Fort Smith home builders set for Fall Parade

story by Aric Mitchell
amitchell@thecitywire.com

The Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders (GFSAHB) will launch its Fall Parade of Homes on Saturday (Oct. 6) featuring 20 homes in the $98,600 to $400,000 range. The annual event will run through Saturday (Oct. 14) with the 2012 Showcase Home on display one additional week, ending on Oct. 21.

Open house for each property will be from noon to 6 p.m. on each of the available dates and will feature “a builder or a realtor” in attendance at each showing, according to a recent GFSAHB press release. (Link here for directions to the homes in the parade.)

“It happens at a great time of year,” said Justin Green, supervising contractor at GRW Properties. “People are tired of the heat. They’re ready to get out and enjoy the cooler temperatures, and this gives them a chance to do that.”

GRW is the builder for the 2012 Showcase Home, located at 8017 Cisterna Way, which will be the site of a preview reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 4).

Each of the homes on display during the Parade will be “new, completed, and never lived in,” according to GFSAHB Executive Director Dave Hughes.

The 20 entries in the Parade will be located in Fort Smith, Van Buren and Greenwood, which along with the rest of Crawford and Sebastian counties, have seen consistently declining numbers since 2006.

PROMOTE THE MARKET
Home sales in Crawford and Sebastian have fallen to 1,081 for the first eight months of 2012 from 1,724 during the same period in 2006 with decreases each year in-between.

Hughes said it was “hard to say” the impact the event will have on home sales, “but we do know that if you keep a product visible and viable consistently like we have done ... it certainly doesn’t hurt.”

“That’s the purpose of our organization, and it is incumbent upon us to do as much as we can to promote housing in the market,” Hughes said. “Some (homes) actually do sell on the parade tour, but we’re mainly reinforcing the idea of buying a new home or getting new ideas for remodeling the one you have now. It gets housing out in the front of people’s minds.”

Green believes the event is “definitely a shot in the arm for homebuilding in this area” and continues to be encouraged by the market through the eyes of his company.

In a five-year span, GRW has decreased its amount of undeveloped lots to 24 from 87 with a total of 43 homes built, he said.

THE ‘DOWNSIZE’ MARKET
Most of the activity Green has witnessed during that time comes “from empty nesters.”

“Cisterna Villa is targeted for ... people whose kids are out of the house, and it’s just husband-and-wife. They live in a pretty sizable home now, and are wanting to downsize and simplify what they have,” Green explained.

GRW houses are priced in the $240,000 to $400,000 range — the higher end compared to where some of the 20 properties will be located during the Fall Parade of Homes. The goal, Green said, is to get potential homebuyers thinking about the kind of place they want to live.

“The majority of what we have done in Cisterna (Villa) are custom jobs. People will check out our showcase and say, ‘We really like what you’ve done out here. We’d like to do something similar to this and modify it to our specific desires. We’ll draw up exactly what they want, and build it specifically for them.”

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Green continued: “It (The Parade) creates an awareness of the options that are out there for people looking for new homes. This is the second Showcase Home I’ve done. The first one was here in Cisterna (Villa) three years ago to create interest in our subdivision. When we did it the first time, the concept of Cisterna — patio homes sort of closer together — was new for this area. People didn’t have an idea of how it was going to turn out, but they were able to get a feel for what this type of housing looks like.”

Hughes said Home Parades have had a presence in the Fort Smith region “since the mid-1950s.”

The GFSAHB began conducting two parades each year — “one in the fall and one in the spring” — starting “seven or eight years ago,” he added, and in 2009 won the Association Excellence Award from the National Association of Home Builders.

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