BROKEN ARROW — The more frills, the better.
That was a real estate mantra espoused Friday by local developer Nick Lombardi at the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa’s Economic Forecast luncheon at Forest Ridge Golf Club.
“Amenities are going to drive everything,” said Lombardi, vice president of leasing and sales for Frisbie Lombardi Commercial Real Estate Services in Tulsa. “We’ve already seen this in retail. Whole Foods is about to put tattoo parlors in five of their stores.
“I call this the Las Vegas thinking. They want to keep you in the casino as long as they can. These amenities are what’s going to differentiate one product from another. That is pools. That is office areas, tattoo parlors, hairdressers, liquor stores, private bars. All these amenities are what’s going to drive the millennial generation into moving someplace else.”
Lombardi was among four speakers at the luncheon, joining his father, Frisbie Lombardi owner Tony Lombardi, along with Arvest Bank executive Chris Hodges and National Association of Home Builders chief economist Robert Dietz. The seminar focused on housing affordability, housing production, workforce demand, lending opportunities and the residential relationship to the retail, office and multifamily sectors.
Nick Lombardi said the push for consumer conveniences extends to Bed Bath & Beyond, which is working toward independent footprints for each of its stores.
“As weird as that sounds, they want you to be excited about the Bed Bath & Beyond in Austin, Texas,” Nick Lombardi said. “It’s going to different than the one in Denver. It’s going to be different than the one in Chicago.
“When you go on vacation to a new city, they want you to go to their store because there’s something new and different there that you won’t see anywhere else. That trend in retail is going to continue across the board until someone loses too much money.”
The Lombardis also talked about hindrances to development, including endangered and threatened species such as the American burying beetle and the long-eared bat.
“If the burying beetle is in a piece of ground that we have, we can’t close the sale,” Tony Lombardi said. “We can’t develop. We can’t disturb it, and we can’t do anything about it.
“A lot of times, that is in areas that are close to water, like near the Arkansas River, near tributaries or creek beds. … That stops what we’re doing. And guess what? If it stops what we’re doing, it stops what you’re doing.”
Dietz, who was named NAHB’s chief economist this month, said supply-side headwinds are constraining home building. But he added that the 2016 forecast shows 15 percent nationwide growth for single-family homes.
“Existing home inventory has been basically flat for a couple of years,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we see prices going up. They keep saying, ‘Well, builders need to build more.’
“There are reasons that building is growing, but it is not growing as fast as some people would like. Those include what I’ve been calling the three L’s, which are shortages of lots, labor and lending.”
Developers must focus on creativity to survive, Tony Lombardi said.
“What you have to do in this business — and we’ve done it since we’ve been in it — is find ways of developing property,” he said. “The base has got to be there. You have to have homes, you have to have warm bodies. You have to have people in the area that can be customers.
“So from the optimistic standpoint … I think we’re stable. I think we have some real good opportunities. But all the things we’re faced with right now with zoning, from the long-eared bat, the burying beetle, we can overcome most of that if we find a creative way to approach it.”