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6/18/2020 8:57:00 PM
Parade of Homes draws serious buyers as demand is 'popping'

NW GUILFORD - Virus-related gathering restrictions prompted the Greensboro Builders Association (GBA) to delay the spring Parade of Homes from late April and early May until earlier this month, when it showcased more than 35 new houses constructed by 26 builders.

For Stokesdale-based homebuilder Casey Johnson, the Parade of Homes held Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7 and June 13-14, illustrates the upward direction of the housing market.

"We didn't see quite the turnout that we normally do during Parade, but the people we did engage with seemed more likely to be potential customers than somebody just window shopping. It led to a lot of positive leads," said Johnson, who owns Johnson & Lee with his father, Commie, and another father-son team, Rich and Mike Lee.

Demand for housing "is popping," he added. "The market is definitely on fire right now."

Other northwest Guilford builders shared Johnson's view, reporting serious lookers among visitors to their houses during the two-weekend Parade of Homes tour.

Several builders said they're selling speculative houses (houses that are built before going under contract) while they're still under construction, and signing contracts to construct custom-built homes for buyers unfazed by the COVID-19 epidemic.

"Interest rates are the big driver," said Don Mills, who owns Don Mills Builders with his wife, Annette. The company is starting three new houses in northwest Guilford after selling or putting all of its completed houses under contract.

Two emergency rate cuts by the Federal Reserve due to negative fallout from the coronavirus on the labor market, consumer spending and housing have pushed mortgage rates lower.

As of June 11, the U.S. weekly average fixed rate on 30-year mortgages was 3.21%, down 0.62 point from a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac. The government-sponsored mortgage loan company forecast that rates will remain low, falling to a yearly average of 3.4% this year and 3.2% in 2021.

Mills and Patti Disney, who owns Disney Construction Co. with her husband, Francis, and son Mark, said they believe restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are spurring more people to move out of large cities.

"I think we're going to get a lot of people from up north moving down here," Mills said. Disney added, "I think you're going to see more people wanting to relocate to areas that are rural. People are tired of being on top of each other."

Disney has sold its existing inventory, including a house in Stokesdale's Northridge subdivision that sold during the Parade of Homes and therefore wasn't open for visitors. The company has two spec houses under construction in Belews Ridge, also in Stokesdale, that are already drawing interest from potential buyers.

Johnson & Lee's five spec houses range in price from the $340,000s to $560,000s; one of the houses is under contract. The company is also building one custom home, with four others getting ready to start; all of them are under contract with buyers, Johnson said.

R&K Custom Homes has contracts on 15 of the 20 houses it's building, according to vice president Kathy Dumas, who owns the company with her husband, Rich.

The average sales price of R&K's houses is $700,000, with four houses selling for $1 million, Kathy said.

The buyers are generally "executives and the higher-income people who are still working" amid COVID-19, she noted.

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