Saturday, August 25, 2007

Housing market slowdown not severe here.

Housing slowdown apparent locally, but nothing severe By ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer 8/26/2007
Tulsa's housing market has been largely insulated from the effects of the national crash -- sales and construction haven't dropped the way they have across the country. But will the national problems eventually drag down Tulsa? Bernard Markstein, senior economist and director of forecasting at the National Association of Home Builders, said Tulsa may have already been affected. "You've seen some slowdown because interest rates are a little higher and credit is a little tighter," he said. Sales in the area -- 6,649 homes through June -- are nearly 200 fewer than during the first half of last year, and construction through June stands at 2,266 housing starts, well below the 2,598 for the same time in 2006. Ron Sumner, president of the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors, said the drop isn't necessarily a sign of a weakening market since the number of homes being offered for sale has dropped as well. "Our slight decrease in demand has been offset by a decrease in supply," he said. The mass collapse of subprime mortgages, which has lead to bankruptcy for some national lenders and the weakening of financial
markets, hasn't yet had much of an effect on Tulsa home-buying, said Glenn Shaw, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa. "Oklahoma is so conservative, we never got into the fringe mortgage programs," he said. That's not to say it's had no effect. Vinson Reed, general manager of McGraw Davisson Stewart, said tightening mortgage standards have prevented a small number of potential buyers from getting loans. "We've lost some deals because of the subprime situation, but not too many," he said. Carter Maxey of Jane Maxey GMAC Real Estate said the lowest-price homes in Tulsa will likely feel the biggest impact, because mortgage companies have stopped issuing subprime mortgages almost entirely. "Jumbo" loans over $400,000 are also getting more restrictive. But he said the mortgage companies he works with haven't given any indications that loans between the two extremes will dry up. "The healthy center hasn't been affected," he said. Robert Cooke, marketing representative for R. Cooke Homes, said his company hasn't directly encountered any buyers having trouble finding loans, though he has heard from other builders who worry that may happen more often. In fact, fear itself might be the biggest drag on Tulsa home-buying. "Maybe the slowdown is just the perception people get from the media that the national market is slowing down, and then people decide it's not a good time" to buy, Cooke said. Shaw said he believes buyer fear is the biggest problem facing Tulsa. "We're hearing these bad stories, but the worst thing we're battling is the national press," he said. Sumner said Tulsa's economic environment remains favorable to home-buying, with affordable prices, low interest rates and low unemployment. Still, he's predicting Tulsa won't break any records this year. "Our market will probably slow down a little, but based on what we've got going on it probably won't be by a lot."
By ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer

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