While Helen Hanna Casey “literally grew up around the new-homes business,” she is quite clear that today’s new-home market is not like the one her father was actively involved in as he built Howard Hanna Real Estate some 50 years ago. “Moving forward, we’re going to see different types of builders, different types of buyers and a different set of buyers’ desires and expectations.” Here, Casey shares why new-home construction just may be the motivation move-up buyers have been waiting for.
Teresa Walsh: First, tell me about your firm’s history in the new-homes market?
Helen Hanna Casey: New construction has always been an important part of the real estate business at Howard Hanna. As my father built the company, he was always actively working with builders and developers and very involved in the local Builder Association. So as a result, I literally grew up around the new homes business.
TW: What opportunities do you see moving forward?
HHC: We expect to see growth in both new-home buyer and builder representation. With today’s tight inventory and growing buyer demand, we need to focus on new homes to satisfy the needs of the market. At the same time, builders are afraid to put up spec homes, which means agents need to apply new sales skills and strategies in this changing market. Moving forward, we’re going to see different types of builders, different types of buyers and a different set of buyers’ desires and expectations.
TW: Are there any specific market dynamics driving the importance of new homes?
HHC: New construction helps overcome one of the biggest challenges in today’s market – it can help make buyers feel secure about selling their existing home. There’s a pent-up demand of potential buyers who would like to first sell their current home, but are concerned about where they’re moving to. You may find a great house but due to low inventory of homes available for sale, there’s a good chance many other people are interested in the same home. What’s great about new construction is you know exactly where you’re moving when that home sells.
TW: What trends are you seeing in new construction?
HHC: Let’s face it, new construction excites people. They’re excited about all the possibilities and the potential of what they can have today – including new products and new technology.
One of the trends often discussed is downsizing, but I feel it’s better described as “right sizing.” You have to remember, it’s all market driven. Some buyers are primarily concerned about the resale value of the home, while others have a longer term focus. In other markets, there are expectations buyers have in a new home that may be more important than just the size of the home. They may be willing to go with a smaller home providing the house has all the goodies, such as stainless steel appliances, granite tops, outdoor areas with a TV and other luxury amenities.
TW: What are your thoughts on opportunities in the area of infill construction?
HHC: Infill has always been a part of our business, whether it be large custom teardowns and rebuilds or tied to new zoning opportunities. One notable infill project we marketed was the conversion of an old bank in downtown Pittsburgh to condos. The key to the success of these kinds of projects is working closely together with your builder as a team. Infill revitalizes communities and is incredibly important.