What's driving that surge in new-home construction?
An email from the National Association of Home Builders recently caught my eye. With the headline "Growing Job Opportunities in Residential Construction Offer Solid Career Path for Millennials," it suggested that "builders around the country are seeking skilled craftsmen to help them build the American Dream."
An email from the National Association of Home Builders recently caught my eye.
With the headline "Growing Job Opportunities in Residential Construction Offer Solid Career Path for Millennials," it suggested that "builders around the country are seeking skilled craftsmen to help them build the American Dream."
We need to stop picking on millennials - even stop using the word. From my research over the last three years, those between 18 and 34 rarely describe themselves as such.
They seemed like an odd target group anyway, considering that Realtors and builders are always lamenting that this demographic is choosing renting over buying.
"So, man, where are you working?"
"I'm building the American Dream, man, you know, houses."
"So, where you living?"
"I got this apartment in my parents' basement with five other guys."
There were 214,000 open construction-sector jobs in July, the second-highest monthly count of open, unfilled jobs since May 2007, the builders' group said.
"After many workers left the home-building industry during the Great Recession to pursue employment in other sectors, not nearly enough of them have returned," the email explained.
If the ups and downs of residential construction didn't make it look like such seasonal work, more might have returned. How many times do you put your hand on a hot stove before you learn you shouldn't?
The need for workers appears real in some regions of the country, however. John Burns, of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, found that competition is mounting among builders in 33 major markets as the number of new-home communities increases.
In the Philadelphia region, the number of such communities is up 3 percent year over year, compared with 6 percent nationally, Burns found.
Because I spend lots of time in the suburbs, I have concluded that the shot in the arm must have originated in the city proper.
On the "Town by Town" trail, I hear suburban real estate agents say, "Not much land left; maybe a couple of houses here and a couple there," or similar things about the new-home market today.
The year-over-year increase is the same in Chicago and Phoenix, which was so oversupplied with foreclosed new homes back in 2009 that sidewalks and roads in some communities just ended in the middle of a field.
In Las Vegas, a name synonymous with "foreclosure crisis," the number of new-home communities is 11 percent higher in 2016 than it was a year ago.
Burns picked out a couple markets on which to focus, and I thought I'd mention Orange County, Calif., whose fortunes are being determined by foreign buyers.
Builders have been relying on an influx of foreign buyers to sell these expensive homes, the Burns research showed.
"Multiple times in the last year, sales have surged and then slowed, and then surged again for reasons that have more to do with issues overseas than with Orange County's local dynamics," it said.
Several times in the last few years, especially with the increase in million-dollar-plus sales in Center City, I've tried to determine whether the source of the boost is foreign.
Allan Domb, Carl Dranoff, Joanne Davidow, Tom Scannapieco, Laurie Phillips, and all the top names in the city's highest-end market say it's not. Buyers there are either downsizing from the Main Line or from within Center City, or are highly compensated relocating executives.
Foreigners? Only if Ardmore and Bryn Mawr are in Wales.