"How're gonna keep them down on the farm after they seen Paree?"
This line from an old song applies to Kay C. Barton, president of K.B. Builders Inc., 2880 S. Main, although Salt Lake City certainly doesn't fall in the Paris category.Barton was raised on a ranch and earned a degree in agricultural economics from Brigham Young University. The logical choice would have been for Barton to be a rancher. But somewhere along the way he got sidetracked and wound up being a successful builder specializing in custom homes.
Barton, who was born in Manti, Sanpete County, always had thoughts of becoming a rancher. But after graduating in 1976 he started working for his father-in-law, Harden Breinholt, a commercial building contractor. After four months, Barton returned to Manti and worked on his father's ranch, which had 3,000 head of sheep and 400 acres of crops.
"I did a little bit of everything," Barton said, but in August 1977 he returned to Salt Lake City with the intention of working for one year to get enough money to build a house in Manti. Barton built himself a home in the Walden Hills, which is near 5400 South and 900 West. Over the next several years, he built about 70 other homes in the 330-lot subdivision.
That was 14 years ago, and Barton hasn't returned to Manti to build that dream house. Now he is building homes that make other people's dreams come true. He considers the construction business challenging, mainly because "you take raw ground and change it into a finished product."
Barton incorporated his business - K.B. Builders - in 1980 and started building houses in the $50,000 to $170,000 range. In 1982, Barton got into the land development business with a 31-lot subdivision called Ridgecrest Estates at 10200 S. 1000 West in South Jordan.
Using mostly subcontractors (because he doesn't have the time to work on the houses himself) and a foreman, Cyril Webb, to supervise the work, Barton built 18 custom homes in Ridgecrest Estates ranging in price from $90,000 to $180,000.
In the early 1980s when interest rates were high, Barton centered his energy on presold houses in Sandy, Holladay and Bountiful, building them on lots owned by the homebuyers.
Barton likes building custom homes because the buyer has plenty of input on what goes into the house. If the buyer wants changes made, Barton accommodates them, knowing that once something is started a buyer has a better idea what the finished product should look like.
In 1987 and 1988, Barton built two homes for the Salt Lake Parade of Homes in Hidden Oaks, including opulent Sheffield Manor. All this at the same time he was building other houses in Sandy and Murray.
Barton entered the booming Las Vegas housing market in 1989 by purchasing two lots at The Lakes, a 32-acre subdivision he describes as "gorgeous with a man-made lake." It took him seven months - during which time he commuted to Las Vegas weekly - to design and build a custom house. Barton is using the same floor plan for a house in the Shenandoah subdivision at about 1700 East and 6400 South.
Barton has since sold the other lot he owned in Las Vegas and purchased two others. He will probably build on one and sell the other.
So far, 1991 has been good to Barton, who has 11 houses in various stages of construction ranging in price from $150,000 to the unsold $525,000 home in Shenandoah. That custom house has a three-car garage, four finished bedrooms, four bathrooms, plenty of basement space for additional bedrooms and two stairways leading to the second floor.
The brick house features high ceilings in the entry, different-shaped windows, an arch over the front door and hardwood floors in several rooms.
Barton said housing styles in Utah are changing from the traditional to the "California type" with vaulted ceilings, half-round windows and a more "open feeling" for which homeowners are willing to pay more money. He said homeowners are adding amenities such as whirlpool bathtubs, large kitchens with island food preparation areas, marble and tile floors, hot tubs and walk-in closets.
He believes housing in Utah is on the upswing and hopes it will continue. If it doesn't it could be back to the farm.