If you’re looking for evidence of the nation’s housing recovery, it’s risen along Genoa Court, a sunny cul-de-sac in the Landin Parke addition in New Haven.
Seven new homes have been built there for this year’s Fort Wayne Home Builders Association’s Parade of Homes – which had been on hiatus since 2011 in part because of tight times in the home-construction industry.
But now, area builders are saying they’re seeing a turnaround, as pent-up demand for new houses and continuing low interest rates bring more people to their offices and model homes.
Through June 30, the Allen County Building Department issued 413 permits for new residential construction, about 60 percent of the total for all of 2012, when 691 permits were taken out.
This year’s six-month total is also about two-thirds of the entire year’s total for 2008, the worst year for local homebuilders in terms of issued permits.
This summer, we’ve definitely come out of the recession as far as homebuilders go, said Herb Delagrange, co-owner of Delagrange Homes in Fort Wayne, a 40-plus-year veteran of area homebuilding.
He says he’s still cautious about prospects but also pretty excited about the upturn.
I don’t know how long it’s going to last, and I’m not going to jump up and down about it, he says. But we’re going to have everybody working all winter, and we haven’t been able to say that for a few years.
Mark Heller of Heller Homes, builder of The Alexa, an 1,800-square-foot split-bedroom Parade ranch, says he sees a phenomenal turnaround.
We doubled from last year – we did 20 (homes) last year, and we’re going to have over 40 for this year, he says, adding that, because his is a small company and he values personal service, he’s careful about overextending.
Heller says he sees a difference in today’s post-recession homebuyers.
In 2009, everybody wanted (the most) square footage for the least money. Now, what I see is people are willing to have something a little smaller if it means they can splurge a little on extras.
All of the houses in this year’s Parade fit that smaller footprint. Instead of being palatial, they all come in under 2,400 square feet.
The smallest, Delagrange’s Dalton Cottage II, is 1,747 square feet, and the largest, Harbor House by Hickory Creek Homes, spans 2,345. Both are lofted ranches with a finished bonus room on the second floor.
Jamie Lancia, vice president of construction for Lancia Homes, says buyers now also are interested in the total cost of ownership, not just the initial home price.
Lancia’s Parade offering, Autumn Whisper, is just under 2,000 square feet. It’s an open-concept two-story that earned a Level 3 Energy Star rating, the agency’s highest. The house is the only one in northeast Indiana to do so, he says.
It’s so hard to get it, he says of the rating.
The home is 40 percent more energy-efficient than typical new construction and required extra insulation under the slab and outside the studs and optimum-sized ductwork, which will reduce heating and cooling costs.
The buyer will have a comfortable home as well as a lower utility bill, Lancia says. The home sells for just over $200,000, he says.
Luxury touches are still evident this year. One is the Parade setting – many lots overlook ponds from the rear, giving homes the feel of lake living.
The Somerset by Slattery Builders has an open kitchen/great room with an elaborate coffered ceiling and a wall of windows that overlook a pond. Sliding glass doors lead to a separate pond-view patio in the master suite.
Harbor House has custom wall and ceiling treatments in a trending bronze-like faux finish in the foyer and great room, plus an unusual stacked-slate fireplace and a bathroom backsplash and walk-in shower tiled with a new metallic and glass material.
Timberlin Homes’ Madyson Park, described as a rustic farmhouse style, offers aged barn-wood paneling in one bath, a central staircase and a covered patio off the great room.
Meanwhile, Westport Homes’ Bristol is a Craftsman style that offers a three-car garage, a custom stamped-concrete patio, and granite and marble countertops.
Maurine Holle, association executive director, sees another post-recession trend: Homes being built are costing somewhat more, she says.
While Allen County statistics show about 56 percent of homes built in 2010 and 2011 were priced at $150,000 and under, that figure dropped to 34 percent last year and 28 percent this year, she notes.
About 25 percent of homes built this year cost between $150,000 and $200,000, and 30 percent cost between $200,000 and $300,000. About 17 percent cost more than $300,000.
This year’s Parade homes are priced from the upper $100,000s to the mid-$200,000s, builders say.
There’s still some lingering uncertainty as to the construction industry, they add – three Parade homes are already sold, as a way of protecting builder investment.
Construction financing for homes built on spec, or speculation – without a buyer – is still tight, and some builders are skittish to risk.
But more buyers seem willing to invest.
I think some people might be (thinking) interest rates are going up. I see that in major purchases, you are forcing people off the fence, says Barclay J. Allen, owner of Timberlin Homes.
I think the next two years is going to be pretty solid. I’m very encouraged.
Don Fischer, partner with Chris and Keith Busse in the about three-year-old Hickory Creek Homes, agrees.
I think the recovery is real, he says. We’re all feeling it. Business has picked up for everybody.