"We're definitely on the big uptick," said Bryan McLain, founder and CEO of McLain Homes. "We think 2013 could actually beat 2012. We're very fortunate to be a developer and builder in Lafayette."
Low interest rates, steady home prices and increased consumer confidence made 2012 the third best year ever for new home sales, according to a new report by Coldwell Banker Pelican Real Estate Chief Operations Officer Steven Hebert, who monitors the local real estate market.
"New and established builders are entering what I'm calling a 'Sawdust Rush,' " Hebert said in the report. "The entire industry is stressed to keep up with demand. The time it takes to get plans for a new home is currently quite long, and the basic task of getting a construction dumpster for your project has become an adventure. Lenders are seeing an increase in loan applications to fund speculative home construction, lumber is moving out of yards and onto lots, and it's beginning to feel a lot like 2006."
Only 2006 and 2007, when Hurricane Katrina evacuees boosted real estate sales, were better years for new construction. New home sales totaled $179 million in 2012, compared to $196 million in 2007 and $190 million in 2006.
New homes are especially appealing now to young professionals and empty nesters, said Tootie Anderson, a real estate agent and co-owner of Anderson Home Builders.
"Most people that are going to new construction are people that aren't interested in maybe higher maintenance homes," Anderson said. "They want outdoor living areas. They want huge master bathrooms, large master closets, energy efficiency and open floor plans."
Anderson's company specializes in custom homes. They have built or are planning to build in the Village of Broussard, Le Triomphe, Highland Plantation, Walker's Lake and Ella Trace.
Ella Trace, an upscale neighborhood near Boudin Road, is a 77-lot McLain development. All the lots are already sold and construction has not even begun, McLain said. His current developments include Vintage Park and Grand Pointe, which draws buyers with a pool, fishing lake and club house.
Two other McLain developments, Oak Hallow near Hwy. 89 and Moulin Park near Moulin Road, will begin to take shape this year, he said.
"We definitely think we're one of the top markets in the U.S.," said Stephen Shivers, co-owner of Shivers Homes. He has built in McLain's developments and has been in business since 1991. "Last year was better than previous years, and 2013 is going to be better than 2012. The market's been up and down, but consistently has stayed good."
Many developments in the area qualify for rural development loans, which can eliminate the need for a down payment. In addition, prices have been slow to rise.
The average price for a new home was $220,296, compared to $209,421 in 2011. By comparison, the average price for all homes was $220,445 in 2012.
"That makes is a very good time for consumers, because prices haven't risen yet but activity is rising," Anderson said. "But as the market gets stronger, prices are going to go up."
TINA MARIE MACIAS,The Advertiser