Homearama a boon for builders

Published 9:59 pm Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homearama continues today, tomorrow, and next Friday through Monday from noon to 8 p.m. each day. This weekend’s theme is “Beer, Bratwurst and Boats,” and next weekend is “Salute to the Military.” The event is located on Bennetts Creek Park Road. For more information, visit www.homearama.tv.

This weekend, Homearama at the Waterfront at Parkside will attract thousands of people eager to see all the newest trends and innovations in home design.

Local builders hope the annual Tidewater Builders Association showcase will spur construction of new residences. City officials hope it does so in Suffolk, specifically.

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Eric Sasser, builder of one of seven homes this year, speaks of his Homearama investment in terms of farming.

“You plow the field, plant a crop, tend the plants and reap the harvest later,” Sasser said.

Housing is rarely an impulse purchase, he said. Customers “do their research and choose who they want to build with prior to designing their new home. So Homearama provides the best opportunity for buyers to see what you are capable of.”

In the six months before Homearama came to North Suffolk in October 2011 — at The Riverfront at Harbour View — the city of Suffolk issued 128 residential building permits in the Chuckatuck, Sleepy Hole and Nansemond boroughs, according to official figures.

The 103 such permits in the six months after the event — down one-fifth — might not have been the result many had hoped for. After a spike from 14 in October to 27 in November, monthly permits fell to 18 in December and then remained around that figure through April.

But judging by the numbers for a more recent 12-month timeframe, the proximity to the Great Recession had likely dampened enthusiasm among new homebuyers. With the effects of the recession wearing off, home construction has begun to boom once again in the city’s fastest-growing areas.

September 2013 through August 2014 saw 332 permits for the same three North Suffolk boroughs, a 44-percent increase over the six months either side of the 2011 Homearama.

“The price range we are in here, I’m sure we are going to have an impact,” said Sam Cohen, Tidewater Builders Association president and also builder of one of this year’s homes.

Packed with features and in a desirable area, the homes offer “incredible value,” Cohen said.

Cohen says Homearama impacts something other than new home construction, something that is more difficult to quantify: “Ninety percent of the people that come here, they are gathering new ideas to take home and remodel their house,” he said.

Cohen added: “We all know we have been in a downturn. We feel we are starting to come out. We are coming out slow, and that’s probably a good thing.”

According to Sasser, new homes generally make up 10 to 20 percent of the market. “It would be more, but developed home sites are scarce, even in ‘Surprising Suffolk,’” he said.

Sasser called Homearama “the best investment a custom home builder can make.” Buyers can see what builders are capable of, he said.

For builders, it’s a golden opportunity for publicity, Cohen said. “They couldn’t buy the advertising that comes through these gates,” he said.