Who We Are

About Us

We are experts in building and renovating Northern Michigan's finest residences.

Our Core Values



From our initial meeting to final walkthrough, we strive everyday to secure and maintain your trust through open and honest communication.



For a home to have structural integrity it requires a team with the same solid foundation. We do what’s right, even when no one is looking.



The J.Peterson Homes team relies on over 100 years of combined experience in the custom homebuilding business.

Meet Joel Peterson

Our clients appreciate his involvement beginning in the planning stages of a project.

PHONE: 616-291-1816 | EMAIL: joel@joelpetersonhomes.com

Joel was born in Kalamazoo and raised in Grand Rapids. He graduated from Calvin College with an Economics degree. Joel started several small businesses while in and just out of college. It didn’t take long for the real estate and building industry to get into his blood. Joel began renovating and selling homes during which time he obtained his builders and real estate brokers license. In 1996 Joel founded Insignia Homes and helped to build that company until 2013 when he sold his interest there in order to found J. Peterson Homes. Joel is known for his attention to detail and love for design.

Joel’s real estate background makes him an expert in site selection, advising clients on the condition of the market in the area they are considering building or renovating. Joel then works closely with the homeowner to select the architecture and design team so important to any project. Once construction begins, Joel works closely with his team and the homeowner to achieve successful outcomes every time.

Joel has been married to Kris for over 25 years. They have 3 recent college graduate children and a high maintenance bird dog, Riggins. While much of Joel’s time is spent on the road working around Northern Michigan, he enjoys spending time in Leland and the Florida Keys in addition to hunting, fishing, and ski trips out west. Joel also volunteers his time mentoring at-risk public school children through KidsHope USA.

Grand Rapids and Traverse City Custom Home Builders

Meet The Team

Over 100 years of combined experience in the custom homebuilding business.

Grand Rapids and Traverse City Custom Home Builders

Michael Handlogten

PHONE: 616-291-1161 | EMAIL: mike@joelpetersonhomes.com

Michael is a West Michigan native and learned the building trade from his father, who was a life long carpenter/builder. He attended Western Michigan University where he studied Geography and Environmental Studies while under scholarship to play basketball. These experiences lead him to a life in building as a project manager on multi-million dollar custom homes where attention to detail, honesty, and hard work are key. He joined the J Peterson Team in September of 2019 as the Northern Operations Manager.

Jeff Kowatch

PHONE: 616-886-0654 | EMAIL: jeff@joelpetersonhomes.com

In 1992, Jeff started Kowatch Builders & Developers building custom homes throughout Northern Michigan. He specialized in lakefront and golf course homes while developing multiple site plan condominiums around the Otsego county area. Jeff developed the White Pine Plaza, a Business retail development that specialized in construction-type retail stores. Jeff relocated to the Grand Rapids area in 2004; started working for Mike Schaap Builders in 2005 as a Project Manager. From 2005 to 2015 he was involved in custom home projects ranging from 1 million up to 25 million. In May of 2015, Jeff joined J Peterson Homes as Operations Manager in East Grand Rapids.

Leigh Vander Molen

PHONE: 616-560-5792 | EMAIL: leigh@joelpetersonhomes.com

In addition to being a member of J.Peterson Realty, Leigh is also co-owner of Kava House Coffee and Bakery. With over two decades in business, Leigh brings a wealth of knowledge of her community and its people. Throughout the city, she has chaired numerous boards and sat on many committees. Personally, she and her husband, David, are busy with two elementary children and enjoy coaching at their school. As a life-long resident, please allow Leigh to assist you in finding a home in the city she loves.

Brenda Bauchan

PHONE: 616-460-6400 | EMAIL: brenda@joelpetersonhomes.com

Brenda has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems and had been involved with large corporate manufacturing environments for 25 years. You may also recognize her from her many years working and working out at East Hills. Her passion, work with project management and financial reporting systems are beneficial in the custom home and renovation business. Brenda lives in the Ada area with her husband and has a daughter who recently graduated from Michigan State University and now resides in Royal Oak, MI and a son who is a freshmen playing basketball at Lake Forest College in Illinois. When she’s not busy traveling to her son’s games, you will find her at the gym supporting her love for group fitness classes and yoga.

Grand Rapids and Traverse City Custom Home Builders

Matt Block

EMAIL: matt@joelpetersonhomes.com


Matt moved to Traverse City in May of 2014 from Southeast Wisconsin. He has many years of experience in Operations and Field Management with a focus on scheduling, team building, and logistics. Matt came from a background in framing and is driven to keep the team player atmosphere thriving on our job sites as well as the office. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty to make sure the job gets done. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and horseback riding. He joined the J Peterson Team in June of 2021 as our Assistant Project Manager.

Dondi Norton

After graduating from Traverse City Senior High, Dondi moved to Southeastern Michigan where he learned all aspects of the building trades.  Dondi is a trim carpenter by trade with a strong focus on remodeling.  He has worked as an independent contractor for over 25+ years and during that time he supervised, many large remodel projects in the Ann Arbor area.  In 2014 He decided to move back to Traverse City where most of his family still lived.  Dondi started working for J Peterson Homes in October 2019 as an independent contractor. In July of 2021, he joined the J Peterson Team as a project manager.