Pictured, left to right, Hamlin Pools owners Taylor Hamlin, Travis Stansberry, Joshua Stansberry, and Tyler Stansberry
Pictured, left to right, Hamlin Pools owners Taylor Hamlin, Travis Stansberry, Joshua Stansberry, and Tyler Stansberry

This year hasn’t seemed any more predictable or understandable than last. For instance, 2024 got off to a rocky start in the southern Texas market that PSN Top 50 Builder Hamlin Pools serves.

Thankfully, a change in conditions and a new strategy, things are looking considerably brighter.

“The first quarter was abysmal,” says Taylor Hamlin, one of four co-owners of the company, based in Pharr, about 10 minutes from the Texas/Mexico border. “But, as with any year, as the sunshine comes out and the heat increases, the phone calls increase. And people haven’t just been expressing interest, but they’re ready to go.”

Entry option

Started by Francis Hamlin 72 years ago, Hamlin Pools now is owned by four of his grandchildren -- Taylor Hamlin, Travis Stansberry, Joshua Stansberry, and Tyler Stansberry.

As a higher-end builder, the company has earned a healthy reputation. But it didn’t necessarily help in an environment of high interest rates and corner cutting. “In our market, we’re the most expensive builder," Taylor Hamlin says. "Oftentimes we won’t even receive a phone call because of that."

To help reach a broader customer base, he designed an entry-level option, called Hamlin Light.

“I was trying to mimic the auto industry with the Ford F-150,” he says. “A Ford F-150 can be purchased for $32,000 or $110,000. It’s the same F-150 but it’s all about the features. So instead of starting our pools out at a higher-end level, we’re starting very basic.”

The 12-by-24-foot Hamlin Light features a white plaster finish, standard returns, single LED light and 24-inch porcelain paver coping.

Presenting such an affordable option while meeting the company’s standards required a bit of a balancing act. For instance, Hamlin Pools has long included a pebble finish, automatic cleaner and at least two skimmers on any pool it built. The team designed the pool so it was small enough to be accommodated by a single skimmer. And, while pebble and an auto cleaner don’t come with the Hamlin Light, the sales team still encourages them.

“We still believe you shouldn’t build a pool without [those features],” Hamlin says. "But getting financing is harder, so we’ve pivoted to show we can get them swimming for less, but you ought to consider these nicer options.”

In many cases, the homeowners respond. To date, the company has only sold one Hamlin Light pool as-is, because most clients end up adding some kind of customization to theirs, he reports.

The team also had to make sure that the Hamlin Light design would be suitable for local soils, so they had an engineer design the vessel for the worst local soils conditions. Fortunately, the area doesn’t have expansive soil. If yard-access limitations will complicate or prolong construction, the client will have to pay additional costs.

Finally, the team had to make sure the pool would meet its own minimum requirements for service customers. For instance, the company’s service division will only manage pools with auto levelers and chlorinators, and they must comply with all codes. So the Hamlin Light had to meet those standards as well.

Making the pivot

This change required a new sales approach. In the past, Hamlin Pools would design a project with all the bells and whistles, and let the customer whittle down to fit their budget, if needed. With many customers now, they start low and encourage the customer to add on.

The company also had to step up its lead-vetting game even more. The advertising for the Hamlin Light has garnered a glut of leads, but not all of them serious. So the team found a quick and reliable way of prioritizing responses. It has to do with how consumers respond to the marketing and advertisements.

“When they click the link [on the ad], they can choose to be emailed, texted or receive a phone call from us,” Hamlin says. “Often the email is not a very good lead, text is medium. Somebody who wants to speak on the phone is generally a more serious lead. We also notice that, if they [contact us] at 2:00 a.m., it’s often not a very serious lead; if it’s at 9:00 a.m. it’s a better lead.”

The company responds to every lead multiple times, and will use a non-preferred channel if they don’t get a response. However, this helps the company prioritize.

Now, 2024 looks on track to be a good one for the builder. As of this conversation in May, Hamlin Pools was only about 4% behind last year, with projections of closing 2024 about 8% to 10% ahead of 2023.

It’s hard to know how much of that is due to the new offering and target demographic, and how much to external forces such as better weather. But Taylor Hamlin gives the new strategy credit for getting them in the door more than the company would have otherwise.