You were born and raised in Taos, and your father was a builder. My dad (Vishu Magee) was building houses while I grew up. About the age of 10, he put me and my brother, Jeb, to work on the job site during the summers and our off times. It was hard work, lots of digging and cleaning up mostly. I used to vow that I’d never do construction when I grew up.
But you did. How did that come about? As a teenager, I worked at Taos Pizza Out Back. When I graduated, I didn’t apply to college and decided to take a gap year. So I got a job at Ian Forsberg’s cabinet shop and got an introduction to the adult working world. I learned a lot, especially about tight tolerances and an eye for detail. I found that those came naturally to me.
When did you start your own business? At 27, I kind of came to a do-or-die moment in my life – either move out of Taos and reinvent myself or start a construction company here. So Magee Build Inc. began. I was fortunate to have a working designer-builder in my dad. He got us our first job. It was a one-bedroom house for a teacher in town. We started small, mostly doing small remodels, but I got both a commercial and residential license.
What did you focus on? I prefer residential. I like the detail in residential construction, and I like working with homeowners. I found it was so important to develop a working relationship, and often they turned into future friendships. Taos is a small town, and it’s imperative to maintain relationships to stay in business.
How do you approach a new home project? I’ve been lucky recently to negotiate a bid for a project rather than go through a competitive bid process. I prefer that because it allows the homeowner to hire the design team and construction team at the same time. All three of us work toward a budget for the project and build trust among each other before construction begins. It’s so important to fit the house to the budget. I see the builder as a reality check in the process because the owners are naturally excited about their dream house. We try hard to get everything settled before construction begins.
How about a remodel? That can be very difficult in Taos. You are creating something new in an older structure and you want it to look like it belongs – not stand out as an addition. It’s always a surprise when you punch a hole in an adobe wall. No foundation, no headers, old artifacts in the walls, old niches. It challenges our problem-solving abilities and makes us roll with the unexpected.
How do you meet the challenges of being a builder in Taos? The availability of resources can be limited here, and the cost of materials tend to be higher than in a larger city. On the other hand, I’ve been fortunate to have a good crew and steady subcontractors. Our crew is really an extension of our family. Treating employees as equals with respect is very important to me. They get steady work and a decent wage.
How is the Taos market right now? For us, the second home market is still big. And the north side, because of its proximity to the mountains and larger parcels, is always hot. Taos is a lovely space and people will continue to come here. We expect new construction to continue in the coming year as, after the election, people feel more secure spending their money. At the same time, we have been working with younger retirees who may be established business owners and have money for a new house. And, more people seem to want a more contemporary feel these days, versus the Southwest architecture that has dominated here.
We can’t let you get away without talking about influence of your father. I didn’t get the design gene like my dad and brother. But we actually work quite a bit together. When I started out, he had a hand in the process but, as the years have gone by, I’ve relied less and less on him. I’ve worked with other architects because any designer has their own style. Part of what I love about being a contractor is to work in different mediums, styles and designs. It keeps things fresh.
Aaron Magee, Magee Build Inc., 524 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, Suite H, (575) 741-0456, email@example.com