The recent uptick in home construction has area builders counting on more than just wishful thinkers at this year's Street of Dreams. Traditionally, and even more so in the years following the housing collapse, the annual showcase of high-end homes and furnishings has drawn droves of wide-eyed spectators more interested in looking than buying.
However, now that existing homes are selling quicker and residential construction has picked up, participating builders are optimistic that the event will draw a sizable slice of people ready to take the homebuilding plunge.
“That's our hope — that there are more serious buyers who might get exposed to something they haven't seen before and build instead of sitting on the sideline like they have for the past couple of years,” said Nathan Bumgardner of Nathan Homes.
Scott Warren, whose Absolute Customs company also has a house in the event, said he's seen a 30 percent increase in business this year over last and has noticed more interest particularly in the range between $450,000 and $600,000.
He said more customers have been able to sell their existing homes, freeing them to take advantage of low interest rates and “move up.” But builders cut back on speculative building in recent years, so there are fewer move-in-ready new homes. That has fueled construction of tailor-made residences.
“I would be surprised if we don't actually sell our house during the Street of Dreams,” said Warren, whose $750,000 model features, among other things, an underground sports court. “More people want to pull the trigger.”
The two-week event, to be held starting Saturday, comes as confidence overall in residential sales has risen among local real estate experts. Consider the latest reports from the Omaha Area Board of Realtors and the Olathe, Kan.-based MarketGraphics Research Group:
>> Pending sales so far this year in the Omaha area have jumped 21 percent over the same period in 2011. In the higher-end range, $400,000 and above, residential sales have risen 17 percent.
>> For new construction only, single-family home starts in Douglas and Sarpy Counties are up 28 percent this year compared with the same stretch last year — signaling a turnaround in a six-year decline in new home demand.
>> The median price of newly built houses sold this year in the Omaha area was about $244,000, nearly $16,000 higher than last year.
>> The most expensive freshly constructed home this year was $1.34 million, compared with $980,000 last year. The cheapest was $82,000, versus $60,000 last year.
Mike Riedmann, president of residential sales for NP Dodge Real Estate, said he is seeing a “marked increase” in lot sales for subdivisions where houses cost upward of $500,000. For example, he said, his team sold 22 lots in the Five Fountains subdivision during the past 12 months, compared with the four or five annually in previous years.
In the past few weeks, Riedmann signed contracts for two lots in Sarpy County's luxury Cheyenne Country Estates, and four more are pending, putting NP Dodge on track to have its best year since 2006 in residential lot sales.
“We're back,” Riedmann said.
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Street of Dreams
What: Tour of eight luxury homes with prices ranging from $600,000 to $900,000.
Where: Estates at Coventry subdivision, 204th and Q Streets.
When: Open Wednesdays through Sundays, Saturday through Sept. 30.
Cost: Adults, $10; children, $5. Tickets can be purchased at the gate.
More information: www.streetofdreams.org