Sunday, November 29, 2009

Best Time in 10 Years to Buy a Home

What do you get when you have low interest rates, lots of houses to choose from, and tax incentives for homebuyers? You have the best opportunity to buy a new home in the last ten years.
We've been in the homebuilding business for 22 years. We always say that the REAL buyers are house-hunting in December and January. Those are the people that really have a need to buy...maybe relocating, maybe a new baby on the way, maybe bringing second generation into the home with them. Whatever the impetus, they are out looking for a house while everyone else is out Christmas shopping or staying warm by the fireplace. And the December/January buyers are likely to get the best deals.
The "tire-kickers" and "window-shoppers" come out after the Super Bowl. Those are the people who are "just looking." They are dreaming of a new home, and they are checking the prices to see what type of home might eventually fit their dreams. They are in no hurry at all...In fact, it would actually be easier to move "during the summer when the kids are out of school." There is always some sort of priority that trumps moving. Nevertheless, it's fun to look and to compare one home to another.
This year, more than ever, is the year for the REAL buyers in December and January. The $8,000 tax credit has been extended until April 30, 2010, for first-time homebuyers. In addition a new $6,500 tax credit has been created for people who already own a home. Both categories of homebuyers must sign a purchase agreement prior to May 1. Details are available at
Interest rates are near 5%, but who knows how long that will last? If you have a good credit history, the lenders are anxious to get your business.
And, of course, you'll find a high inventory of homes waiting for you. Many prices have been slashed as sellers become more impatient with the stagnant economy. Sellers know their homes need to be in mint condition to earn a sale. Competition between sellers in the same neighborhoods leads to terrific bargains for house-hunters.
So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to make your move!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Building Permit Process for Hamilton County, Ohio

The building permit process varies from one jurisdiction to another. In Hamilton County, Ohio, changes have been made in the last few years to centralize some of the process. Nevertheless, we still find ourselves running around from one office to another with applications, site plans, and building plans (not to mention the required checks) for each application. For the particular job we're working on now, we first needed to get zoning approval from Springfield Township. That required site plans, building plans, and a payment. Fortunately, we were able to get the Zoning Certificate in one stop with the help of the friendly people at the Township Administration Building.
Next, it was on to the Hamilton County Building Department that's located in downtown Cincinnati and so requires some extra effort with traffic and parking. Hamilton County requires the actual building permit application, an Earthworks Permit since excavation is involved, and a Water Availability Permit. Again, we submitted applications, copies of the plans and site plans, and payment for each. In addition, this job will have a private water system so we needed to complete the Department of Health Permit for Private Water System and the Application/Permit for Private Water System Site Plan. The Site Plan Permit required an extra visit to the plumber's office so that he could complete the drawing required on the application before we could actually submit the materials to the Health Department.
At the Health Department, we ran into a new snafu. The receptionist warned us that the permits could take a while because everyone from the office was out in the field administering and monitoring the H1N1 vaccinations. Time will tell what "a while" means to the Health Department.
There are a few other permits that will be required before we can actually start moving dirt. Luckily, we already have the temporary electric meter set at the site so that is taken care of.
We look forward to the day when building permit applications are accepted electronically. Think of all the time and paper that could be saved by just clicking your computer mouse and sending everything through cyberspace. Now THAT would be a good example of "green building."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We're Stimulating the Economy

We signed a contract last night for a very nice custom home---approximately 4000 square feet. I started thinking what a nice burst for the economy that would be and how many people are actually involved in the physical construction of a single family residence. I didn't even consider the architect, general contractor, engineering staff, or loan officer. However, when I started counting, I found about 84 other individuals actually doing work on one particular new home...2 for excavation, 6 for foundation, 5 for framing, 3 for electric work, etc., etc. When I added it all up, I got 84 people. That doesn't count the manufacturers of the appliances, the sales people for the flooring, the people who assemble the electric boxes, the nursery that grows the sod and shrubs, etc. It's really amazing when you think about how critical the homebuilding business is to the economy.
When we dropped off the plans to the foundation contractor, the guy who usually does the bidding was playing solitaire on his computer. Of course, he sprang into action to get the quote prepared in a proper way. Just think of all the others who will spring into action now that we have a shovel-ready job! American workers are ready, willing, and able...Let's get the economy moving again!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Where is the Building Business Headed?

Yesterday we had our first inquiry in 6 months about a prime building lot we have for someone's dream home. The lot is in the Winton Woods City School District, a great district caught in the middle of Ohio's state funding mess. On Tuesday, after 3 previous levy attempts, the voters finally passed a tax levy, assuring the district that academic and extracurricular activities can continue uninterrupted.
Perhaps the inquiry about the lot was a result of a more certain future for the district. I can understand the hesitation if you are investigating a new neighborhood and wondering about community support for the schools. Perhaps the gentleman felt the time is now right to start the house hunt. Maybe it was the passage of the levy. Maybe he sold his existing home because of the first-time buyer tax credit. Maybe he now feels comfortable that his own job is secure.
It's hard to say what motivates buyers that the time is right. It's particularly difficult to predict a rebound in the housing market when existing inventory is so high. However, another boost may come soon for the housing business with the expanded tax credit awaiting President Obama's signature. Maybe that will be just enough to tip the scales for our potential lot buyer and he can move closer to building his dream home.