Housing in Oklahoma City is booming on the pressure of pent-up demand, according to builders and Realtors.
It's a welcome story and they're sticking to it, despite continued economic and political uncertainty, and lenders who are still keeping credit tight.
How else to explain the almost rollicking marketplace so far in 2012?
Homes sales in February were up 36 percent compared with February 2011, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.
Home starts in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore and Norman were up almost 40 percent through February compared with the first two months of last year, according to the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association.
“That's obviously very encouraging. Consumer confidence is much improved. We're starting to see the economy turn the corner,” said Kurt Dinnes, owner of Sun Custom Homes and president of the builders association.
Dinnes said speculative construction is showing back up, even though the construction credit freeze “certainly hasn't eased up any.”
Dinnes said builders aren't daring to build houses with no buyers lined up because lenders have suddenly decided to back such speculation again, but because builders are confident — because consumers seem more confident.
“People have been waiting a long time for some real positive signs. There's some pent-up desire to acquire some things they've denied themselves the past three or four years,” Dinnes said.
It all has builders, especially strong, stable ones with cash on hand, willing to meet the higher post-housing-bubble loan-to-value ratios required by lenders.
In other words, those with skin to put back in the game are doing so, bringing a higher-equity stake to their projects.
Not that all is rosy. The federal government said Friday that consumer spending rose 0.8 percent last month but that incomes rose just 0.2 percent, meaning people spent more than they saved. The saving rate dropped to 3.7 percent of after-tax income in February, the lowest level since August 2009, after averaging 4.7 percent throughout 2011, the government said.
More than pent-up demand could be at work, Dinnes said. With potential for the White House changing hands after the November election, and doubt hanging over the Bush-era tax cuts, some people could be acting — and spending — now, “taking advantage of what they know factually,” he said.
Builders aren't the only ones dancing to the higher tempo in the marketplace.
“Title companies, lenders and Realtors are working overtime to keep up with the sudden surge in home sales,” said Lorna Koeninger, president of the Metro Association of Realtors and an associate at Paradigm AdvantEdge Real Estate. “Sellers are starting to realize the low inventory and look at this being a good time to market their homes.
“March will prove to be the ‘start' of our spring market with listing inventory improving. We're looking, already, at a fantastic March. Buyers are taking advantage of the still low interest rates by purchasing a home and looking at homeownership vs. the rising rental costs.”