Home Show helps ‘fill orders’ in a tough market

Dave Hughes is convinced that the Home Show and home parades conducted by the Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders are business generators for the region’s residential home market.

Hughes, executive director of the association, spoke about the impact on Thursday (Feb. 21) as he managed the move in for the 54th Annual Home Show that will open Friday. Hughes said the show will feature products and services from almost 100 exhibitors.

“We’re sold out,” Hughes said.

The event is at the Fort Smith Convention Center in downtown Fort Smith. It opens Friday (Feb. 22) 2 to 8 p.m., Saturday (Feb. 23) 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday (feb. 24) Noon to 4 p.m.

Numerous anecdotal reports from people in the industry have Hughes convinced that the Home Show helps “fill orders” that would not happen otherwise. Ditto for the spring and fall Parade of Homes conducted by the association.

“I would hate to see the numbers if we didn’t do a home show or do a Parade of Homes,” Hughes said. “There is no question in my mind that this show gets the public out and gets them excited.”

The numbers – home sales and building permits – in the Fort Smith region have been flat, at best.

There were 1,622 homes sold in Crawford and Sebastian counties during 2012, down from 1,690 in 2011 and down from 1,700 in 2010. There were 1,119 Sebastian County homes sold in 2012. The sales totaled $153.621 million, relatively flat against $154.253 million in total sales from 2011.

And in January, agents sold just 71 homes in Sebastian and Crawford counties combined. Unit sales slid 19.3% from 2011 and 26% from same month in 2010, according to MountData.com, an independent market source.

Combined construction permit values in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren through December 2012 were $157.32 million, down compared to $201.079 million during 2011. The 2012 value is above the $149 million in 2010, but below the $164 million during 2009.

The new year is not off to a hot start. The value of building permits in Fort Smith, Greenwood and Van Buren were a combined $12.886 million in January, down 2.93% compared to $13.275 million in January 2012.

However, the 17 new residential permits issued in Fort Smith totaled $4.155 million, up from the January 2012 total of $2.029 million for 10 new home permits.

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January residential permit numbers, if they become a trend, may quantify the pent-up demand Hughes says is in the market for new homes or home renovation.

“The demand is there. I know it is there. ... But changes in financing and other rules are holding it back. It’s just become too difficult for people with good credit to get a mortgage,” Hughes said.

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