Building a new home? Here are things to keep in mind.
Certainty in the Tulsa market is inspiring new home construction. Here are the latest trends you need to know.
This newly built Farabough Homes model features many in-demand amenities for today’s custom construction, including open shelving on either side of the gas fireplace.
Each year, thousands of Tulsans and soon-to-be Tulsans buy houses. Many are able to change their lives for the better with existing homes that perfectly fit their budgets, location needs and personal tastes.
But for many others, nothing compares to the satisfaction and thrill of being the first person to move into a newly constructed home days after workers complete the finishing touches.
The demand for new homes never truly dies off, even when the economy hits Tulsa hard. But, when the economy and consumer confidence improves, the appetite for home construction skyrockets. And 2017 was a very busy year for area home builders.
An estimated 2,829 residential building permits were issued last year, according to permit tracking service New Orders Weekly. That’s the most construction activity experienced in the metro area since the recession hit a decade ago.
Confidence restored in the market means a growing demand for new construction
Ryan Farabough, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa and president and CEO of Farabough Homes LLC, says growing numbers of local residents are feeling bold enough to take the plunge on new houses. “We got past the election, and now there’s certainty in the market,” he says. “People know what to expect. When people don’t, they tend to hold back until things become more stable.”
Farabough also says that, beyond the improving economy, Tulsa is becoming a more attractive place to live, with continued downtown development and the imminent completion of the mammoth Gathering Place project along the Arkansas River.
Leland Chinowth, president of the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors and a Realtor with Chinowth and Cohen, says the days of cautious lenders and restricted loans are long over. “With the market strong in Tulsa and prices going up, lenders are becoming more flexible with financing options for existing homes and new homes alike,” Chinowth says.
Builders also have regained their confidence. Although many new homes are built at the request of a specific buyer, others are constructed speculatively in the hopes of finding a buyer later. These builds dried up almost entirely during the recession, but Farabough says there’s now plenty to choose from — though most builders find buyers in just a few months.
Most model homes tend to be built with small or medium-sized floorplans, Farabough says. As homes get bigger, the potential buying pool shrinks, and builders are more likely to wait for a specific buyer to come along before breaking ground.
As with the prices of existing homes, prices of new homes have gradually increased in recent years. This increase is likely to continue as long as the economy stays steady. But unlike the meteoric rises seen on the coasts during the housing bubble, yearly increases in local housing costs remain small and Tulsa homes represent a great value.
“I don’t think the price increases we’ve seen have been enough to scare people from the market,” Farabough says.
Though price averages for new home sales aren’t tracked, the GTAR estimates the average price of all homes sold in 2017 — which includes nearly 80 percent of all new homes sold — increased 6 percent over 2016, which is in line with other post-recession years.
Location and timing are major factors in getting your dream home
Purchasing a home, whether it’s new or existing, requires a major investment of money, time and effort. But when buying a new home, especially one that’s designed from the ground up to fit your specific tastes, plenty of additional considerations come into play.
For instance, choosing a new home will narrow down your location options in the Tulsa area. In 2017, as in other recent years, most new construction occurred in south Tulsa and the suburbs, especially Broken Arrow, Owasso, Jenks and Bixby.
Though these areas are popular with new home buyers on their own merits, builders also turn to them by necessity. “Other than a few infill teardowns, Tulsa doesn’t have a lot of extra area to keep expanding,” Farabough says.
One of the few new home communities in midtown is Barnard Terrace, located near East 17th Street and South Lewis Avenue. Eighteen lots featuring single-family, custom homes sit where Barnard Elementary School once stood.
If a buyer is set on living near the shops, restaurants and other amenities of midtown Tulsa, new homes are hard to come by, beyond teardowns and infill construction. Chinowth is seeing an increase in midtown teardowns, with luxury homes built on those lots.
New home buyers also will find their choice of location influenced by the style of each subdivision — one development area might have the perfect location, but the homes might not be the buyer’s preferred size.
Many subdivisions built in the last couple of decades did not include neighborhood amenities, which has been one of the few criticisms Chinowth has heard from buyers moving to Tulsa from out of state.
“Buyers are saying they value the ‘community feel’ neighborhoods have that offer lots of activities within their subdivision,” Chinowth says. “We’re working with developers now that are designing subdivisions that not only include pools, but also parks, kids’ play areas, fishing ponds, clubhouses and shopping options.”
Broken Arrow’s Aspen Ridge development includes amenities such as designated trails through mature trees, sitting areas, fire pits and picnic tables. A park and basketball court make for a development ripe with activity for homeowners. While it is near big-city amenities like the Warren Movie Theater, grocery stores and highway access, the community provides a quiet setting.
Another consideration is time. Chinowth says new homes typically take at least six months to build, or closer to a year for a large luxury home. That makes buying new difficult if the move was sparked by a new job or the desire to transfer to a new school district before fall.
Farabough says certain sizes and features can take even longer.
Tips for selecting the right builder
Most local builders specialize in specific size or price ranges, and many tend to have specific building styles or certain amenities they can offer. Buyers must communicate with the builder throughout the build process, especially for builds involving custom floorplans. Real estate professionals can help in this process, connecting buyers with reputable builders, construction financing and guiding through the contract process, according to Laura Grunewald, a Realtor with McGraw Realtors.
Before embarking on a build, buyers will need to undertake some of the same research they would for buying an existing home, such as looking into the prices of comparable homes in the area to ensure the builder’s asking price is fair.
“Building a home is a long-term commitment you are making with the builder,” she says. “You need to choose someone you can trust with your time and money.”
Additionally, new home buyers also should schedule professional inspections after the home is finished to ensure no surprise issues crop up down the road.
One good idea is to tour a builder’s other homes to get a feel for what they’re capable of, Chinowth says.
Home trends catching on in Tulsa
Once a buyer has selected a builder, it’s time to mold the home of their dreams. Farabough says trends tend to be driven in part by what buyers see on TV shows. Right now, features like shiplap siding, barn doors and open shelves have caught on in Tulsa.
Sometimes, owners can get truly creative. “There are definitely people who want James Bond features in their homes, like rooms hidden behind bookcases,” Farabough says.
But the tiny home craze, once featured endlessly on HGTV, never truly caught on in Tulsa, Farabough says.
“Tiny homes were a flash in the pan,” he says. “It started happening, people tried to do it and it has already fizzled out.”
Chinowth says he’s starting to see more requests for multilevel homes with multiple bedrooms on the first floor, which can keep both young children and aging parents away from stairs.
Though new homes can be found in almost any size, Chinowth says he’s seeing significant amounts of construction in the $300,000-$550,000 range.
“We’re seeing a lot of baby boomers who are downsizing and millennials looking to buy their first home, so they’re converging on those sizes,” he says.
Though part of the fun is designing a new house to perfectly match the buyer, Chinowth says it’s usually a good idea to keep in mind what will help a home’s eventual resale value and be aware that not all trends are here to stay. Things like heavy wall texture and glazing that were popular in homes a decade ago now put owners looking to sell at a disadvantage.
“New construction homes are seeing cleaner lines in design, lots of windows and a reduction in formal dining rooms,” Grunewald says.
To afford a new home, balance expectations and budget in planning phase
Assuming a buyer is flexible, budgeting for construction of a new home shouldn’t involve too many negotiations, Farabough says. Often, it’s simply a matter of balancing square footage, the desired amenities and the amount buyers are willing to pay.
“If you want granite countertops, that will cost a certain amount,” he says. “If you tell us in the planning stage, we can work to make sure it comes in on that particular budget.”
Chinowth says communication is key.
“It’s always a good idea for the buyer to think of as many amenities and features as possible and put them in the contract before construction begins to make sure there’s no surprises at the end, and also not to surprise the builder with expectations he doesn’t know about,” he says.
Farabough says many larger builders have dedicated sales staff to help every step in the process.
Even so, most builders like working with real estate professionals to find buyers. “Everyone builds relationships and works with different Realtors to sell their homes,” Farabough says.
10 Highest Subdivision Home Starts for 2017
These communities are popular choices for new home construction.
New home starts / Subdivision
72 Highland Creek, Wagoner County
71 Yorktown I, Jenks
66 Stone Horse, Broken Arrow
66 Trails at White Hawk, Bixby
52 Cypress Creek, Tulsa
51 Sugar Hill, Coweta
43 Carrington Point, Owasso
43 Silverleaf, Broken Arrow
42 Seven Lakes I-II-IV, Bixby
42 Shadow Trails, Broken Arrow
Source: New Orders Weekly Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2017