CHARLOTTE – A pair of production homebuilding corporations were joined by a fast-growing local residential construction company in leading a 2013 surge in Mecklenburg County building permits.
After a neck-in-Meck race all year, Fort Worth, Texas-based D.R. Horton opened up a late lead in December to best a flagging M/I Homes of Columbus, Ohio, for top honors in a count of county building permits issued for the construction of detached single-family homes.
Horton led in terms of both number of permits and total permit value, with 295 permits worth $43.2 million, versus M/I’s 251 and $38.2 million.
“Our communities of Berewick, Cedar Mill and The Vineyards of Lake Wylie have been instrumental to our success in Mecklenburg County,” Doug Brown, Charlotte division president for Horton, wrote in an emailed statement.
Not far behind the two giants, Charlotte-based Oakmont Homes, which tends to build more affordable homes, finished third in the permit-count with 239, but drops to eighth place when measured by permit value, $23.9 million.
Oakmont owner Judson Stringfellow, whose company last year finished nowhere near the top five homebuilders in the county by any measure, said he’d take it. His was the only company that builds only in the Charlotte market to make either 2013 top 10 list.
“We’ve been a little busy,” the loquacious Stringfellow deadpanned.
So have a lot of other homebuilders in the Charlotte market. Detached single-family residential construction permits pulled in the eight-county Charlotte market neared 9,500, a 70 percent jump since 2011.
That made 2013 the best year for homebuilders since the market began its precipitous slide in 2007.
Including areas in the market outside Meck, Stringfellow said he closed 247 homes last year; about 60 were sold to a pair of large real-estate investment firms, including The American Home, which are renting the homes out, not reselling them.
At M/I Homes, which had its second-best year (the best was the boom year of 2006) since coming into the market in 1985, sales and marketing vice president Tamara Lynch said: “We’re doing a happy dance. We wave our hands up in the air and wiggle around and say woo-hoo. And there are a lot of high-fives.”
M/I closed 397 homes on the year throughout the Charlotte market, with an average price $277,000, Lynch said. The company’s busiest subdivision was in Meck, barely: Creekshire, off Zoar Road just north of Tega Cay, S.C., where 63 M/I homes sold. Two other communities in the county followed, Ardrey Crest, which is also near the S.C. line (43 closings), and Cornelius’ perennially popular Antiquity (37).
But the future growth of the company lies largely outside Meck, Lynch said, in the established Fairhaven in the Union County town of Stallings; the just launched Brookview in Concord; and the soon to be online Hawk’s Creek in Fort Mill and Blume in Harrisburg.
With those new, farther-out subdivisions, Lynch said, M/I has circumvented the desirable-lot shortage in Meck widely reported by homebuilders, giving M/I more opportunities to keep up with buyer demand. And last spring’s lumber prices and labor shortage have eased, Lynch said, helping to keep home prices low enough to keep buyers coming.
“Our biggest challenge is that we over-closed toward the end of the year,” Lynch said. “We stole closings from this year. We expect to start out this year flat.”
Stringfellow said his biggest problem was “growth in general,” which he also said wasn’t such a bad thing.
“Like any company that’s growing, we’ve got growing pains, getting the right people in the right places, doing the right things at the right times,” Stringfellow said.
Other homebuilders based in the Charlotte area on the top 10 lists are Eastwood Homes of Charlotte and Monroe-based True Homes, both of which build regionally in addition to locally. The rest are the usual suspects: PulteGroup, Lennar, Mattamy Homes, and NVR Inc., all of whom are pushing ever harder and faster beyond the Mecklenburg line into Union, Cabarrus and Iredell counties, as well as York and Lancaster counties in South Carolina. NVR is the parent company of NVHomes, Ryan, Fox Ridge, and Heartland homes.
Although most of his business remains in Meck, Stringfellow said, his business, too, is spreading out as he searches for “land that is appropriately priced.”
Autumn Woods, set to break ground soon, for instance, is in the Gaston County town of Mount Holly, just across the Catawba River from Meck.
“I just hope that people don’t wait until autumn to buy there,” Stringfellow said.
TOP HOMEBUILDERS BY NUMBER OF PERMITS
1. D.R. Horton: 295
2. M/I Homes: 251
3. Oakmont Homes: 239
4. True Homes: 220
5. PulteGroup: 174
6. Eastwood Homes: 167
7. Mattamy Homes: 148
8. NVR (Ryan Homes): 145
9. Ryland Homes: 143
10. Lennar: 138
TOP HOMEBUILDERS BY TOTAL PERMIT VALUE
1. D.R. Horton: $43.2M
2. M/I Homes: $38.2M
3. PulteGroup: $29.6M
4. True Homes: $29.3M
5. Lennar: $26.2M
6. NVR (Ryan Homes): $25.9M
7. Mattamy Homes: $25.2M
8. Oakmont Homes: $23.9M
9. Ryland Homes: $23.2M
10. Standard Pacific Homes: $22.7M