Then & Now: Justin Salter finding success as banker-turned-homebuilder

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,732 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Aug. 5 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.


Justin Salter, vice president of Northrock Builders in Tontitown, said being a homebuilder is a way of life. There’s no downtime. He might take a call after hours or on the weekend, but these are not issues because he said he has the opportunity to take off on a Monday or Thursday to spend time with his children.

The Conway native started to become involved in residential real estate investments when he was president of Chambers Bank of North Arkansas.

“I naturally invested in some outside real estate deals,” Salter said. “And that kind of led to where I am today.”

Salter was president of the bank when he was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2006. He served as president for about four years and left the bank in 2009.

Salter, 42, remained involved in real estate after leaving the bank and was a partner in limited liability companies that invested in real estate in Northwest Arkansas.

“It’s kind of blossomed into what I’m doing today,” he said. “I’m still kind of doing the same thing, only now I’m able to go out and buy properties that we view, through Northrock Builders, as good investments for us to build on.

“My job kind of started out of necessity. Now, it’s something I enjoy doing.”

Salter also received a license to sell insurance in 2009 and worked for an insurance company that was purchased by Sims & Renner Insurance. He was with the company for about three years.

Afterward, he worked for Riverwood Homes for nearly three years and invested in houses and lots. His portfolio of investments grew to the point in which he could establish his own company.

“I grew up in the real estate business,” Salter said. “My dad started his real estate company the same year I was born in 1976. It’s something I’ve been around and known for a long time. It just created an easy transition for me when we started Northrock Builders.”

About five years ago, Salter and Aaron Birdsong established Northrock Builders in Fayetteville. The company has since relocated to Tontitown.

“We’re currently building homes in Centerton, Tontitown, Prairie Grove, Bentonville — basically Northwest Arkansas,” Salter said. “When we started the company, we wanted to keep Aaron and me busy. And we thought that would be 10 to 15 homes a year.”

Since the company was established, it’s exceeded expectations. In its first year, the company built 25 homes and has built more than 150 homes throughout the region.

Salter declined to release revenue but said the company been growing 10% annually.

“I call it a calculated growth,” he said. “Where years ago you did anything and everything you could real estate-wise because the market was so good and everything was so perfect. Now that we’ve all lived through a downturn, I realize that just because the spreadsheet says it’s going to work, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work.

“We’re not trying to conquer the world. We’re just trying to build a good quality home and really make sure our customers are buying homes they’re satisfied with.”

About 85% of the homes Northrock builds are spec homes. They range in size from 1,500 square feet to 3,600 square feet. The focus has been a range between 2,000 and 2,600 square feet. The company has four full-time employees.

“We try and go into a subdivision and purchase lots with one or two other builders and just slowly build out a subdivision,” he said. “We’ve not ventured into the development phases at this point in time. We have enough inventory to last us through the end of next year. After that point in time, if the market doesn’t change, I would see us having to buy land and develop ourselves.”

Salter attends Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville and enjoys spending free time with his three children.