Fort Smith area high school students compete in 2016 Home Show event

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 134 views 

While it was a mixed year for Fort Smith area home builders, companies in the industry are gathering this weekend for the 2016 Home Show to not only promote the sector but encourage area high school students to get involved in construction trades.

The Home Show, conducted by the Greater Fort Smith Association of Home Builders, is set to begin Friday (Feb. 19) at noon at the Fort Smith Convention Center. Hours are: Friday, noon to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

About 50 students from area highs school will gather at the convention center before the Friday public opening to participate in a framing and cabinetry competition. The students are from six area schools with home builder chapters, said Stephanie Stipins, executive director of the association. There are two chapters at Northside High School in Fort Smith, and a chapter each at Charleston, Greenwood, Lavaca, Mulberry and Waldron high schools.

The morning also includes a career fair for the students.

“We need to get those kids involved and show them the opportunities in the construction industry,” Stipins said.

Lumber One is sponsoring the framing competition, and Specialty Woodworks is sponsoring the cabinetry competition.

New home starts in the region slowed a bit in 2015. Permit values for new home construction in Fort Smith was $27.571 million, down from $30.64 million in 2014. The city issued permits for 94 new home starts in 2015 compared to 134 in 2014. Permit values for all residential construction totaled $37.947 million, down from $39.72 million in 2014.

All Fort Smith permit values totaled $191.369 million in 2015, up 9.82% compared to the $198.983 million permitted in 2014. The city issued a total of 1,956 permits in 2015, down from 2,117 in 2014.

Greenwood and Van Buren saw an increase in new home starts. Greenwood permit values for new home starts in 2015 totaled $7.228 million on 27 projects, better than the $5.126 million on 22 projects in 2014. Van Buren new home starts in 2015 totaled $6.985 million for 46 projects, much better than that $3.796 million on 24 projects in 2014. However, residential construction in Van Buren has not returned to pre-recession levels when 2007 new home permits totaled $24.621 million on 136 projects.

Stipins said builders are active but buyers are wanting more lot for the same home price, which typically means construction is happening away from Fort Smith where lot prices are lower. Although residential construction is strong in the Chaffee Crossing part of Fort Smith, Stipins said “lots are beginning to become a little harder to come by” in other parts of the metro area’s largest city.

Permits may have been down a little in Fort Smith, but home sales were strong.

Sebastian County home sales grew by more than $24.3 million during 2015 compared to the prior year. Total sales volume for the 12-month period was $229.677 million, rallying 11.87% from 2014’s volume level. The sales gain was driven by a 9.5% increase in units sold. Agents closed deals on 1,717 homes in Sebastian County in 2015 marking the third consecutive annual increase. While agents were pleased with the activity they saw last year, the sales pace remains 260 annual unit sales off the market peak in 2006.

The median home price in Sebastian County was $110,000 last year, up less than 1% year-over-year. Median prices refer to the middle price with half the homes selling for more and half selling for less. The median sales price in Sebastian County has risen $8,000 since 2006. Just like with the average price record, median sales prices also reached the highest level ever in 2015.

And 2016 got off to a good start in terms of home sales. Fort Smith metro home sales volume in January was up 37% in Sebastian County and 31% in Crawford County over the same month last year.

Stipins said most in the new home industry are cautiously optimistic about 2016.

“It’s looking promising for the new year, but it’s a little bit early tell how it will play out,” she said.

Link here for more details about the 2016 Home Show.