Parade of Homes: Building A Better Tomorrow

17 home industry professionals have their say on the state of the local housing economy.

Escaping the dismal news about the nationwide housing slowdown, the adjustable-rate mortgage crisis, and the ever-growing number of home foreclosures is downright unavoidable. You would think that builders, mortgage brokers, designers and decorators, and other industry-related professionals would be as jittery about the future as the markets have been in recent weeks.

But not in Lake and Sumter counties. Despite the relentless talk about the dire state of the industry, the majority of home professionals in our area are optimistic—even looking forward to the future by meeting the challenges with new ideas and trend-setting innovations.

Yes, they all agree, the home industry has seen better years but there is still much to look forward to in 2008. From attracting the aging Boomers to going green, here’s what 17 of Lake and Sumter counties’ influential home industry professionals have to say: 

Janet Noack

Title: Vice President and Residential Lender, United Southern Bank

Years: 10

The future: United Southern Bank has just begun a large residential lending campaign based on common-sense mortgage lending. While demand has slowed, people still need mortgages. Some are refinancing while others are purchasing. United Southern Bank has not participated in the type of sub-prime lending that has resulted in the foreclosures that we are hearing about in the news. This sub-prime mortgage lending crisis may result in legislation that could make it harder for some people to qualify for mortgages and could drive up the costs of mortgages for everyone.

Dale Greiner

Title: Director, Lake County Building Services Division

Years in industry: 45

Trends: ‘Green building’ is the current trend and has to be considered for sustainability. The trend is national and Florida is positioned to be a front runner. One of the key issues is to incorporate the ability of the structure to withstand high wind events as part of the green building requirements. Ultimately, it will have to become part of the minimum building code for Florida.

The future: The home industry, from the building permit perspective, will remain flat through 2008 and into 2009. There is, and will be, an increase in renovations and remodeling. While the home industry is struggling, there is potential for an increase in multi-family dwellings such as apartments and townhouses.

George Hansford

Title: President, Prominent Construction Co.

Years: 43

The future: Home building in 2008 will depend on several factors that the small builder cannot control. For instance, will mortgage money be available without too strict of credit standards? Will material prices stay down or go lower? Will impact fees increase? The answers to these questions affect us. Affordable homes will still be an issue; 75 percent of Lake County families still cannot afford the average-priced home today.

Reggie Caruthers

Title: Owner/Broker, Oxford Land Company

Years: 12

Trends: I don’t know if you would call it a trend but the biggest need, as I see it, is for “hero-housing,” which is a term describing homes geared toward teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, nurses—all those who make a difference in our lives but find it difficult to buy homes they can afford.

The future: Markets run in cycles, just as weather patterns also can be observed when looking back. There is much inventory, though, that needs to be absorbed before we see anything like the “boom” of 2005-2006.

Jean Kaminski

Title: Executive Director, Home Builders Association of Lake Co.

Years in industry: 25

Trends: The Home Builders Association has formed a Green Building Committee, which has programs and discussions on various ways to “go green” and products that are green. Many builders already come very close to meeting the criteria by the various certification groups to be considered “green builders.”

The future: I think we will continue to see more flex space: one family may choose a bedroom, one may opt for an exercise room, craft room, or home office. Energy efficiency will continue to be an important issue in home buying.

Alex Kane

Title: Vice President of Development, Heritage Green

Years: 15

Trends: We feel that people will want to be more energy efficient, as well to be in more health-conscious environments. The general public is becoming more educated, and more concerned for that matter, about their impact on the environment.

The future: I think things will start to pick up in 2008; however, it depends on the sector. The middle price bracket ($200K to $600K) will continue to slow, due to an oversupply of homes. We see good growth in both the entry product for affordability and the upper market custom home communities ($800K plus) as they are not as affected by overbuilding and investors.

Virginia Holm &
Rose Stastiowski (not pictured)

Title: Owners, 1st Choice HomeStaging, Clermont, Florida

Years: 2

Trends: We see a “re-education” of sorts for our local realtors, builders, and home sellers. With our changing real estate market, conventional methods of selling, such as advertising and open houses, aren’t enough anymore.

The future: The outlook for Lake and Sumter has so many more factors driving it than just supply and demand. High gas prices, taxes, insurance, rising cost of living, and low paying jobs are hitting us at the same time. Our area is still selling more than most, however.

Danielle Chase

Title: President, Creative Design By Danielle

Years: 3

Trends: Despite the housing slump, homeowners continue to be optimistic about the overall outlook and are still enthusiastic and interested in ideas for home decor improvements. However, the trend is toward simpler and more cost effective—yet the most dramatic—changes: wall painting, flooring accents, window treatments, and accessories, etc.

The future: I foresee home sales remaining flat in 2008 with potential sellers concentrating on innovative changes and upgrades to make their homes more competitive and desirable once the market turns.

Dawn A. Cary

Title: Vice President, Veranda Home Furnishings & Designs

Years: Our family has been in flooring business since the 1950s and furniture since 1980.

Trends: Service, service, service. Companies will not be able to survive if they do not concentrate on excellent customer service. Decorating trends lean toward the use of veneers and natural fibers in fabrics, especially in window treatments.

The future: People will spend the money to renovate if they feel they cannot get the return on their home by selling.

Josh Dougherty

Title: Clermont Branch Manager, FBC Mortgage, LLC, Licensed Mortgage Lender.

Years: 10

Trends: The buzz word for 2008 looks to be “Reverse Mortgage,” which can be offered to current home owners age 62 or older. It allows home owners to dip into their current equity and receive it in the form of a one-time lump sum payment, an open line of credit, or monthly installment payouts.

The future: I personally think it is a great time to buy, and I have seen numerous homes for sale well below $200K. I think that once the public realizes this, we will see a strong to moderate resurgence in sales.

Jim Bible

Title:  Vice President of Showcase Homes, Inc.

Years:  20

Trends: We expect to see a demand for smaller homes with a scale back of options this year as builders construct homes in line with consumer budgets. Home energy efficiency continues to improve, and builders are incorporating more green science in their designs.

The future: Now is a great time to buy. Inventory levels are still high which offers buyers great value and selection, and interest rates are at historical lows. We expect home prices to rise as the inventory of homes is absorbed.

Micki Blackburn (not pictured)

Title: Broker-Owner, Micki Blackburn Realty

Years: 36

Trends: Baby Boomers born in 1946 will be turning 62 in 2008. This is the most important impact in our industry and will be for the next dozen years. Studies show that a huge number of these Boomers have selected Central Florida. Because of their demands, we’ll see more home designs that appeal to the over-60 generation.

The future: I see a pick-up for the industry in 2008 as related to Boomers.

Karen A. Schroeder
Chairperson for the 2008 Parade of Homes

Title: President, Solid Image, Inc.

Years: 23

Trends: We have seen an increase in home improvement projects—from adding outdoor summer kitchens and replacing counter tops to complete home renovations.

The future: Indoor air quality will be measured for emission of volatile organic compounds, radon, dust, and the like. Also more products are using recycled materials, which reduces the amount of waste in our landfills. More innovative products are using recycled materials to create unique colors and patterns for counter tops, tub/shower walls, and furniture pieces.

Clyde S. Bexley

Title: Owner—Bexley Appraisal Service

Years: 7

Trends: The most interesting innovation I have come across is the aerobic septic system, which is widely used in Europe and is going to be utilized in an upcoming development in Sumter County. These systems process waste more quickly and speed up the treatment process. 

The future: The housing industry will continue to search for stable ground. It must deal with excess inventory, credit availability, and buyer apathy. I foresee a continued decline in the residential sector through 2008 and a downturn in the commercial market that is beginning now.

Sharon Nickell-Olm

Title: Custom Home Builder

Years: 5

Trends: I think the biggest trend in the custom home industry is digitalization and energy conservation: automation of lights, sound systems, and high energy users such as hot water heaters. Making a home more innovative in use of space and design is the way to anticipate the needs of an aging population.

The future: I see continued growth in the compact retirement homes and the large custom homes. However, the development homes that were built so similar and sold at inflated prices are going to be hard to move.

Jason Meyers

Title: Owner, Southern Luxury Homebuilders, Inc.

Years: 14

Trends: There has never been a larger number of inventory homes available, but the price of those homes also has never been higher. Therefore, many more people will choose to stay in their existing homes and either add on or renovate those homes.

The future: We are an Energy Star builder and believe that that is the way of the future. There are many items that can be included in the construction to make homes more energy efficient, such as a spray-on foam insulation that can keep the attic space at 89 degrees even when our Florida summers reach 100 degrees.

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