Rites of spring

April 21, 2014

Spring is here, regardless of the fact that it is snowing in the D.C. area as I write this at the end of March, and it’s the beginning, traditionally, of when things really start rolling in home building. The importance of the spring selling season is a given. Winter is over, for the most part, and it’s a time of rebirth and renewal. All over the country, people are looking around at where they currently live and are starting to think seriously about spring cleaning or, even better, buying a new home.

And home builders are ready to accommodate them. The models are ready, landscaping is in place, flats upon flats of flowers have been planted, and salespeople stand at the ready. But there’s a lot that stands in between thinking about buying a new home and actually signing a contract. We all know there is a lot of pent-up demand. There are young adults still living with their parents, there are young families with more children than bedrooms, and there are older adults who would happily trade the home they’ve occupied for years for, perhaps, a smaller, newer home that better fits their needs at this stage of life.
Although the National Bureau of Economic Research declared the Great Recession over in 2009, in reality it (or another recession just like it) is still very much with us. Economic forecasts show GDP, business spending, and retail sales all growing in 2014, but polls indicate that many Americans don’t see economic improvement of a substantive nature occurring for five or more years.
You can’t really blame folks for having a pessimistic attitude. It’s been seven or eight years since the rollicking good times ended, and that is a very long time in our collective memories. For Millennials, the hard times are pretty much all they know. So it’s easy to understand when home builders say they are feeling discouraged—again. In addition to economic uncertainties, land, material, and labor shortages add to their mix of anxieties. But being discouraged is not the end game; it’s simply another challenge to face. 
And the way to face most challenges is to focus on what you know and what you can control. Take those Millennials. Why should they buy a home when, for all they know, coming up with a downpayment is nearly impossible, they might lose their jobs and not be able to make their mortgage payments, and they won’t be able to sell that house when they want to move to take another job? Well, the resale market has stabilized in most areas, and you’ve been overcoming those other objections throughout your entire career, no matter what your target market is. 
There will always be objections, as well as roadblocks and setbacks. But right now, it’s spring and time to get yourself (and everybody else) moving.
editorial director

Denise Dersin, editorial director of Professional Builder, Custom Builder, PRODUCTS, NKBA Innovation+Inspiration, and co-editor of Multifamily Design+Construction, has been in publishing as an editor and writer for 30 years and has worked in the housing industry for much of that time.