Hulbert Homes constructed this home on Palmola St near Lake Hollingsworth for Gary and Connie Ralston. The couple moved into the home in August.

Built to Last: How Hulbert Homes Continues to Rise to the Occasion

By RJ Walters
Photography by Jordan Randall

Mark Hulbert has never shied away from the hard, and often taxing, process of becoming great.

He sets his mind to something, he devises a plan and he finds people to bring with him on the journey.

He focuses on the little details, and builds his reputation on consistently executing at a high level.

And when opportunities come, he’s prepared to rise to the occasion.

We’re talking about the esteemed Lakeland home builder’s obsession with fitness, of course.

You might know Mark as the guy who over the past quarter century has earned a reputation as one of Central Florida’s finest custom home builders, but the same work ethic and zeal for life that has helped him prosper his company also recently earned him the title of 2023 DEKA Fit World Champion.

Standing outside a house Hulbert Homes completed along Lake Hollingsworth in August, Hulbert gleefully grins like a child as he shows a short video he took in Dallas, Texas of his victory in a competition that includes 10 different disciplines including rowing, air biking, box jumps and more.

“(My son says) I have a cardio addiction,” the 57-year-old says. “My son calls it CrossFit for small people because I’m, you know, [small.]”

Sure, he might appear slight of stature next to some of the towering homes he has constructed across Polk County, but his accomplishments, his generosity to reinvest in the community and his love for making an impact wherever he goes is no small feat.


The trademark clean lines and well lit spaces of Hulbert Homes are seen in this build.

“I got sucked into this realm of my excellent builder brother, and I was confident I knew how to build a house,” Mark said with a smile, noting that his brother is an “old school” builder who is hands-on all the time.

Just a Hobby to Help His Family

Hulbert’s first career was in the health physics field, specifically dealing with radiation safety, and funny enough, he initially ventured into home building as a hobby.

His brother Billy, who owns Hulbert Construction in Crystal River, was already building homes for a living, when Mark got the idea from a friend that he should build his own home to build equity and give his family a better life.

So he bought a lot off of Ewell Rd. for $10,000, and with his brother’s help, he built a home for about $55,000. He enjoyed the process so much that a year later he sold the home and built another one right next door.

When Mark’s wife, Linda, who is Vice President of Hulbert Homes, became pregnant with the couple’s son, Kyle, she nudged her husband to consider getting a contractor’s license, in part because she wanted to be able to stay home for a year.

Mark started closely inspecting the work of other local builders—everything from how miters fit together to materials used—and he realized he could compete.

“I got sucked into this realm of my excellent builder brother, and I was confident I knew how to build a house,” he says with a smile, noting that his brother is an “old school” builder who is hands-on all the time.

Technically Mark needed more experience to be able to take the licensure test, but Tom Joyner III of Joyner Lumber wrote him a recommendation letter and other friendly Polk County colleagues helped him expedite the process.

At that point, all he needed was someone to trust him to build their home.

Two Men With Astro Vans

At a now-defunct Lakeland hardware store called Scotty’s Mark saw an Astro van, just like his, with the kind of hitch he dreamed of. When he saw the owner, he struck up a conversation.

“I said,’ I was just looking at your hitch, man.’ He goes, ‘I’ve got another one at my house. You wanna come over, take a look at it?’”

Within a few hours, the guy—Mike Cox— was underneath his van, and he started welding and installing a hitch to Mark’s Astro.

While Mark wondered to himself how he was going to pay for the hitch, he and Mike struck up a conversation about how Mike was designing his dream home, looking for just the right builder. Mark was still waiting for his contractor’s license to arrive in the mail, but made enough of an impression to peak Mike’s interest.

“The trouble was his wife (Alana) did not want to hire me because I was a guy with no license, but we hit it off,” Mark recalls. “Then I brought him over to the house, showed him my work and told him the whole story.”

Soon after, Hulbert and the Coxs identified a lot in Summerland Hills off of Clubhouse Rd., and his first build commenced.  That was in 1997—and nearly 1,800 home builds ago.

““The trouble was his wife (Alana) did not want to hire me because I was a guy with no license, but we hit it off. Then I brought him over to the house, showed him my work and told him the whole story.”

– Mark Hulbert on securing his first building job 


Mark Hulbert and close friends completed an Ironman competition in 2016, and he continues what his son jokes is his "cardio obsession."

The Value of a Clean Job Site

Hulbert recalls how he and Linda would check on that job daily, making sure it looked pristine and was on schedule. He was still working his other job, but treating the home as if it was his only gig. It turns out that Summerland Hills was host to the Polk County Builders Association Parade of Homes that year, and Hulbert, a brand new builder on the scene, had a product good enough to take home several awards.

In 1998, Hulbert Homes built seven homes, and that number grew to 16 in 1999.

Today, the company builds around 70 homes per year, and has recently expanded to outside of Polk County with its selection as a preferred builder for a development in Palm Coast.

Hulbert has never wavered from the essentials of continual communication with his clients, and the importance of keeping a clean job site.

Don Geller was so impressed with how tidy Hulbert kept his job sites years ago, when he was deciding on a builder for his next home, that earned Mark his business.

Hulbert Homes went on to build Don and his wife, Linda, a 4,000 square foot home, an 8,000 square foot home several years later, and finally a house in Grasslands when the couple decided to downsize. All three of those homes were Parade of Homes winners.

“They only live in award-winning homes,” Hulbert says, with a hint of disbelief. “That story is unheard of because it all stems from a clean job site.”


Keeping Pace With Trends

Hulbert says the process of building a home is nearly the same as it was decades ago, but the construction of the homes and the technology has drastically changed in the past 10 years.

When you walk into the home of Gary and Connie Ralston on Palmola St., with a breathtaking view of Lake Hollingsworth off their front porch and second-level balcony, you can see how Hulbert Homes builds modern homes with efficiency, a spectacular aesthetic and a personalization that comes back to the distinct dreams of every homeowner.

Connie, who owns Liv Designs Co., designed and decorated the home to mix modern with mid century vibes. She credits Mark and his team for helping her and her husband—who is a managing partner at SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate—for helping bring their vision to life.

“He took my design, tweaked it, and made it more financially reasonable to build,” she says. “Their team was very patient with me from the beginning…came up with solutions and was wonderful to work with.”

The laundry room of the Ralston residence includes a floor-to-ceiling wall of modern cabinets that seamlessly blend into the space. Hulbert said that he sees more and more customers invest money and time into laundry rooms.

“Years ago laundry rooms used to be stuck wherever, but now they have big countertops and little craft spaces and are multi-use because they are a big part of people’s lives.”

Hulbert said people are also focused on building garages to be more of a functional space, complete with more cabinets and spaces to accommodate their hobbies. Not everyone shares this opinion, but not surprisingly, Hulbert’s favorite room in his own home is the gym. His personal gym is backlit with colored LEDs, inspired by Tony Horton of P90X acclaim, and of course he has top-notch air flow and air filtration built in.

No matter what trends come into the industry, Hulbert Homes sticks with its 22-step “Proven Process” that it utilizes for each build—something Mark jokes is akin to a Candyland board that his clients are excited to work their way through.

This Hulbert Home Designed by Liv Designs Co.

The Place They Treat Like Home

When you spend time with Mark Hulbert, he’ll gladly talk about building homes and you might hear about his current workout regimen, but you always come away with an appreciation for his heart for Lakeland, and the people who live in our city.

The company’s philanthropic endeavors are ongoing.  Several years ago Hulbert Homes built a home for single moms and their children on the campus of non-profit One More Child, and Hulbert will soon be building an apartment on the site of the non-profit Hope House in Bartow, where the House and Program Director will live.

Hulbert Homes has also supported a number of local ministries, including Idols Aside Ministries.

“We do this so we can help others—that’s our mission,” he said. “When you pour into something meaningful for the community it’s even more emotional…and when we were out there at One More Child and were painting and scraping the house, it was wonderful—it was a thing of beauty.”

He’s clearly grateful for the sustained success he has earned, but when you ask him what has made the difference, he always points back to the people of Lakeland.

“When you get to know people here in Lakeland, they’re amazing. They all have great stories, have great families,” he says, and then pauses to try and find the right words. “I don’t know, how do you end up where you’re doing this? I don’t know, but I’m lucky, I’m fortunate, I’m blessed to be right here in Lakeland.”