Silliman CitySide Homes won Best Custom Home in the $1 million to $1.25 million category in 2017. The annual event is sponsored by the Greater Orlando Builders Association.



Jeff Schnellmann isn’t bashful about letting people know that his luxury homebuilding company is “not for everybody.” 

Schnellmann, owner of Silliman CitySide Homes, certainly has the experience and the ability to build a start-to-finish, one-of-a-kind custom home. But his company also offers a more standardized approach that yields homes every bit as luxurious as most original custom creations — but which require far less hassle (and usually lower cost) for buyers.

It’s a formula that the company’s founder, legendary Orlando builder and industry leader Bill Silliman, made successful when he started the company more than 30 years ago. Consequently, the company has survived and thrived regardless of the roller coaster economy.

“The idea here is to make the process simpler for our buyers,” says Schnellmann, who builds up to four homes annually. “Our structured approach allows them to get what they want at a fair price — and they know what that price is going to be as they’re going forward.”

Simple and straightforward. It’s pretty much been Schnellmann’s way for his more than 40 years in homebuilding, including nearly three decades as either a company owner or executive. 

In 2012, Schnellmann joined founder Silliman, whose company was then called Silliman Homes, as chief operating officer. A few years later, with Silliman preparing to retire, Schnellmann took over the operation, which by that time had changed its name to Silliman CitySide Homes.

Schnellmann, who took ownership in 2015, kept the name for obvious brand-recognition reasons. “Silliman” had become synonymous with high-end design, superb craftsmanship and innovation. And the company had won a plethora of industry awards.

For Schnellmann, it’s been a smart move — largely because simple and straightforward haven’t been synonymous with unimaginative. He says: “Every once in a while, somebody will ask me, ‘Well, what style house do you build?’ And the answer to that is: ‘We don’t have a style. The style we build is the style our clients want.’”

Examples: During a typical preliminary client meeting, the Silliman CitySide Homes design display page might contain 20 or more different home elevations. But in September, work began on a demolition/rebuild in rural Oviedo of a distinctive U-shaped house wrapped around a swimming pool.

“We’re going to do it the way the client wants it, and we’re going to do it in a simple structured approach — so that they know their cost and the timeframe, assuming they’re decisive,” Schnellmann notes.

Notably, such thinking can be traced to Bill Silliman. In 2014, Silliman launched “Silliman Dream Planner,” described in a press release at the time as “a user-friendly technology designed specifically for our new home-building venture, Silliman CitySide.” 

Silliman was believed to be the first builder in the country to incorporate the technology, which allowed a prospective buyer to select a home plan and a specific neighborhood location, then calculate the monthly payment based on a specific down payment.

Yet, Schnellmann also has brought his own ideas to the table — knowledge gleaned from decades of work in the field as well as through extensive involvement in such organizations as the Greater Orlando Builders Association and the Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA). 

“This largely means I do a lot of work,” Schnellmann says. “However, it’s rewarding. Mostly, it’s giving back to the industry that has provided my livelihood for over 40 years. And when you’re involved, you know things before the rest of the building public knows.”

Also, Schnellmann’s work with FHBA has led to his serving as an owner’s representative for Ability Housing, a nonprofit company based in Jacksonville that provides affordable and homeless transitional housing. Schnellmann is the company’s “eyes and ears on the ground.”

For sure, Schnellmann stays busy — which doesn’t leave much time for his favorite hobby. “I would rather snow ski than eat,” he says, pointing out his western New York roots.

At a deceptively youthful 68, he’s also a workout warrior, lifting weights and swimming when possible at the YMCA and biking for seemingly endless miles. “Young at heart, old at body,” he jokes.

Above all, though, Schnellmann likes simple and straightforward. That means work. His assessment: “To say I’m a workaholic would not be wrong, or it would be close.”