Home sales are down, credit is no longer easy and many home buyers are still on the sidelines with a “wait it out” attitude. What does a builder or Realtor look for excitement in the market? Try the record low cost of borrowing. Jim McWhirter said that's what has him and his fellow home builders excited about the upcoming 16th annual East Area Festival of Homes. “Mortgage interest rates are at a 40-year historical low. This is an awesome time to buy,” said McWhirter, owner of Gemini Builders and Gemini Realtors in Choctaw. Over two weekends, April 25-26 and May 2-3, home shoppers will be treated to open-house tours of 22 new homes in neighborhoods in Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Del City, Choctaw and Jones. The homes, ranging in price from just under $200,000 to more than $600,000, will be open from 1 to 7 p.m. each day. A new development in this year's Festival of Homes, Huntington, comprises 75 acres of rolling woodlands broken into 1-acre lots and featuring new homes from builder Jim Campbell, among others. Campbell said his model home at 15335 SE 39 is an example of the design features and custom floor plans that have been most popular with buyers. “The Dallas style, with its gabled entryways and stone facades, is always a hit out here,” he said. Campbell's homes range in size from 1,500 to more than 3,000 square feet. “The size that's really been selling is 1,800-2200 square feet,” said Campbell, a 32-year veteran Realtor OR BUILDER. Campbell, 2009 chairman of the East Area Home Builders Association, said home shoppers in eastern Oklahoma County come from all age groups and backgrounds, but there is one “sweet spot” he's seen a lot lately: “Lots of buyers are in their early to mid thirties, couples who may have bought a 1,000-square foot starter house, but now they've had a kid or two and they want something bigger.” The area also appeals to commuters, said Josh Simmons of Gemini Builders. “Buyers are looking at homes in these developments because they want to be out here in the peace and quiet of the eastern part of the county, but only a mile and half from I-40, where you're just 15 minutes to downtown,” he said. Among Gemini's homes featured on this year's tour will be Simmons' Dallas-style offering at 15300 SE 41. The 3,200-square-foot home has four bedrooms and three full baths, a theater room and hobby room, a study and dining room with wide-plank wood floors and stainless-steel kitchen appliances. The home is listed in the mid-$300,000's. Campbell said that current owners in Huntington and other additions to be spotlighted in the festival are pleased with the Choctaw-Nicoma Park schools and with city fire, police and natural gas service. McWhirter said he expects good traffic at this year's Festival of Homes. “Forbes magazine rated Oklahoma City No. 6 on their ‘most-livable cities' survey, and we were rated in the top 10 ‘most vibrant' real estate markets,” he said. “We've got buyers not just from the metro area, but from all over the country.” Campbell and McWhirter share a common goal. “We want people to look east,” said Campbell. “It's worth peoples' while to compare us to Edmond,” McWhirter said. “Buyers are going to find all the bells and whistles in these homes they'd find in Edmond homes, but at a much lower price, especially with 30-year fixed rates below 5 percent.”Comments
CHOCTAW — Last week's wildfires left homeowners and home builders shaken, and some neighborhoods scorched, but the East Area Festival of Homes will go on as planned this weekend and next, organizers said.
“We got lucky, brother,” home builder Jim McWhirter said.
Scores of homes burned, but none of the homes in the festival. However, home shoppers will see burned trees and lots and some smoked houses, he said.
“The festival is going on. People still live in eastern Oklahoma County. This wasn't our first fire,” McWhirter said.
Real Estate Editor Richard Mize