Collier Homes: Now Sixty
As a family, we are very proud to have acquired the Collier Homes brand three years ago. Doing so at a time when the industry in Western Australia commenced a tectonic-like shift enabled us to transition to where we believe the housing market will be in the future. With the brand now in its sixtieth year, we reflect on our history and journey so far.
Enduring brands like Collier Homes continue to exist and remain relevant because they take on humanity. Like a human being, they learn from their experiences. Collier Homes can point to a history now spanning some sixty years, during which it has built a reputation as an industry force, trailblazer, and property entrepreneur. Importantly, it has been the builder of choice for many Western Australian families.
Collier Homes was named after Collier Street in Applecross, where its founder, Ray McCarthy lived. Ray applied to register the business as Collier Constructions in December 1959, and achieved registration in January 1960.
Ray was born in 1930 and grew up in Fremantle, where his father worked. He attended Christian Brothers College in Fremantle and Saint Louis School in Claremont. At fifteen, Ray left school to take on an engineering apprenticeship. He had several jobs before landing a position with AV Jennings, a leading Australian home builder. This position provided Ray with the opportunity to work interstate - in both Canberra and Melbourne. With the untimely passing of his father in May 1958, Ray returned to Perth to be closer to his mother. It was at this time that the Collier Homes vision began.
Ray launched the business from the dining room of the Collier Street home and soon after set up his first office at 739 Canning Highway, Applecross. Ray’s experience with contacts at AV Jennings provided him with the perfect platform to launch his new venture. The first home built by Collier Homes was on Camden Road in Morley. In 1967, Collier Homes built its first display home, called the Norwood on Riseley Street in Applecross.
Former General Manager of Collier Homes from 1968 to 1978 and good friend, Ossie Symonds, described Ray as a man whose values revolved around truth and loyalty. He spoke of the humblest beginnings of Collier Homes as a builder initially working on government housing projects and its rapid expansion into the project home market. As General Manager, his first task included focusing the business around the residential building segment and moving away from commercial and modular construction.
Ray sold Collier Homes in 1969 to Development Underwriting Limited, a national property development business. At this time Collier Homes became well known for the Futuro House (locally known as the “Spaceship”), designed by Finnish architect, Matti Suuronen. It was built in 1971 near Karel Avenue and Leach Highway to serve as the sales office for the new Burrendah subdivision (now Willetton).
In March 1981, Collier Homes was acquired by one of its executives, Ron Smith. Ron commenced working for Development Underwriting as a Sales Manager in 1974 and became its State Manager in 1977. In the same year that Ron acquired Collier Homes, he led a consortium which included his family business and a financier to secure a parcel of land in an underdeveloped area north of Perth. In 1984 he announced plans to develop the land into Mindarie Keys. Environmental and planning issues resulted in delays, which, together with poor land sales and cost overruns resulted in the project ownership changing.
The company managed the aftermath for a time, however, in 1995, it was acquired by Adelaide-based Futuris Corporation, a publicly listed company operating across diverse sectors and with interests in the manufacture of building materials. Futuris Corporation later became the owner of Elders, and eventually changed its name to Elders Limited in 2009.
As part of a business rationalisation, Futuris subsequently sold Collier Homes in 1996 to the high profile Adelaide builder Bob Day. Bob credits well known Western Australian builder Peter Stannard for alerting him of the opportunity. Bob operated the successful South Australian home builder, Homestead Homes that he established in 1983 and saw Collier Homes as the first move to expand his business outside of South Australia.
Collier Homes' collaboration with Homestead Homes was a catalyst for its growth. At this time, Collier Homes recognised the needs of more discerning second and third home buyers by creating its Collier Craft offering. Bob successfully operated the now-iconic Collier Homes brand, building on its strong foundation and values for some twenty years. Given his success with Collier Homes, he expanded his business footprint by establishing a building entity in Queensland and then acquiring other well-known brands in Victoria and New South Wales-giving him a national presence across five states. Bob entered politics and became a Senator in 2013 and with this shift in focus considered divesting his building interests.
Learning of this intention, I began discussions with Bob in late 2015 about purchasing Collier Homes' assets. Although cordial discussions continued for some six months, an agreement could not be reached. We were eventually successful in acquiring the business assets that included all brand names, display homes, home designs and intellectual property in November 2016.
As a second-generation builder, I saw the purchase as an opportunity to build on my family tradition of building quality custom homes, which my father Francesco commenced in the early 1960s. Having been a registered builder myself since 1984, being joined by my wife Susan and son Alberto in the relaunch of the brand has been most satisfying. Importantly, Collier Homes has continued its evolution by successfully transitioning to become a design and project management orientated custom builder, catering for discerning and informed clients. A testament that we are on the right track is that one of our recent builds has been documented and is set feature on Grand Designs Australia in 2020 (read more).
Sadly, Ray McCarthy passed away in March 2018, a year before Collier Homes' milestone anniversary. Ray’s son, Carl McCarthy made mention that his father was incredibly proud that the business he started continued to remain an integral part of the building industry.
We honour all those who over our entire sixty-year history have worked hard to build upon the solid foundations. We are proud to be continuing the tradition and celebrate this milestone with style and grace.
Dario Amara FIEAust, CPEng, NER, APEC Engineer, IntPE(Aus) is a second-generation builder, experienced construction, and engineering executive and chartered professional engineer with some 40 years' industry experience. He has also served as Chairman of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Chairman of the West Australian Opera Company and Chairman of Heritage Perth amongst other positions.