Longtime builders move to Tri-Cities after 22 years in North Dakota

A longtime custom home-building company with a successful operation in North Dakota has moved to the Tri-Cities.

The father-and-son team of John and Stephen Worlund decided to move Anasazi Builders after almost 22 years to be closer to family.

“We had to turn down 21 homes. We finished the last two homes in North Dakota. It was a huge process to relocate,” John said.

John has five children, 15 grandkids and four great-grandkids, all in the Tri-Cities. Steven’s wife’s family lives in the Tri-Cities as well.

They moved to Boise, Idaho, in 1997 to build a youth ranch for their non-denominational church — Evening Light Tabernacle.

In 2012, a friend with connections to local developers lured them to North Dakota. The state had recently lost 4,000 homes to the 2011 Souris River flood, yet economic opportunity abounded thanks to the oil drilling boom.

That year, Anasazi Builders built five homes in seven months.

It didn’t take long for the business to become sought after home-builders, slowly setting the design and building standards for custom homes in North Dakota.

“We fit in the custom home market. We help build people’s dream home. We have an architect and a designer. We give people a virtual tour through their home as it’s being designed,” John said. “We do so much of the work, too, like carpentry and cabinets, to make sure that everything is done to our standards.”

The houses they built in North Dakota ranged anywhere from $300,000 to $650,000.

“When you’re in the custom home market, you’re building what they want,” Steven said. “We try to figure out what’s key for them, what is your intent for the home, what’s your sacred space. Some people want to put thousands of dollars into their kitchen.”

But the homes also often include a touch of Anasazi — their company name comes from ancient American Indian people of the southwestern United States known for the first cliff dwellings in stack rocks. Sometimes they’ll use accent stack rock walls for the exterior, in the fireplace or an island wall.

Their home-building business helped subsidize their international missionary work through Worldwide Missionary Outreach which took them — especially John — to places like the Philippines, South Africa, and Peru. There, they built churches and funded livelihood projects like buying fishing boats and nets, bicycles, block-making machines, or sponsoring first-year seeds for farming communities, or teaching money management skills.

But, skilled and reliable labor was getting hard to come by in North Dakota, forcing John to hold back on some of the missionary work to fill in where needed.

“When it’s your life, it’s your passion,” said John of the missionary work. “As I’m getting older, there are more calls to do mission field work.”

“If you feel led to do something because of family and church, we couldn’t be effective doing missionary work. We have to come somewhere where we can get the help we need,” John said.

“This is what we do to make our way overseas,” Steven said. “That left me shorthanded. There is such a shortage of manpower in North Dakota and there are less people going into the construction trade. I have two brothers and one brother-in-law in construction. There is help here.”

And the winters in North Dakota were long, the Worlunds said, averaging about eight months during the building season, sometimes less. They would build two homes in spring and two in the fall, finishing the interior when winter set in.
They said the move to the Tri-Cities — although mainly motivated by being closer to family — would also allow them to tap into a bigger work force. They kept a close watch on the Tri-City custom home market before making the move and have already started making connections with subcontractors.

“The market here is really booming. The price of land has shot up, but that’s a given,” John said. “We’ve been watching the market here for about a year and it’s been quite a price jump. We’re going to take it slow and see what happens.”

With all their licenses in place, they hope to start building homes at the beginning of this year. But they know it won’t be easy.

“It is getting difficult to come by land that is already developed, and the prices are getting up there,” John said.

But they remain optimistic — and they’re already getting inquiries from potential clients.

“Tri-Cities has a lot of quality builders. There are really high standards here for manpower, and really good standards in terms of energy efficiency,” John said.

Anasazi Builders: 701-720-1773; Facebook.

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