Home-start total highest since 2009
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/02/13 at 7:01 AM
Local home builders reversed a slump in 2012 as new-home construction shot up nearly 32 percent.
Data service New Orders Weekly reports that 2,341 homes were built last year across metropolitan Tulsa.
Not only is that much better than the 1,777 in 2011, but also it's the best year for home construction since 2009.
Jeff Smith, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa, said he and other builders don't just love the upturn, they're grateful for its predictability.
"Most importantly it was a nice, steady increase," he said. "Every month was better than the month the year before."
Smith said the rise was propelled by low interest rates, reasonable prices and pent-up demand from people who cut back during tougher economic times.
Sam Smith, owner of Tradition Homes, said his business has been improving due to many more potential buyers hoping to get a new home.
"We're seeing increasing demand thanks to a shortage of product, as well as an increase in prices," he said.
The stronger need for new homes has Sam Smith doing more speculative construction - or at least trying to.
"We set out to build homes to sell on spec, but we're not making it because they're bought before we finish building them," he said.
Although Tradition Homes doesn't employ anyone in the traditional sense, Sam Smith said he's been able to expand his use of subcontractors, which enables those businesses to hire more and buy equipment they've been putting off.
Tom Pepper, president of New Orders Weekly, said the worst of the home-building slump appears to be behind Tulsa, although construction remains far behind pre-recession levels.
"We're still building, though with fewer homes and fewer builders," he said.
Construction in 2005 remains the benchmark; with 4,997 homes built, it was the best year in the last 11.
Metro Tulsa's 2012 home-start total was helped by a strong December, when construction began on 205 homes, even though building traditionally slows in the winter.
With particularly favorable weather conditions, December was the fifth-best month of the year.
"We had good weather and not a lot of rain, plus a lot of builders are preparing to build for the next Parade of Homes," Sam Smith said, referring to the annual promotional event.
National home construction was just shy of matching Tulsa's rate. An estimated 813,400 homes were started in 2012, topping the previous year by 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Tulsa took the 2012 crown for new homes from traditional construction leader Broken Arrow. Records show 410 permits for Tulsa compared to 403 in Broken Arrow.
Owasso, Bixby and Jenks rounded out the top five with 222, 221 and 209 starts respectively.
Jeff Smith said he's optimistic that construction will continue to grow.
"I'd love to see another 30 percent increase, but we'll probably have 15 to 20 percent," he said.
Pepper said he believes it's hard to predict what will happen, though he did note a spike in permits last week.
"This week we've had 60 starts, compared to an average of 40 to 45 starts per week for the last 10 months," he said, "though some of that could be affected by the closures during Martin Luther King Jr. Day."
Original Print Headline: Home starts rebound
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
A partially built home awaits completion in Jenks on Friday. Each month last year, home-start totals topped the comparable tally in 2011. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World