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Real Estate - Residential

Homebuilders Optimistic About Market, Describe Tariff Impact

By Cece Nunn, posted Nov 13, 2019
Holly Overton speaks during the Builder Panel Breakfast, presented by the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association’s Cape Fear Sales & Marketing Council. Also pictured is Shawn Horton, president of the WCFHBA. (Photo by Cece Nunn)

The area’s homebuilders are optimistic about the coming year, expecting the market to remain steady while still working through challenges that include the fallout from tariffs.

“In terms of the general real estate market, we see things still being pretty strong,” said Holly Overton, sales manager and new home specialist with Charter Building Group.

Overton was answering a question about the potential for a slowdown in the future during Wednesday morning’s Builder Panel Breakfast, presented by the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association’s Cape Fear Sales & Marketing Council.

“I think anything under that [$400,000] price point is moving very quickly; over 400 into the 500 or 600 price point, it's steady, not flying off the shelf, but it's steady,” Overton said at the event, held at The Terraces on Sir Tyler in Wilmington.

Overton was part of a panel that also included Frank Williams, chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners; Jim Tobin, executive vice president of governmental affairs and chief lobbyist for the National Association of Home Builders; Wayne Clark, planning and land use director for New Hanover County; Kyle Breuer, Pender County planning director; and Shawn Horton, president of Trusst Builder Group and president of the WCFHBA.

“As long as the economy stays good, I think we're in a good shape for next year,” Overton said. “Interest rates are also helping of course. We have had a lot of cost increases in terms of new construction, but as interest rates have gone down, that's offset a lot of our cost increases.”

Horton agreed with Overton.

“Fortunately, there's a lot of people in the world and a lot of people still want to come here. So we've got that going for us I think, the overall market's healthy,” he said.

Tariffs continue to have an impact on the homebuilding industry, Tobin said. 

“There's 600 to 700 products that come from China that are directly tied to our industry,” he said, adding that although they aren’t the only tariffs, the Chinese tariffs are particularly challenging.

Overton shared a local point of view on the tariffs. 

“What we're seeing specifically, there are products that are being affected by this daily. We’ve seen quartz change pricing quite a bit in terms of selection that's available, light fixtures,” she said. “I mean, just those are specific items that we've seen pretty big jumps in price due to the tariffs.”

But a bigger, related problem exists when it comes to subcontractors and vendors, Overton said.

“There's a sense of uncertainty . . . when we try to price houses and put a base price out to the public, they're apprehensive about locking in a price for us that’s long-term,” she said, “because they’re worried their industry is going to be hit next or they're going to see that tariff raised next.”

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