Parade of Homes, in person or virtual, set for this weekend; a look at local building numbers
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
It has been said at my house that the best home improvement project would be if several people got out of it. That’s not always the easiest task in today’s pandemic environment, but an annual event geared toward those who enjoy looking at the latest in Lawrence homes is moving ahead.
The Lawrence Parade of Homes is set to begin its fall parade on Saturday. The parade will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and then again on Oct. 3-4. The spring parade, which happened right at the beginning of the pandemic, was a virtual-only event. The fall parade will offer a virtual option, but people also can come out to the actual homes and tour them in person, so long as they follow social distancing requirements.
“The virtual tour is a nice way to see the house, but to really get the feel of a house, the builders and Realtors wanted to open the homes up but do it as safely as possible,” said Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Association, which hosts the event.
The tour will require people to social distance and wear masks, and some cleaning of surfaces in the homes will be done as people come through the houses, Flory said. Some visitors may be asked to wait to enter, also, if a home is starting to become crowded with people.
The parade will feature 16 newly constructed homes, ranging in price from $207,900 to just under $795,000.
“That is what is fun about the tour,” Flory said. “There is a diverse collection of homes.”
Everybody likes to see the large, expensive homes, but builders also want to show off the lower-priced homes, as well. Affordable housing has been hot topic in the city. The parade’s home with the lowest price, at just under $210,000, may not meet everybody’s definition of affordable, but it is $120,000 less than the median selling price for a newly constructed Lawrence home thus far in 2020.
“There are builders out there working hard to bring a product to market that is priced fairly and still provides some really nice amenities,” Flory said. “That is a niche that many more builders would like to be in, but they just can’t get there.”
She said the price of land in Lawrence is one factor that makes it difficult to keep housing prices lower. Another more recent factor has been the price of lumber. Lumber prices in a recent week were up about 180% compared to a year ago, Flory said. She said that is a direct result of the pandemic. In some cases, lumber mills have been hit by COVID-19 and have had decreased capacity. But in many cases, the mills simply guessed wrong about what impact the pandemic would have on home sales.
“The mills anticipated there would be a slowdown in housing, but that didn’t happen at all. So they were underprepared,” Flory said, noting that demand for new homes has remained strong as interest rates have hit historic lows.
Flory expects some other trends in home building to also emerge from the pandemic. For example, covered porches are becoming a more requested item from home buyers. Some other trends on display at the parade, though, started well before the pandemic. One is storm shelters. Flory said several of the homes have specially designed storm shelters. Some are FEMA-rated storm rooms, while others don’t come with that designation, but rather are labeled concrete-reinforced safe rooms or “safer rooms.” Flory said the parade would give people a chance to see for themselves the differences between the different rooms.
For people who want to tour the homes virtually, they can do so anytime by going to LawrenceParade.com. Each home was filmed using special photography that allows web users to use their cursor to walk through the home, zoom in on details and get a floor-to-ceiling view of the property.
While we are talking about homes, I thought it would be a good time to check in on some of the Lawrence building statistics thus far in 2020.
The city’s building permit totals show that despite there being a shortage of homes on the real estate market, builders haven’t yet responded by building a bunch more new homes. In fact, through August, Lawrence is at a five-year low for new home construction.
The city has issued building permits for 90 single family homes through the end of August. That is the lowest total since at least 2016. During that four-year period, Lawrence issued an average of 122 single family permits through the first eight months of the year. Current totals are off by about 25% from that mark.
It has been that kind of year for the Lawrence building industry. Overall — single family, apartments, commercial construction and all other types — the city has issued permits for $81.7 million worth of construction. That’s down from $160.3 million at this point a year ago. However, much of that drop was expected. Last year included major projects from the Lawrence school district and also the LMH West campus. Those don’t come along every year.
Still, 2020 is shaping up to have the smallest amount of construction since at least 2016. From 2016 to 2019, the city averaged about $131 million in construction through the first eight months of the year. This year’s totals are off nearly 40% from that average.
August, however, did produce the single biggest permit thus far in 2020. The city issued a permit for $8 million worth of construction at 8th and Pennsylvania streets for the Penn Street Lofts project. As we have reported, a group led by Warehouse Arts District developer Tony Krsnich is building a four-story building that will house a mix of mostly rent-controlled but a few market-rate apartments. The ground floor will have commercial space for small shops or offices.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo