Meet The Locals: David Stibbard

He started the famous Stibbard Homes back in the 70s, but these days Singleton local David Stibbard is enjoying his retirement – with good walks, good wine and a little ‘choir practice’ thrown in for good measure.

We chat to him about life, family and why the area is such a great place to live.

So, David, you’re very well known around the Singleton area because of Stibbard Homes – tell me about starting that company.

I’m retired now, so I no longer have any financial interest at Stibbard Homes, but when I started it back in the late 70s I formed relationships with a couple of project builders, to build project homes. Over time, the project home industry became so competitive, we devised a design and construction process that allowed us to only build homes we designed ourselves. It’s been great but the trick is, with homeowners, to marry budget and desire, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. But we developed this process over the years and I think we’ve got it down pat now!

Are you a builder yourself?

No, my background is in management and accounting. I saw that so many young guys who’d get their building licence would go out and start building and you know, you’re dealing with fairly large licks of money as a builder. Project progress payments can run into tens of thousands, and your management of that can let you down. So I saw that as an opportunity for me to start Stibbard Homes and employ people with trade backgrounds, while I looked after the business side of things.

Who’s at the helm now that you’re retired?

My daughter Samantha and Neil Albert are in partnership now. Sam initially started in town planning, but she’s been with the business 20 years now. And Neil was a school teacher when I met him, he taught industrial arts or something like that, but he did a bit of drafting [on the side] and he drew plans for me whilst he was still a school teacher. I ended up offering him a job! He’s very, very clever in interpreting people’s ideas. And so the company had a lot of success with our design and construct process.

How many homes do you reckon you’ve been involved in building over the years?

In the project home days, 20 to 30 homes a year. But they probably do half a dozen homes or so a year these days. I remember the first job we did was three homes for a local coal mining company, they were four-bedroom homes with a double garage. And the contract price for the whole three of them was $120,000! Today, that’d be the cost for the windows on some of the houses they build today.

Times change! It must be special seeing your daughter carry on the family business…

Indeed. I’ll tell you how well we get on. She and I had a month overseas together, just the two of us, at Christmas a year ago and there wasn’t a harsh word between us. We had a great time.

Was it hard to step away and retire?

Well at the end Neil and Sam wouldn’t let me near the clients anyway, they said I was too grumpy, so I think it helped them enormously that I actually did retire!

What’s retirement been like for you?

I get involved with the community a bit, although this year has been a bit trickier. I help out at the library, selecting books and delivering them to people who can’t make it to the library themselves. And I visit my wife of 50 years every day, or I try to – there have been some restrictions this year with Covid. She’s in care now, and she doesn’t know who I am, but I ride a pushbike over there every day and spend an hour or so there and it’s nice social interaction for her and for me too, as I know a lot of the people there and we chat and carry on.

Did your family always live in Singleton?

We’ve been here 45 years now. We used to have a little farm out of town. We lived there for 30 odd years. And when my wife went into care, we sold the farm and I bought a little house here in town, one that, funnily enough, I had built in 1979 for some clients.

Is it true what they say about people in construction being so busy building beautiful homes for other people, that they kind of never get to do up their own?!

Ha! Well, I had it all done up when I moved in, so I haven’t had to do anything for three or four years I’ve been here!

How has Singleton changed since you’ve lived there?

When I first came here, there were still quite a number of characters in the town, and some of them became my friends and we used to get up to all sorts of mischief. And it was a lot of fun. But as the town has changed in terms of not only population but in the demographic. There’s been a sort of a shift away from the rural character – they’re just dying off like flies! We lost our former mayor a few weeks ago now, and he was an absolute character, he knew everybody. That said, it’s always been a friendly town with a nice feel about it and that’s never changed.

Sounds like you’re not going anywhere…

Not til they discover a way of carrying me out in a cardboard box! Ha! Ha!

What are some of the best-kept secrets about Singleton?

There’s a great Men’s Shed here – I haven’t been a member for many years, but I was involved at the start when we actually built the shed. It’s quite a spectacular shed and the blokes involved with that do wonderful stuff – lots of community projects. They built a couple of chook pens at the aged care home my wife is at and they put up seats and do repairs around the community. The golf club has a nice little course and is good for a drink, too. There’s also lots of great walking trails and cycling trails – I have a little dog and I take her over to the park every day. And of course, we’re near some good wineries.

You like a nice drop then?

Well for a number of years I was on the committee of the Hunter Valley Wine Show and it gave me a lot of insight into the goings on at the wineries, and it also improved my palate and my appreciation of good wine. There’s usually a bottle open somewhere around the house! My other daughter and her husband have a vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula and they marvel at the reds that come out of the Hunter. They’re a lovely light red, quite different from anywhere else.

Anything else you really love to do around the area?

Well, I go to choir practice every Friday afternoon at the Imperial Hotel. It usually only involves drinking, there’s no singing, but if I tell people I’m going to choir practice they give me points for piety, don’t they?

Ha, ha! You’ve got it sorted out, David! Thanks for talking to me and sharing a bit about your life in Singleton.

No worries, I do think this area is a bloody good secret – a fabulous place to live, beautiful beaches at Newcastle and not far from so many good things. But anyway, I better go and get myself organised for choir practice!

Want to know more about Singleton locals? Check out our blog for fresh new posts, or get in touch with us.

Photo credits: Stibbard Homes

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