From building the pirate ship on Treasure Island nearly 20 years ago to building and renovating high-end homes in Las Vegas today, Scott Acton and his specialty contractors Forte are riding the wave of the luxury real estate.
In a luxury segment with limited inventory, putting an aging home over $1 million on the market does not guarantee there will be a buyer, even with such high demand. Buyers today want the latest technology, high-end finishes and more open floor plans.
Some owners, such as Forte CEO and founder Acton, are jumping on board this trend, spotting opportunities to tap into the rugged luxury market that craves modern designs.
Acton bought a 2003 home at Red Rock Country Club for $1.025 million in September 2020. He spent a year updating the home and put it on the market for $3.5 million. Forte Specialty Contractors builds some of the most expensive new homes in Las Vegas, including several at the Summit Club in Summerlin.
The two-story home listed by her daughter, Samantha Paez, a realtor with Signature Real Estate Group, measures 4,546 square feet after adding 100 square feet. It has five bedrooms, six bathrooms and an office that can be used as a gym.
“We acquired the house because it was the right place at the right time,” Acton said. “It’s on the Red Rock Golf Course. The way houses were designed (20 years ago) is not what people are looking for today. We have completely gutted this house and changed its structure. We added steel windows and doors to the house. We have modernized everything. It’s a flush base and (high end upgrades) throughout with contemporary marble and stone. It’s a special place.
The remodeled home has Diana Royal marble flooring beyond the gold lacquered metal slat wall that separates the dining and living areas. There’s a double-island kitchen with marble countertops that features white European millwork finishes, Viking appliances and custom banquette seating, Paez said.
The boudoir, the bathroom and an en-suite bedroom are on the first level, the other four en-suite bedrooms being upstairs. The master bedroom features a patio, custom fabric headboard mounted to the wall, with a floor-to-ceiling Vanilla Onyx marble tub, Paez said.
The back yard has new etched concrete, landscaping and a new pool and spa overlooking the golf course.
Forte, based in Las Vegas, also operates in California and Arizona. The company is building 15 homes for its clients at The Summit, adjacent to Red Rock Country Club. Acton said they do luxury renovations like the latter only for homes they acquire and resell.
“We typically build between $10 million and $20 million, and we thought that level of sophistication and fit and finish would bode well in older country clubs,” Acton said. “I think people are not prepared to the level it takes to create a house like this. It was a year-long process – redesign and structural engineering. It takes a special skill to deliver at this level. We do a lot of that in Southern California by taking a lot of beach properties and adding value.
Acton said the homes they’ve built atop, for example, cost between $2,000 and $2,200 a square foot. They renovate homes for $700 to $800 a square foot.
“We see a real sweet spot there,” Acton said. “Normally we build from scratch for clients. We find properties in the right zip code and the right gated community, or if it’s on a golf course or has a lake or ocean view. This are our goals, and we can bring that level of sophistication and execution to these different developments that will cost more.Our business is moving away from customers and into our own development.
Acton said his daughter, who has worked for him for three years, is looking for the properties.
Paez said many homes in Red Rock Country Club and other neighborhoods priced similar to what they had are on the market because they were built between 2001 and 2005 and haven’t been updated.
“With this property, we revised the floor plan because the architects of 20 years ago, people don’t live like that anymore,” Acton said. “It’s a family house, but it’s open and lives in one room. A mother (or father) of four to five children can stand in the kitchen and see the pool.
Renovating homes over 4,000 square feet requires a major overhaul. Several walls were removed and new electrical and plumbing systems were installed.
“When we first saw the house, we ended up adding a full bedroom and bathroom,” Paez said. “That’s where some of the square footage went in as well as the living room. He had fine bones and was ready for a complete makeover. It was extremely outdated. There were older, darker cabinets that were gone, but now we have European white cabinets.
The master bathroom was extended into the bedroom because it was so big, Paez said. People live more in their bathroom than in their bedroom, and they’ve added a makeup counter to it.
“I think it definitely caters to being a family home,” Paez said. “We have a double island, a large pantry and a banquette. This is ideal for receptions and large groups of people. It’s warm and friendly with warm marble floors as well as kitchen counters and bathrooms. The stone in the bathroom is beautiful.
Acton said the homes they build and renovate have “a feeling for them”. His company is what he called “experiential builders” that started in the theme park business and eventually branched out into hospitality, experiential dining and retail.
“The light fixtures and acoustics in the house, and the softness and livability are just different from what you see,” Acton said. “Just because a house is bigger doesn’t mean it’s special for the customer. It needs to be thought through, and we put a lot of thought, love and care into our developments. If you look at the before and after for it, it’s just mind-boggling what it was compared to what it is, today.
Acton said he trained with casino magnate Steve Wynn. His firm has worked for Wynn in Macau and Las Vegas for its properties. Forte built Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace and Carbone at Aria Las Vegas. The company made Margaritaville for Universal Studios and worked on Disney projects.
“We were incredibly lucky and exposed to a lot of different projects,” Acton said. “Taking that experiential side of the world and integrating it into how people live is really special. And in these last few years of the COVID pandemic, people are valuing time more than a lot of things. That’s why it’s important to deliver something that’s been done Not everyone can see the difference but there are a select few (who) can walk in and notice those finishes and don’t mind being ready to pay for them. That’s what we want to offer people.
Acton said he was pushed into the luxury home market working for Wynn Resorts, his biggest commercial client.
Former Wynn COO Marc Schorr asked Acton to build him a 13,000 square foot home at the top in less than 14 months. It was one of the first houses built in the luxury resort complex.
“Typically in this industry it takes a lot longer,” Acton said. “We approach construction very differently, like a commercial builder because that’s how we were trained. This allows us to speed up. We do some of the trades ourselves. We have 180 employees and are well equipped for whatever comes our way.
Some of the most spectacular homes they’ve built that they can’t talk about because there are nondisclosure agreements, Acton said. Outside of Las Vegas, they have built estates in Newport Beach and Dana Point in California and West Palm Beach in Florida.
“We’ve worked with some of the most amazing architects and designers in the world, and we’re very lucky,” Acton said.
Some of the homes Acton said he built at the Summit are worth between $20 million and $50-60 million. They have built four houses so far, five are at a construction stage and another six to eight will start next year, he said.
“A lot of them haven’t traded hands yet,” Acton said. “A few that have, are trading north of $2,300 to $2,400 a square foot, which puts a 20,000 square foot home at what number?”
That would mean the homes would be on the market for around $50 million.
Acton said there are still a significant number of homes to be built in the Summit, and he expects what they were contracted for, to be completed by mid-2024. Homes range in size from 10,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet.
Acton said he continues to be surprised by the luxury market in Las Vegas. If the trend line remains as it is in California, the market will continue to grow in Las Vegas, he said.
“The homes we’re building at Summit are legacy homes,” Acton said. “I feel like people are building their dream home. They retire or have some sort of liquidity event. With the security they offer there, golf and restaurant (everything) is world class service. The Summit has changed luxury in Las Vegas forever. It changed the vision of Las Vegas. For the people who come here now, (they are) a different breed, very sophisticated and creative people.