need to rearrange the inside of your house to make it work. So if you’re building, say 400 square feet to 400 square feet then the cost is probably cheaper to build an ADU.

If not cheaper, the same price. You’re not saving any money. But if you’re sometimes the addition you might not need a bigger space oh, well, if I want to make this just a bigger living room, well, then that’s going to be sure.

What about, as far as the amount of space that’s needed for an ADU?

I would say most average-size lots are less than a quarter acre.

Can you fit an ADU on those lots?

And the average-sized lot that we’re putting him on is  5000 square feet, though, small, crazy. 6000 square feet. So, these are, Ali’s in the back a lot of them so they don’t have to, you could pull him through the front. Just to be clear we don’t need to be not attached.

They can be attached to your house. They can, the term ADU is more, that it’s an independent living structure. So you have, you can if you want to have separate utilities, you have a separate kitchen with a heating element, you have a separate washer and dryer.

So it’s an independent living than the main house. So it can be attached, if it wants, and an ALS is an assisted living structure, an accessory living structure, so that doesn’t have a kitchen, the main difference is it doesn’t have doesn’t have utilities don’t have a kitchen. So not all of these are in use, some of them are considered actual additions that aren’t attached or don’t have main access through the house. Felt the pool house you were talking about. A flex space,  the indoor-outdoor living, they want to be able to open up the doors and have the kids play outside

That’s cool. What about, somebody’s interested in having one of these built on their on their property? What is an overview of that process?

Sure. That’s a great question. So we’d call into us, we kind of go through a few key questions and find out what your needs are. I want two bedrooms, I want one bedroom, and then from there, we’d send you a questionnaire in that questionnaire we’re going to ask you some key questions, asked you to, if possible, take a photo of the area, it’s going to be in the back so we can look at how utilities are hooking up.

Through that process, we will get you a ballpark quote before we come out. We have quite a bit of floor plans, and we know exactly what these floor plans cost. So I can get you a quote within 10%. Just with me before I come out to your house.

So we come out to the house, we do it on the in-person meeting, we then look through all of our assumptions that we’re assuming through this ballpark, quote, and we show you some of our floor plans. You probably through this process, you may have seen one or two anyways, that you’re looking through.

We have a price range. We kind of showing you what we’re assuming based on your requirements. And through that process. We start to refine what you want. And if that’s what you want, well, then that’s an easy process. For most people it’s not what they want, most people would need to figure out why things cost $200,000 versus 150 versus two. So when we get to that point you have your ballpark A price. And we know at a high level, almost 90%.

If you can build an ADU on your property, what we do is enter into a pre-construction agreement. And that pre-construction agreement, it’s not that you’re we’re not signing this big contract that says, $250,000, you’re signing a small contract, that we’re getting your drawings, we’re taking that itemized price, giving you the education as to why it cost $50,000 difference from this floor plan to this floor plan.

We’re picking and choosing the elements that work for you based on what your needs are because price is usually one of them. But functionality always is. And so through that, there’s a lot of back and forth, as we’re designing your you’re building for you, for functionality for price and construction process as well.

So we’re getting you the best product that fits your needs. And also the easiest to build. That’s structurally sound. That process back and forth is, could be as short as a couple of weeks, most people take three to three to eight weeks is typical. Then we go into the permit, and through permitting, we’re starting the material selection. So we’re getting exactly what tiles you want, what appliances you want, what cabinets you want. And then we send out all of these drawings to bid for subs. So we’re taking our assumptions that our electrician has done on the past 50 ADU projects.

And we’re saying, hey, it’s not 12 grand, it’s 11, 5. And so we’re refining that price. And as we go through this process, your ballpark range kind of gets much more narrow. So, you’re headed in the right direction. And almost always worse, we stay within that range unless we add or subtract to the project. And as we get more narrow if something changes in your life, we can readjust before we start your project.

So through pre-construction, you have a very well-organized project, exactly what it’s going to cost to within vary. And what you don’t know, we have an assumption saying it’s possible that we need to upgrade, your sanitary line coming out the back. We’re not going to assume that now. Because I don’t want to add three $4,000 to your quote, but we’re getting it scope, we find out the best we know and when we dig it up, if it’s in bad shape we know that assumption could come. So at the end of the project process,  I was saying, you really understand the scope of work, these contracts to sign our big bulky contracts.

So, your contract is better than any other construction company you’re signing with, because you built it with us. And, the price and, the timeline, and everything’s organized. So when we get our permit back, we’re ready to start within weeks, and these ADUs are taking us about four and a half months to build. Okay, so, that’s kind of the process. So probably all in your, probably six months, depending on most ADUs, or most of us are taking a little longer than that the permitting process is probably about takes a while.

The permitting process is about two and a half has slowed down in the last couple of years. It’s sped up quite a bit. And I mean, we on our drawings, we’re using very similar floor plans for everyone. We’re probably only getting one round of comments. We probably have. We know we have the fastest ADU through permitting.

They told us that it was, five and a half weeks,  it was. But at the end of the day, most of them have one round of comments, and they take about two to three months to get through a permit. So, if you got a month and a half to two and a half months in, in pre-planning drawings, and then you have three months in, in, in plans or permitting, and then it’s between four and seven months to build your 988 to 12 wants is kind of what is taking?

I mean, you’re building up a house. You are, I mean, most of our ADUs are two stories. They’re 1200 square feet 600 upstairs to kind of downstairs. So you’re building a full house and you’re only finishing. , you got one bathroom, one kitchen, two bedrooms, as opposed to one large living room. You have a smaller one, and a third bedroom. That’s the only parts you’re taken out of your houses.

Unlocking Potential: Insights from St. Pete's #1 ADU Builder

What would have been what have been some challenges for you? And just from where you started to where you are today, and it sounds like you guys have a very,  you said organized process you don’t I mean, I mean, I’m sure you didn’t just start with that

So we kind of lucked out and fell into ADUs. , probably three years ago, someone asked us to build one, and we were excited about it. They’re one of our favourite customers, they’ve asked us to come back and do a bunch of stuff. But, we built it for them. And we realized that it spoke well to us. And it was a fun project for us. So we started focusing on those three years ago.

That journey is been two people, me and my business partner, Chad, to now we have 12 employees. And that process to build that system, build that machine, build something that’s someone could come in and have the tools to know what I know. , to build an ADU. Or the project manager decides the tool that Chad knows, here’s how you get through permitting. Here’s how you deal with these problems. I mean, that’s, that’s been a lot of work. It’s been a big challenge. And it’s been fun, but it’s been a lot of work. 

You just mentioned the book Traction before? You’re reading that now? 

I’m about a chapter or two ends. I just started it a couple of days ago. So one of the things they talked about in that book is people,  seats,  growing a company?

What’s been some learning, learning, learning moments for you there and going from two people to where you’re at now?

So having a very organized, and not veer from that process, a hiring process, So every time we’ve hired somebody and been, Oh, they’re great, let’s hire them vs a low, get to know them, give them some tasks to do bring them in a couple of times. Do a couple of rounds of interviews. Those they’ve always worked.

They’ve always understood our culture, and they’re excited about it and the ones that you think are going to Manny been doing this forever. He’s super exciting. You hire and you’re maybe not the best So slow down and not try to drink from a firehose, even though businesses have a lot of information. That’s, slowing down and hiring slow. And learning from mistakes. , feedback from customers is huge? We’re super excited to get constructive criticism or construction.

I said, is a clunky process. So we want to know the feedback. What are we doing good? What are we not doing good? And we listened, and we tried to implement those.

Those steps, that’s huge to be able to take that and, and learn from it and, and make adjustments.  The biggest step in our business has been our business coach, which is the one that connected us. He’s really, he just kind of helps with guidance and, and helps us understand stay in your lane, build your build what, build your product that gets a niche, get good at it so that at the end of the day, competitors are gonna come into this space.

We hope they do because the more ADU builds in St. Pete, we’re not building a lot now, we only build in less than 50 a year there’s probably going to be 150 permits pulled this year, and they’re only going to build 40 Change 50 of them. So we want people to come into the space, but as long as we’re staying focused on what we build. Well, then we’ll constantly have customers who are interested in only working with us

Why St. Pete, is that just because that’s that’s your territory?

That’s us, that’s where we live now, and St. Pete has the most aggressive ADU regulations that have changed in the past 10 years, but so they’re more acceptive receptive to that, but needings coming, becoming shortly down Pinellas Park, just starting to Clearwater has some options. So they’re all realizing this is, the next step to solving the same problem in Pinellas County. And, we’re looking to expand into those areas.

Now, we do kind of go into those areas, we always take some good customers, and if they’re an ideal customer will venture into those areas But, for now, we don’t want to get too thin and produce a bad product. We want to stay organized and stay local so that we can get that product done very well and then take the next step. 

Does that make sense? That’s your bread and butter St. Pete And in this ADU. 

Tampa is doing leaps and bounds in changing their regulations to the cities and invited us to talk a couple of times with them. And so they’re probably there’s a couple of members that are needed to understand how it’s gonna help and benefit but they’re gonna be flying and want a lot at US built in the next decade. 

I see  Tampa and St. Pete, similar wise they’re the downtown area has exploded. Same same thing in St. Pete downtown is building up and people are moving here. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to live here now. It’s still it’s got to stay a small-town vibe because it’s not that big of an area.  The amount of infrastructure that they’re putting in the amount of businesses that’s coming into St. Pete, and Clearwater, and Tampa, it’s going to, it’s going to help all of our lives. I think I agree.

How can people if they want to get a hold of you learn more about what you guys do?

So, I sent you a QR code if you if you’re interested in putting that up there. , they can they can scan that QR code. If they mention your podcast, we’ll give them a free bathroom upgrade. That’s probably $3,000 or $4,000.

Awesome. upgrade? And if they want to know some so just submit an inquiry and we’ll reach out to you. If we don’t answer then our answering service will give us a message. We’ll get back to you usually within a couple of hours. If you need to know anything more about this and don’t want to talk to somebody, I gave you a blog link, about learning about ADUs that’s on our website. It’s got some great information in it. Hopefully, that helps to some of your customers.

We’ll link to the blog in the description below. So if you’re interested in learning more, check out the description. We’ll have your website there. Your website is super helpful.  I took a look at it and it’s great. So check it out. And Calin thanks for being here. Man. Thank you very much. It was exciting. Appreciate it.



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Additionally, for our valued listeners, Calin’s team is excited to offer a special promotion: a FREE bathroom finish upgrade for anyone who reaches out to us because of this podcast. To claim this offer, mention “Palm Harbor Local – Podcast” in the description section of your inquiry form (https://caskconstruction.com/contact-us/)