Up on the housetop — ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching.
Homebuilders and Realtors came dashing into the holidays in November, blitzing toward the end of the year with construction and sales stats that have some of them prancing, if not dancing.
Not that there is nothing to worry about: Rising costs for building materials and labor are concerns, especially as housing in the rest of the country chokes down the recession's last dregs and gets ready to grow again.
Drywall is up 14 percent from a year ago and suppliers have warned prices could rise another 30 percent next year, according to trade reports. Lumber prices are at a six-year high on renewed demand.
“We've seen appliances, for goodness sakes, take increases, as well,” said Kurt Dinnes, president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association and co-owner of Sun Custom Homes.
Plus there's this “fiscal cliff” business and the shadow it casts over downright rosy home sales and construction here — and across the country as Congress and the White House avoid agreement on how to deal with the nation's budget deficit.
The specter of income tax increases and government spending cuts taking effect at the first of the year — in three days — leaves builders, like everyone else, with a big unknown as they try to look ahead, Dinnes said.
In the meantime, it's like 2007 again for housing in Oklahoma City — only this time the numbers are on their way up. Comparable numbers five years ago reflected a slump, which is as close as the City got to the national housing bust.
Builders in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore and Norman started 4,320 houses through November, up 32.1 percent from the same period in 2011, according to the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association. They've already outdone 2011: Permits issued through November surpassed the number issued in all of last year.
Permits were down 3.1 percent in Moore, but were up 18.7 percent in Norman, up 34.7 percent in Oklahoma City, up 37 percent in Midwest City and up 47.4 percent in Edmond.
Builders are still licking wounds from the slump, Dinnes said, and are being cautious not to go too far, too fast with construction.
“We want to be careful not to overbuild and find ourselves in a fallback position again,” he said. Other than uncertainty surrounding the “fiscal cliff,” he said, “We see no reason for it to slow down.”
For their part, Realtors through November sold homes valued at $2.75 billion, a 20-percent increase compared with $2.29 billion in the same period in 2011.
The Oklahoma City metro area ended November with a 4.6-month supply of homes for sale, according to The Oklahoman's calculations using statistics from the Metro Association of Realtors. With 7,066 houses listed for sale, it would take 4.6 months to sell off the inventory at the average monthly sales pace for the previous 12 months — if no more came on the market.
The estimate provides a way to gauge activity in the market. The last time The Oklahoman's estimate fell below five months was before the national housing bust and the local slowdown.
“Is the housing market back? Buyers are dictating the market (with) continuing favorable affordability in the metro area,” said Lorna Koeninger, president of the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors and a broker associate with Paradigm AdvantEdge Real Estate. “(Will) interest rates remain at all-time lows for 2013? Buyers need to focus on whether they want to own or rent and move forward with plans to be part of the ‘American dream' of homeownership.”