A recently-released report from The Commerce Department showed the construction of new homes across the United States jumped by 17.3% in June as many states across the nation began reopening after shutting down this spring in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the pandemic causing a major slowdown in new-home construction this spring, the total pace of nationwide home construction still comes short of last year’s pace, but the pace has been dramatically increasing.
This nationwide, steady increase is familiar to home builders in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
“There are more buyers currently today than there was last year at this time,” says Jeff Sattler, President of the Bismarck-Mandan Home Builders Association. “Interest rates being so low is definitely a part of it, too.”
Jason Frank and Stephanie Metzger, home builders with Diversity Homes, have experienced first hand what the last few months, and the entire year, have been like for custom home construction in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Jason Frank, owner and founder of Diversity Homes. “At this time, in a normal year, we’d expect to have one or two inquiries a week for new projects and right now, we have interested customers physically walking into our offices at least three times a week.”
For Frank, who has been in the industry for over 25 years, the increased business is unparalleled. “In my 25 years in this industry, I’ve never seen people walking through the door at this pace,” he says.
While the number of interested clients is higher than one would expect this time of year, perhaps the most significant difference, in Frank’s mind, is the degree to which the prospective clients, “know exactly what they want.”
“For the most part, everyone coming through our doors seems to have done their research, know what they are looking for and are ready to move as quickly as we’ll let them,” explains Frank.
With the current demand Diversity Homes is experiencing, they are discovering they’re in for, not only a busy 2020, but a fully-booked 2021, too. “Right now we have about 15 homes under construction, and another five or so in the pipeline, ready to break ground soon,” says Stephanie Metzger, who works in Diversity Homes’ sales and marketing department. “Even with the pause we saw during the initial COVID outbreak, we’re looking at close to a record year, which quickly translated into an almost fully-booked schedule for 2021.”
When asked what they believe can be attributed to the current demand, Frank explained it’s likely a number of things at once. “While the low interest rates we have seen during these COVID months definitely has encouraged some people to build, I don’t believe that is the sole reason,” says Frank. “Bismarck is definitely in a growth stage and with Mandan, the combined population is now around 100,000 with more and more people coming to town. On top of that, we saw a shortage of lots in 2019, which I believe has also contributed to the demand we’re seeing now.”
For Jeff Sattler, the increase in construction is positive, although it has affected timelines. “We’re selling houses and it’s busy,” says Sattler. “But we’re struggling to get appliances, certain work is backed up, and some things that used to be scheduled weeks out are scheduled months out.”