Building homes is in Bolton's blood

Kara Bolton, of Kara Bolton Homes Inc., is the president of the Builders Association of North Central Florida. She is shown in Chelsea Lane subdivision on Monday at her residence, which she built. The chert limestone columns on her front porch were harvested from boulders dug from Longleaf Village in Alachua County, then hand built by Kara and her husband, Adam.

Erica Brough/The Sun
Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 12:53 a.m.

Kara Bolton started working in home building at an early age for her father's company, Sweeney Building Construction.


Kara Bolton

Age: 35.
Occupation: President, Kara Bolton Homes Inc. (formerly Sutton Family Homes and Management Consulting Inc.)
Personal: Married to Adam Bolton; two kids, Cheyenne, 18, and Tyler, 6; and two stepchildren, Trinity, 13, and Evan, 9.
Pets: None.
Dream partner for lunch: Madonna.
Last book read: “Bossypants” by Tina Fey.
Favorite TV show: “Grey's Anatomy.”
Favorite listening: Pop music.
Hobbies: Sewing, cooking, hot yoga and vinyasa yoga, zumba, mountain biking and paddle boarding.
Education: Master of science in management from the University of Florida, BS in liberal science with high honors from UF, AA with honors from Santa Fe College.

“My favorite place to be growing up was by his side on the job site,” she said.

Summers were spent cleaning houses, laying sod, landscaping, running a tractor — “you name it. It was hard work every summer.”

About a year after earning her master's in management from the University of Florida, she was named supervisor and would oversee the construction of about 135 homes over three years — most in the Newberry area — while her father left to develop homes in South Carolina.

The former Kara Sutton started her own company, Sutton Family Homes and Management Consulting, in 2006 — borrowing her first $1 million at age 28.

She renamed the company Kara Bolton Homes after marrying fellow home builder Adam Bolton of Robin- shore Inc. last year.

Kara Bolton is this year's president of the Builders Association of North Central Florida, making the Boltons the first husband and wife to have served in that role following Adam's term in 2009 and making Kara the fourth woman to serve as president.

Kara Bolton's accomplishments follow what she described as a tough family life. She got pregnant at 16 and raised her daughter as a single mom.

From ages 18 to 20, she lived in subsidized housing in Alachua. Through it all, Bolton said she stayed focused, graduating from Loften High School a year early and at the top of her class and attending UF on scholarships while working summers until earning her master's degree.

As a home builder, she describes herself as very hands-on from the design process to construction supervision to running through the final punch list of items to inspect.

“I can tell every homeowner and look them square in the eyes when I tell them I have touched every surface of this home,” she said. “I have seen above cabinets. I've touched every tile surface, every little floor surface. I know how it's put together and how it's finished.”

She leads the builders association at a time when local home building is starting to recover but faces a lot of uncertainty. Demand is picking up as buyers burn through existing inventory of new and existing homes, but financing for new construction can be difficult to obtain.

Costs of construction materials are up, meaning builders may wait for the price of homes to increase further before bringing a lot of new product to market, she said.

The association has dropped from about 600 members before the recession to about 500, but it has lost fewer members than many associations in

Florida and at one time was the second largest in a state with many larger markets, according to Gina Hill, executive vice president.

The Spring Parade of Homes has also dropped from about 50 homes in 2004 to about 30 in recent years, but the association still holds two parades a year while others have dropped their parades altogether.

Bolton said her priorities include advocating public policy changes to bring down the costs of building and buying a home, such as reducing impact fees and transportation fees on developers.

The association has formed a commit- tee to make recommendations to county commissioners about the comprehensive plan that regulates development, looking at everything from asphalt thickness to tree placement to the width of roads.

She said regulations encourage compact development and homes with a smaller footprint, but those homes take longer to sell and at a lower price while buyers keep buying homes on larger lots or in rural areas.

“If Gainesville wants to go greener with regard to housing, we need them to vote with their dollars that that's what they want, and if they don't want it, they need to help us send a clear message to our commissioners that that footprint or that design is not sustainable here.”

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