Rausch Coleman Homes is an example of one kind of long-term good that can come of tornado tragedy.
The developer and homebuilder came into the Oklahoma City area with an affiliated company in 1999, in the wake of the May 3 tornado. The company already was looking at the central Oklahoma housing market — and overnight demand made it an easy decision. Rausch Coleman itself expanded here in 2004.
It wasn't the only building company to come here partly in response to May 3, 1999 — but it stayed, and not all did. The company, with origins in Barling, near Fort Smith, Ark., and now based in Fayetteville, Ark., has built hundreds of houses across the Oklahoma City area and now is building in 10 neighborhoods.
“They're a major player. They're not just a homebuilder. They're a very large enterprise,” said Mustang developer Robert Crout, president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association. “It's a good family.”
Ernest R. “Buddy” Coleman built his first house in 1955 and remains active with the company. His grandson, John R. Rausch, is president and CEO. The company builds in Tulsa, northwest Arkansas, Little Rock, Ark., and Kansas City, Mo., as well as the Oklahoma City area.
Crout said the same things could happen now, as Moore, south Oklahoma City, Shawnee and others recover from May's tornadoes: Some builders come in to exploit and leave, and some come in and settle in to stay.
“There will be those who just come in to take advantage, but there will be those good builders that will use this” as the tipping point for deciding to become a long-term player in the marketplace, he said.
“The Oklahoma City market is pretty bright. You'll see people looking at Oklahoma City,” Crout said, including regional and national companies that come in response to tornado-related demand “and will stay and will help supply the market for the long term.”
Expansion here proved to be a good move for Rausch Coleman, which is busier than ever. The company built 150 homes here in 2011, followed with 192 homes in 2012, and this year plans to build 250, said Chuck Vannoy, division president. The target is first-time buyers and first-time move-up buyers, he said.
“Our main competition is apartments. That's how we view it,” Vannoy said, “going into apartments ... to people who think homeownership eludes them, and showing them how to get into a new home.”
Vannoy said he had not detected the difficulty that other big markets in the country have experienced in selling to first-timers. Builders and Realtors report that credit standards tightened after the national housing crash and Great Recession are keeping would-be first-timers caught in rentals.
“I'd say it's no harder than it's ever been to get them into a home,” he said at Canyon Creek, a Rausch Coleman addition southwest of SW 15 and Mustang Road.
Homes in Canyon Creek range from 1,100 square feet to 2,300 square feet. Kristy Stevens, Rausch Coleman sales professional, said Canyon Creek is on the higher end of the company's offerings, with prices from $139,000 to $200,000. The neighborhood model and office is at 11409 SW 24.
Vannoy said Rausch Coleman's widespread work in several markets has helped cushion it from recent increases in building costs. Prices for materials have risen nationally as housing has recovered from the bust.
With about 1,000 houses built per year, the company can buy in quantity, he said, and since it builds the same plans over and over, suppliers know what to expect.
“We've always been a company that's been focused on efficiency,” he said. “We feel like the first-time homebuyer is always going to be there and always going to be a strong market. That's what we've experienced in the past five years. Even though (the country) experienced a downturn, as a company, we've grown every year since the downturn began.”
Our main competition is apartments. That's how we view it.”
Rausch Coleman Homes division president