EDGE Win Pratt helps grow Chattanooga's biggest home builder with his father

EDGE Win Pratt helps grow Chattanooga's biggest home builder with his father

May 1st, 2016 by Dave Flessner in EDGE

Win Pratt stands in his company's showroom off of Dayton Boulevard.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

James “Win” Pratt III

* Title: President of Pratt and Associates

* Age: 40

Education: Graduate of Baylor School in 1994, and the University of Tennessee in 1998

* Career: Win and his father started Pratt and Associates and started developing lots and building homes in 1999

* Personal: Married with three children and two step children

About Pratt Homes
* Headquarters: Red Bank

* Started: 1999

* Owners: James and Win Pratt

* Staff: 30 employees

* 2016 sales: Projected to sell about 150 lots

* Projects: The company has developed, bought or sold lots in about 75 subdivisions and last December

Win Pratt thought he wanted to be a doctor when he studied biology at the University of Tennessee in the 1990. But when his applications for medical school failed to land him a spot, his father had another offer.

Pratt's father, James, owned Bradley Propane in Cleveland, Tenn., at the time, and he used part of his business earnings to buy 29 ares in Red Bank off of Brownstown Road to try his hand at real estate development. The elder Pratt agreed to hire Win to help prepare and sell the lots in what developed into the Traditions subdivision. Win got his real estate license, put on his work boots and has never looked back.

"I immediately liked it because I got to be outside, not stuck in an office, and I got to see the progress on what we were working one every day," the younger Pratt recalls.

A decade and a half later, Win Pratt does little of the outdoors, hands-on work that he began doing out of college. But he says he still loves overseeing what has grown into Chattanooga's biggest home building and development company. Since its start in 1999, when it sold only three houses, Pratt Homes has developed or sold more than 1,000 houses in nearly 75 subdivisions.

The younger Pratt acknowledges that he didn't ever expect or choose to the a home builder. But he says "thank God" he wasn't successful in his earlier pursuit to become a physician.

"Home building is tangible and you get to see each piece go into place and then see the final product," he says. "You can make a detailed plan, execute the plan and see how it turns out."

Although James Pratt initially wanted to focus only on buying and developing property, the younger Pratt convinced his father they also needed to build and sell the homes on the parcels they develop.

"Initially, I was hesitant because I didn't want to build a business where I had to keep up with nails and boards and everything involved in home construction," James Pratt recalls. "But we decided we needed to be in control of our own destiny and that was one of the best things we did."

Pratt Homes is a vertically integrated business, developing lots, building homes and marketing and selling the finished properties. James Pratt, who once worked as a banker in Mississippi and spent 27 years running propane businesses in Mississippi and Tennessee, focuses on the finances of the business while Win oversees site acquisitions, sales and overall operations. Five years ago, Win's youngest brother, Nerren, also joined the family-owned business.Win does long-range planning, while Nerren manages the superintendents who oversee the home construction.

"It is great to be able to work with your sons, just as I once worked with my father, but it also has its challenges," James Pratt says. "We don't always agree, but you're family and somehow you find some happy ground where we all agree upon. At the end of the day, I love coming to work everyday and being able to work with my children."

As the oldest of four children, Win has always been one to get things done. True to his name, Win says he wants to win, even when he has to work harder than others to achieve success.

"I'm a competitive person and I always seem to have to work harder than some of my friends in school," the former Baylor baseball and football player says.

He built the business on 75-hour workweeks through most of his career, although with three of his own children and two step-children Win says he has cut his work week in recent years.

Pratt says he and his father learned a hard lesson on the value of not overextending yourself when the housing slump hit Chattanooga' market nine years ago.

After James Pratt sold his propane business in 2002, the Pratts envisioned building a major regional player in the home building business. From 2004 to 2007, Pratt Homes started home building operations in Nashville, Memphis and Loudon, Tenn., and in Savannah, Ga.

Business at Pratt Homes is at record levels this year, but in the summer of 2007 the growing business faltered as the housing slump hit housing markets across the country.

"In August 2007 it was like the spigot turned off," James Pratt recalls. "We were slow to react because it took us a while to figure out it was for real."

Win Pratt says 2008 and 2009 were tough years for all home builders.

"I remember leaving here wondering if the doors would be open the next day," he recalls. "We had gotten a little reckless and allowed the entrepreneurs in us to run a little wild without good market research and overpaying for some properties."

After disposing of other markets, Pratt has focused exclusively on the Chattanooga residential market, primarily serving suburban, single-family home buyers with houses priced from $200,000 to $500,000. Win Pratt says he learned through the recession the importance of understanding the home market and not getting ahead of the market.

For all the talk about tiny homes, urban lofts and apartment living, Pratt is convinced that there will always be a demand for the single-family detached home with a yard — "at least in my lifetime.

"Houses are as inevitable as death and babies and it's a great business to fulfill that need," he says.