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Region's top home builders consider merger

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Western Pennsylvania's two largest home builders may be close to merging, according to some local builders.

The deal would involve NVR Inc., parent company of Ryan Homes, acquiring Heartland Homes, according to the builders, who requested anonymity.

Neither Heartland nor NVR spokesmen responded to the Tribune-Review's requests for comments.

“I have heard rumors about the deal but I have not been in contact with either party to confirm it,” said Jeff Burd, president of Tall Timber Group, a Ross research and consulting firm for the construction industry.

The builders said Washington-based NVR and Heartland, based in Upper St. Clair, have discussed setting up a regional division, NVRHeartland, which would be operated by Heartland President Marty Gillespie. The division would remain in Pittsburgh.

Representatives from NVR on Tuesday were reviewing Heartland's books and talking to employees, builders said. Heartland employees learned about the merger plans a day earlier.

“There has been consolidation of home building companies, particularly those small companies that are having difficulty obtaining financing, although that's not a situation with Heartland,” said S. Murry Rust III, founder with Don Montgomery of home builder Montgomery Rust.

Ryan Homes has dominated the region's home building market for years. In 2011, it recorded 570 sales and through Nov. 25 of this year had 488 sales, according to RealStats, a South Side-based real estate information company.

Heartland had 286 sales in 2011 and 284 so far this year, RealStats said.

Dwight Schar, a one-time Ryan employee who founded NVHomes in 1980, acquired Ryan Homes in 1987. He helped Ryan expand to a multi-state builder, and was executive chairman of NVR until 2009, when he became chairman and left the company's daily operations.

A NVR-Heartland deal would reunite members of a home building family.

The late Edward Ryan founded Ryan Homes and his son-in-law, Gus Gillespie, once was president of Ryan's Pittsburgh region. After the NVR merger, Gillespie quit his 18-year career with Ryan and founded Heartland. In 2000, he convinced Gillespie to leave Eaton Corp. for Heartland.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or sspatter@tribweb.com.

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