At the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) Conference in Denver, Douglas Yearley, CEO of Toll Brothers presented the Keynote Address “A Vision for Homebuilding”. Here is a snapshot of his state of builder/buyer.
Business is good
Toll Brothers announced earlier this summer that they had the best spring selling season that it has had in the past ten years. This can be attributed to many things:
- Low interest rates
- Rising home values
- Consumer confidence
- Improving job growth, along with wage growth
There are low inventories in most markets in used homes, and we finally have release of pent up demand. As the economy improves and personal balance sheets improve, pent up demand could bring people off the sidelines.
A slow recovery
According to Toll Brothers, we have seen a slower recovery than past cycles:
- Key metrics are improving
- Number of households has grown 98% since 1970.
- 1980 – 1989 – 1.49 million housing starts
- 2008 – 2016 – .85 million housing starts
- Home ownership peaked in 2004 at 69%.
- Today’s home ownership rate is at 63.6%.
We are not quite where we should be. We are still behind the demand, but this only leave room for growth.
Buyers buying new and where the sun shines
There is a 32% premium from a new home to used home. The average is 18%. People are gravitating to buying new homes as the used inventory is older. And, energy efficiency and the opportunity to customize home is driving the premium.
More than 50% of Toll Brothers’ business in done in the West. Denver to the West is where builders are focused. Builders are focused on pro-business states, where land is available and where people want to live – where the sun shines. Boomers are buying in Florida, no big surprise here. And, Texas, a pro-business state, is doing very well in Dallas.
Demographics – the Boomer is driving growth
Baby boomers continue to drive Toll Brothers’ business. As they did for years when they moved to suburban areas to “move up”, and still today as they downsize and prepare for the next stage of their life. Many are buying into active-adult communities or are buying second homes in Palm Springs, Florida and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Design trends – casual family-friendly spaces
According to Toll Brothers the open, casual living with free flow indoor and outdoor space has completely caught on. People want casual environments where living space is connected. And, where the outdoors is a continuation of the home. Where the back of the home will be one big wall of glass making the outdoors, the indoors.
There is also a trend for multi-generational living. With additional living space with a sitting area, little kitchen area, direct access outside and separate entry in the home for older generations living with their family.
And, smart home solutions are evolving and expanding with the ability to remotely control the home.
Labor on the rise
We went from two million houses a year to 500,000. Labor dramatically went away. And, every market has a different issue; there is no national plumber. As we get further into recovery, we are seeing improvements and a return of the builder labor market. Contractors are ramping up their businesses. There is still cost pressure, but according to Yearley, it is definitely less now than it was a year or two ago.
Getting creative with land acquisition
For Builders it is all about the land – whether you are building one home or a master-planned community. You are stuck with the land once you buy it. Builders have to be much more creative in how they look for buy land because people want to live differently. Buyers want to live in a more connected community. And, creativity comes into play due to the availability of land in urban areas. An example of this creativity in land acquisition is buying a car dealership and renovating it. Or, building a park with the mixed use and condo development as part of the sales price for the land, like Maxwell House, former Maxwell House Coffee plant, in Hoboken, NJ. This was the largest in the world and a landmark on the Hudson River since 1939. What was a tragedy for Hoboken is now a trendy redevelopment leveraging both the best of the outdoor and the indoor space.
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