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Bert Selva, CEO of Shea Homes, Shares Insight about his Leadership

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 / Urban Land Institute

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IRVINE, CA – Bert Selva, President and CEO of Shea Homes, one of the largest homebuilders in America, recently offered insights into his business strategy and leadership style with students at the ULI Leaders in Planned Communities, Residential Design & Urban Infill series. Co-hosted by Martin & Associates, the program provided an engaging learning experience for university students and housing professionals courtesy of leading innovators in the real estate industry. 

Celebrating a new era in innovation and leadership, Bert began the evening speaking about his career milestones.  Prior to joining Shea Homes, Bert was a senior executive and involved in all aspects of the start-up and business operations of the Colorado division of KB Home.  He previously served as chief financial officer with Signature Homes in Orange County, California.  Additionally, Bert served as a management consultant with Arthur Andersen & Company, and as an international banker working in Hong Kong, Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, Japan.  

His background, experience and the people he met along the way clearly led him to Shea Homes. Looking back over his education and early career, Bert made a point that remaining open to the unexpected is critical, valued relationships are lasting, and surviving the downturns allows you to move forward with many important lessons learned.  Point in case, Bert met Mike Woodley of Woodley Architects while working together at KB Home and this relationship is stronger than ever today, continuing to design new concepts for tomorrow’s buyers. 

In 1996, Bert assumed the role of president and launched the Colorado division of Shea Homes, beginning as most start ups do, working from home and his car. During his tenure, responsible for all homebuilding and commercial development activities in Colorado, he guided the division along an impressive growth curve.  Nine months after opening the division, Shea Homes received an offering memorandum regarding acquiring Highlands Ranch, one of the largest master planned communities in the country.   In just a matter of time, under his leadership, the 22,000-acre property was acquired and developed, and today remains one of the nation’s leading master-planned communities. 

Six years later another opportunity presented itself.  Honored and excited about the future, just turning 40, Bert accepted the position of CEO of Shea Homes in 2002.  Today, Shea Homes is operating in California, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, developing a myriad of home-styles. 

Known for reaching out to those in need, Bert has been awarded numerous prestigious awards including the Hearthstone “Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award and has been called “A Man for Others.”  It is a way of life that was instilled in him from an early age. His most personal mission though is to raise funds to find a cure for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig disease). 

Bert’s dedication and tireless energy is evident in HomeAid America, a non-profit organization that provides housing for the homeless. Bert served as chairman of the board of directors of HomeAid when the housing industry suffered its worst downturn in 60 years. 

In the spirit of helping others get back on their feet, in 2005, using innovative construction processes, Shea Homes was the first homebuilder on Extreme Makeover to fully scrape a house and build a brand new home in 96 hours, providing the Garay family with a new start and a touch of luxury.  Almost a year later, Shea Homes built a second home on Extreme Home Makeover for the Piestewa family in Arizona. 

Bert was very passionate when he talked about his team, the individual and collective strengths of each member and the company wide commitment to the Shea Homes charter of core values; honesty, integrity, teamwork and a culture of giving back. “Behavior is as critical as experience; an unexpected moment can impact beyond measure.” 

Simply stated, the Shea Homes culture is about “living the difference”. Specifically, it’s about caring enough to create one great customer experience after another—before, during and well after the purchase. While everyday can be challenging, this is the difference the Shea Homes team lives, expected to make the right decisions for the homebuyer, the company and each other. 

Shea Homes was ranked among the top 50 companies and received the coveted J.D. Power Customer Service Champion Recognition for two years in a row in 2011 and 2012, alongside powerful brands as Apple, Ritz Carlton, Mercedes Benz and Southwest Airlines. 

Equally important, Shea Homes is renowned for innovation.  “As a builder, Shea Homes enjoys competing on value,” said Bert.  “Our value equation is all about innovative design, quality and customer service, remaining focused on our purpose to enhance people’s lives.  The ability to deliver is made possible by our financial strength and lessons learned along the way.” 

Among their accomplishments in design innovation is “Spaces”, a contemporary, mid century modern product that is both functional and delivered at an affordable price point.  Introduced in 2010, the concept continues to be enthusiastically embraced in Phoenix and Denver.   

As the market continues to evolve, Shea Homes has recognized new opportunities to embrace flexibility in design and is reminded, “great design is only great if the consumer accepts it,” added Bert.  “Our latest product design called ‘Shea 3D’ was launched in 2013 and has been well received in all markets.  Buyers can choose the placement of their primary living spaces, from the kitchen to dining and entertainment areas to outdoor rooms and more.”  

Shea Homes’ highly successful Trilogy division develops active adult resort communities specifically for the Baby Boom generation, including other 55+ communities situated in master planned communities. These neighborhoods are focused on wellness, the active side of health and inspiring culinary experiences. 

Looking at the future, the company is also focused on Millennials, as homebuyers, the next-generation of our workforce and inspired leadership.  “Shea Homes embraces and is inspired by this generation and realizes technology plays a significant role in successfully connecting, literally and through our new home designs.”  

When asked where Bert finds inspiration, he answered, “History, the Automotive Industry, Fashion, Entertainment and Technology, the touchstones of our homebuyers’ lives.” 

How do the ideas become a reality? “Shea Homes has a secret weapon for product design, and his name is Howard Englander,” said Bert.  Howard, the principal of the Englander Company has been working with Shea Homes exclusively since 2001, specializes in product research, product development and marketing/merchandising concepts. “Howard oversees all architectural development for Shea Homes and participates in land acquisition.  He is like an artist who looks at what is missing in the market, what can be different and what is needed in the market. He is driven to deliver a superior product and experience.” 

Shea Homes has also awarded the Builder of the Year award by “Professional Builder Magazine” and was also named one of America’s Best Builders by “Builder Magazine.” 

Believing strongly in education of all forms, Bert holds a Business degree from the University of Southern California and an MBA from UCLA.  He is also fluent in Spanish. 

For more information on the upcoming ULI Industry Leaders programs, contact orangecounty@uli.orgThe Urban Land Institute ( is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the ULI has more than 40,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

Published by : Fran Bangert
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