For owner-occupied and investment homes for sale, it's been a sellers' market because of low supply for quite a while. For new homes, it's been a builders' market.
With 2021 still in diapers, here are some final glances back and some looks forward by some prominent metro-area homebuilding companies.
Homes by Taber
What was the biggest lesson from 2020 for a builder?
"Never stop improving. Always look for ways to improve, implement those improvements, and allow your customers to reap the benefits," said Lindsay Haltom, Director of Marketing. "At Homes by Taber, we have always considered ourselves a technology company that builds homes, which has inspired us to constantly look for ways to improve our customer’s experiences through technology and streamlined processes. Wow, did this all come to the forefront in 2020! Our team of directors has learned that leaning into our customers' experiences and listening to every voice has allowed us to grow and serve them even better."
The biggest surprise (aside from a plague)?
"Although the virus proved to bring a wide range of varying challenges for the families we serve, it also opened their eyes to what they need in a home and how they want to spend time in their space," Haltom said. "While we anticipated this being our biggest year ever, it surpassed our expectations as interest rates stayed low and families spent more time indoors. So many of the virtual tools we put in place in 2018 and 2019 became critical for home shoppers in 2020. Being able to design a home online was a cool convenience in 2019, but a critical component to the buying cycle in 2020."
"Between COVID-19 and the massive fires, supply chains were dramatically impacted, which caused the Taber team to become laser-focused on getting the amount of building supplies we needed, when we needed them," Haltom said. "Over the years, it’s been our goal to become the ‘builder of choice’ for high-quality vendors and trades around the country by finding ways to become true partners with them.
"These previous efforts really proved to be impactful as 2020 hit the construction business hard, with partners around the country standing behind Homes by Taber and pledging to provide what we needed so we could serve our growing number of customers. Our customers depend on us to have their new home ready on their closing dates and because of our strong partnerships and the hard work in all internal departments, we were able to meet those close dates."
"While we wish that 2021 would solve all of the word’s problems and Jan. 1 would have made the pandemic vanish, that isn’t the case," Haltom said. "Builders will continue to face supply chain issues and Homes by Taber will continue to strengthen our vendor and trade partnerships to overcome those issues. Customers will rightfully continue to expect the best service and resources and we will continue to rise to that challenge. We are working on many new online tools now that will allow customers to shop in the way they feel most comfortable, whether that is in person or at home in 2021."
Biggest lesson for a builders?
"Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods saw a drastic need to increase production to meet these needs of home buyers. This required flexible leadership, increased homesite releases and new partners," said Erin Yarbrough, director of marketing for the Norman-based builder. "Business processes and procedures changed quite a bit to increase quantity, provide excellent customer experiences, and continue the same level of high quality our homeowners have come to expect. The number of homesites we release per section was increased, an overhaul of our concrete process yielded more pours per week, and new land development projects were fast-tracked."
For a buyer?
"With the lowest home supply levels we’ve ever seen, buyers are having to commit early to get the homes they want. We anticipate that we will continue to see low levels of supply in the Oklahoma City market in 2021," Yarbrough said.
"Land availability is and will continue to be a challenge. There is a lot of demand for land in the top school districts and the strong long-term land development progress Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods has made leading to this point is proving critical," she said. "We anticipate to continue to see a low supply of homes in the Oklahoma City market for the near future. As materials continue to rise in cost, our efficiency becomes more critical to keep costs as affordable as possible. It’s also important for buyers to know that a home today will cost less than a home six months from now because of these factors."
Lessons from 2020?
"While the pandemic did cause a moment of pause in home sales in the spring of 2020, which is usually considered the hottest season for the residential market, the market quickly made an impressive rebound," said Shawn Lawrence, vice president of sales and acquisitions. "With interest rates remaining at historically low rates, many buyers are looking for newly constructed homes because of a shortage of existing homes on the market. There simply wasn’t enough houses for sale over the past year to meet buyer demand."
For a builder, "Being nimble and keeping up with demand in a timely manner" is critical, he said. "Residential development is extremely capital-intensive, typically requiring a lengthy entitlement process and we’ve experienced many COVID-19-related delays. One of our recent projects took over eight months to get the entitlements and permits approved."
"With the recent downfall in retail and other industries affected by COVID-19, many folks are turning to the construction industry for career opportunities," Lawrence said.
"While the homebuilding industry faces the headwinds of higher construction costs — particularly lumber — and a shortage in skilled workforce, the overall outlook for the housing sector is positive," Lawrence said. "TimberCraft Homes is proud to be a bright part in the economy and the possibilities to add significant job growth locally is something we pride ourselves in. The homebuilding business generates millions of dollars in taxes and fees to support the local schools, police and fire fighters. We are really excited about our existing and new communities coming this year.'
"Specific to homebuilders, as the demand for new homes improved throughout the year, the biggest challenges that arose in the Oklahoma City area were a shortage of qualified, healthy sub-contractors to build homes and delayed inspections," said Devin Holloway, vice president of city operations in Oklahoma City for D.R. Horton, based in Arlington, Texas. "Our long-term expectations remain positive for delivering quality new homes to our homebuyers, and with home loan rates still at record lows, the demand for housing remains strong."
Real Estate Editor Richard Mize edits The Oklahoman’s Real Estate section, and covers housing, construction, commercial real estate, and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription at http://oklahoman.com/subscribe today.
Original article can be found here.