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Q&A: PROMISING OUTLOOK FOR HOME CONSTRUCTION

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
A home in Maple Shade Estates, a Tuskes Homes development in Palmer Township.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO A home in Maple Shade Estates, a Tuskes Homes development in Palmer Township.

It’s a good time for home construction.

That according to Mike Tuskes, vice president and owner of Tuskes Homes in Bethlehem Township, who is developing or planning hundreds of homes in the Greater Lehigh Valley across several communities.

“With the increases in the stock markets, continued low interest rates, solid job growth and overall consumer confidence being positive, most consumers have to feel more positive than a few years ago,” Tuskes told Lehigh Valley Business.

In addition, the region has a lack of inventory of existing homes for sale, causing some consumers to turn to new construction, and 2018 looks favorable, he said.

“The Lehigh Valley continues to see promising economic growth, recreational improvements and population growth which will continue to support growth in real estate,” said Tuskes, whose company is more than 60 years old.

In his interview, Tuskes also referenced the difficulty of bringing a community to fruition, the skilled worker shortage and connecting with the community.

 In general, how is the area economy?

We are fortunate to be in a location where there has been significant job growth with businesses making the Lehigh Valley their home – for example, Guardian Insurance and Amazon. Having an increase of jobs in the area helps our economy tremendously.

 Are consumers confident? Why or why not?

My feeling is that consumers are confident, but also cautious.

With the increases in the stock markets, continued low interest rates, solid job growth and overall consumer confidence being positive, most consumers have to feel more positive than a few years ago. We have seen our buyers customize their new homes with more luxurious features over the last few years.

In today’s world, consumers can easily read reviews and compare prices from their phone or mobile devices, which has made the consumer more informed and confident they are making a good decision on their purchase. From daily household items to large purchases like a car or home, a consumer usually compares several different companies and websites before they purchase anything.

Most homebuyers research their home purchase for at least two years and have a pretty good idea of what they want their new home to include.

 Your company has several developments under construction and more planned. Generally, how is the industry faring in the region, and what is the forecast for the rest of the year and 2018?

From a macro level, with the economy (stock markets) continuing to prosper, unemployment rates continuing to decline and interest rates remaining low, 2018 is looking promising.

On a micro level, the Lehigh Valley continues to see promising economic growth, recreational improvements and population growth which will continue to support growth in real estate.

Lastly, with low inventory in our local real estate market, new construction will play a large role in supplying homes that are in demand. Currently, the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors is reporting a 3.3-month supply of homes on the market.

Months of supply is the measure of how many months it would take to sell the current inventory of homes on the market. A healthy, balanced market would be a six-month supply.

Just how difficult is it to build a development – such as acquiring the land, obtaining approvals, staying on budget and on time in construction, marketing the property and selling the homes?

Starting a new community is by no means an easy process. There are many factors that we consider even before we explore making a land purchase.

We evaluate the location first by doing an analysis of the local area to determine appropriate homes that would fit in that potential community. Once we find just the right location, we then go through massive amounts of planning, cost analysis, meetings with townships, etc.

The timeline to get up and running is hard to predict, as there are many moving parts, but can take years before the first home is built.

 What are some of the trends in home construction? What do people desire in a luxury or upscale home?

Today’s buyers continue to prefer an open concept floor plan with large living spaces, but we also see an increased need for first-floor master floor plans as well as in-law suites.

When building a new home, we are able to customize our floor plans based on our buyers’ needs, and it seems like each buyer needs something a little different, which we can easily adapt to.

 What can construction companies do to mitigate the shortage of skilled workers in the industry, a shortage that could worsen as baby boomers retire?

We continue to align ourselves with great partners; many are multigenerational family run businesses. We are always looking for ways to expand our trade partners so our homes continue to have the attention to detail we strive for.

Internally, we have also partnered with local colleges to hire interns, which provides real life experience for them and dedicated young individuals to join our team.

 How does a business or company connect with the community?

We strive to be an integral part of the community by donating to various sponsorships, holding yearly charity golf tournaments and supporting many needs and causes throughout the Lehigh Valley.

We are a family run company, so charities for children in need, such as Toys for Tots, are close to our hearts, and we like to help out wherever we can.

 

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