Solid ground

Numbers provided by the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association and the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of Realtors indicate both building permits and home sale closings from January through October 2013, the most recent months for which reports were available, have increased over the same period in 2012.

Building permits for single-family homes are up nearly 20% across central Oklahoma, hitting 5,331 through October, compared to 4,350 during the same time in 2012. While some of the building boon is realized in Moore, which is still recovering from a devastating tornado in May, the cities of Oklahoma City, Edmond, Mustang, Piedmont, Blanchard, Newcastle and Tuttle have all seen substantial growth in activity.

“It has been a good year. Home building and remodeling have both picked up substantially,” says Don Chesser, president of Don Chesser Homes Inc. “We’re getting more people coming out now, looking for customs rather than going in and buying an existing home.”

One
of the biggest challenges for builders, Chesser says, is a lack of
remaining land across the metro area on which to establish new housing
developments.

“What’s left is so expensive, and the bigger builders are really buying up the land,” he says.

A
shortfall in available property may be one of the reasons homebuyers
looking to build a custom home are choosing the suburbs. Fewer new
developments may also be driving some potential buyers’ interest in
remodeling an existing home.

“I’ll talk to people now, and they may say, ‘We like our house, we like our neighbors; we just want to remodel,’” Chesser says.

Popular
in both new and existing homes is a focus on the kitchen, especially
outdoor kitchens and fire pits where homeowners can extend their
entertaining space.

“The weather has been really nice this year, and more people are getting out on the patio to enjoy the outdoors,” Chesser says.

A Seller’s Market

The
sales of existing homes as tracked by OKCMAR is also trending well with
closings for the first 10 months of 2013, reaching 16,843 — topping
15,524 during the same time period in 2012 and 13,303 in 2011. So many
homes are being snatched off the market that active listings are down as
many as 2,000 from the usual inventory, says Keith Taggart, broker for
Coldwell Banker Select – Mustang and president of OKCMAR.

Some
of the inventory is being absorbed by a growing population. As noted in
recent reports from Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s office, the
metro area is gaining an average of 2,000 new residents a month, and
Taggart says many of the buyers he sees includes relocations.

“It is a very good year to be in real estate,” says Taggart. “It’s almost like the floodgates have opened.”

With
existing home inventory shrinking, it’s a sellers’ market, as some of
the nicer properties are receiving multiple offers, says Taggart.
Overall, homes are selling at an average of 97% of the list price.

The
market is flourishing throughout the metro area, but there is “a huge
interest in Downtown,” he says. While some singlefamily homes are
available in the core area, it’s easier to find townhome or multifamily
living in the heart of the city, and area projects continue to attract attention and buyers.

And
while there’s always a good mix of buyers looking to size up or down
depending on their individual needs, those who are buying smaller are
usually doing so because of retirement or kids leaving the house.

“We don’t notice much downsizing because of financial concerns, which is good,” Taggert says.

A
top concern of many homebuyers — and those seeking new construction —
is whether the property offers a storm shelter; properties that do seem
to have an advantage over those that don’t.

“That’s really something different over even the last six months, for obvious reasons,” Taggart says.

Chesser says that over the past year, nearly all of the new homes he has built have included storm shelters, and shelter dealers are booked out as long as three months to install this feature.

Three-car
garages, as well as granite countertops in the kitchen, can also make a
big difference in the ability to sell a home, according to Taggart.

Borrowing money for less

Low and steady interest rates are the catalyst for much of residential
real estate activity not just in Oklahoma but nationwide. According to
OKCMAR, the average interest rate for all loans on homes closed through
October 2013 was 3.85%, up only slightly from 3.69 during the same time
period the previous year.

“We’ve
had this super low interest rate for a few years,” Chesser says. “I
think it’s helping considerably, but really anything 7% or less is still
great.”

Both Taggart
and Chesser believe 2014 will be an even better year in the resale and
building market than 2013, and forecasts by the National Association of
Realtors and the National Association of Homebuilders support the
prediction, although slightly more cautiously. Oklahoma seems to be
faring particularly well in the housing market, according to Chesser.

“One
of the biggest factors here is the workmanship in the metro area. It’s
so much better than other parts of the country,” he says. “I hear that
consistently from people moving here from out of state and other areas.”

And residents are showing confidence in the future of Oklahoma City, which is fine with Chesser.

“People
feel good about our area, they feel good about their jobs and our
unemployment is really low,” he says. “It’s a great thing for us as a
city.”

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