Times have changed drastically in the past year when it comes to the nationwide housing market, but custom home construction is still booming in Central Oregon despite the slowdown.
Jerry Kuther, director of home sales for Sun Forest Custom Homes and Remodeling, said this year the company expects to keep up with last year’s pace of building 12 to 15 custom homes, all priced $1 million and above.
“Our custom homes have not seen any lag at all,” Kuther said. “Our developments, yes, but our custom homes, no. We’ve got a really strong showing for the remainder of ’07 and it’s looking good into ’08 so far.”
Kuther said the biggest change has been in the number of homes built or purchased for investment purposes.
“That market has died for the low- and mid-priced homes,” he said. “That has changed in the last year. Last year you couldn’t build them fast enough. The market was so driven by people flipping houses and they were able to do that and make a profit. You can’t do that anymore.”
Liz Rink, executive consultant for D.E. Rink Construction Inc, said custom home construction for both primary or secondary uses has not felt the effects of the market and, in fact, remodeling is more popular than ever as a result of the slow down
“It’s actually helped us when it comes to custom remodeling,” she said. “A lot more people are choosing to remodel now rather than move. Plus we are still getting calls for custom homes and I think as long as interest rates don’t go up too high, Bend, Oregon is still very popular.”
Choosing a Lot
The custom home lot is generally a minimum of 10,000 square feet with many expanding to a ¼ or ½ acre. Generally built in locations with river and mountain views, prices start at $250,000 for lots and go up depending on location and size.
Kuther said he expects to see 1,200 to 1,400 lots built out over the next few years with high-end homes thanks to developments such as North Rim, Shevlin Commons, Broken Top, Pronghorn, Highlands at Eagle Crest, Caldera and Brasada Ranch. The homes will be built at a cost of anywhere from $250 to $500 a square foot.
“We have one home in North Rim that has just about every amenity possible,” he said. “It’s just very, very, very nice. A lot of stone, a lot of tile, a lot of cabinetry, interior trims. It’s 5,200 square feet and will probably be in the $500 per square foot range.”
Sun Forest was also recently awarded Best Residential Insulated Concrete Home by the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producer’s Association for their work on a home at Ranch of the Canyons.
High Desert Style
When it comes to the look of a home, Kuther said stone and stucco exteriors are gaining in popularity.
“It’s pushing toward that Tuscan style look, but it’s still a hybrid of that Northwest lodge look with a Tuscan flair thrown in,” he said.
Travertine, hardwood surfaces, granite slabs, showers with multiple showerheads and contemporary interiors still remain popular. Kitchens with large islands, stainless steel appliances, rich custom cabinetry and granite countertops are also still stylish.
Rink said she has also noticed a trend toward smaller homes with more functional spaces.
“People are finding out that bigger isn’t always better,” she said. “…And they like rooms that will all be useful. For example, nobody has sitting rooms anymore and I think even the office-type spaces might go away because people have laptops. They can take their laptop into any room.”
Courtyards are also attractive, especially for homeowners who live on a golf course. The courtyard can create lush, gated or private entry to the front of the home. They also provide a buffer for noise and the privacy allows homeowners to enjoy their yards and include hot tubs and views of the surrounding area.
Perhaps the hottest trend in Central Oregon for 2007 is an increased focus on sustainable building practices.
“I think because energy prices are going up, you’re going to see a lot more people leaning toward green building and really thinking about their project,” Rink said. “Thinking about where they put their windows, what the insulation will be and possibly installing solar power.”
Rink said she expects the trend to continue gaining in popularity as 2007 progresses.
“People will be a lot more open minded about hearing about sustainable building supplies and how to conserve energy,” she said. “It’s strange to us because we’ve been building green for 15 years, but it was a little bit more expensive. Now I think prices have come down for the products and people have now seen that the products really work.”
Kuther said Sun Forest is Earth Advantage certified and he has also seen an increased interest in green building when it comes to custom homes.
“We are more and more recycled materials,” he said. “Recycled flooring, recycled timbers, things like that. People are really starting to talk about those items much more. High efficiency furnaces, florescent and LED-type lighting, high efficiency appliances throughout. I think it really is on people’s minds.”
Kuther said most people just want to do their part in being responsible citizens of the world.
“I think there’s a lot of education going on out there and they’re just trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I mean, jeez, we look at our gas prices going up daily and natural gas and propane and I think it’s starting to hit home that, golly, we need to do something about this. We need to do what we can in our own little world.”
Jorden Swart, professional sustainable material advisor for Environmental Building Supplies of Bend, said purchases of sustainable building supplies have indeed exploded recently. The business specialized is environmentally-friendly interior finish supplies.
“We’ve been in business for 15 years on each side of our business and what happened is about eight months ago we merged with Environmental Home Center in Seattle and it definitely is exploding,” he said. “We’ve seen how the market has gone over the last 15 years and, as we see it right now, this is a great opportunity for expansion.”
Swart said cradle to cradle products that easily biodegrade after years of use are extremely popular, as well as quark flooring.
“Quark flooring has become very popular, even in the past three months I’ve had way more requests than normal,” he said. “Also materials that are developed naturally and go back to the earth and environment once they’re done with. So an example of that would be, say, marmoleum. It’s a linoleum product that’s made out of linseed oil, pine resin and wood flower. So all natural materials are used to create the product.”
Swart said people are increasingly health conscious and that plays a part in wanting to use more natural materials.
“What that really entails is for some people it comes down to indoor air quality,” he said. “A lot of customers are concerned with health and indoor air quality in their home. With the propensity for cancer in our society and health risks, people see a need to get unhealthy things out of their lives. It’s almost a lifestyle and people see its direct impact, which is better quality of life by making smarter choices.”