They're soaked at the gas pump no more

Homebuilders Joe La Monica and his son once spent $100 a week and hours of their time driving around Lake Norman visiting building sites.

In June, as gas prices continued to rise, the men ditched their gas-guzzling diesel pickup and SUV and switched to Sea Doos. The younger La Monica, Joe Jr., suggested the change to cut costs.

The family-owned custom homebuilder, La Monica Builders, operates out of La Monica's home on the lake. When the men need to visit work sites, they now head to the backyard and hop on their personal watercraft.

It used to take them 20 minutes to travel from one side of the lake to the other. Now, it's a four-minute trip. Instead of getting 18 miles per gallon, they get “several hundred.” What was once a $120 or so monthly gas bill has been cut by more than half.

The family-owned company typically builds eight to 12 homes a year, most on the water and priced from $800,000 to $2.5 million. This year, it expects to build slightly fewer and has to advertise more for business.

The La Monicas plan to stick with the Sea Doos through October, when it gets colder.

They've also started taking prospective homebuyers on tours via the water. With clients, they use a 28-foot Bowrider. They tell clients to wear shorts; children can bring swimsuits.

“It's a great way to help people feel more at ease with looking for a home,” Joe Sr. said. “It's good for us, regardless of where the gas prices are.”