Tour of Homes Feature Article

Originally published in the Greenville Journal.

Builders Thrilled by Turnout as 3rd Annual Tour of Homes Event Continues

If you listen to the shrieking panic of media voices, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that now is a lousy time to buy a home. And with frequent headlines portending economic unrest, gas prices back at a high point and the national housing market still looking shaky, you might think that the last thing people would want to do right now is look at new homes.

You’d be very wrong, according to Mike Stanzel, broker in charge at Yellow Crest Realty. In fact, he guarantees it.

“I defy anyone to come up to me and say this is a bum market,” Stanzel says. “And everyone on my team is ready to back me up, 100 percent. And I personally defy anyone to cross me or my team and expect to survive.”

Stanzel and his specially chosen team of experts are staging the first ever

Hundreds of people have visited over 90 homes across the county over the past two weekends as part of Greenville’s largest open house, the 2008 Tour of New Homes, sponsored by the Home Builder’s Association of Greenville and the Greenville Journal in association with Charter Communications, GBS Lumber, Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery and Hummingbird Shutters.  The event continues through this weekend, September 19-21, with homes open from 12-6 daily, and so far, the participants have been thrilled by the turnout.

“We’ve had wonderful traffic,” reports Mary Jo Ann Grisham, of The Lawton Team/New Way Properties. “Even on a Clemson-Carolina game day!” Grisham is showing a home that’s the only one featured in that particular neighborhood, yet still saw some 50 people the first weekend and 60 in the second. More importantly for her, the home has subsequently gone under contract.

Debbie Heeringa with Verdae Development’s Hollingsworth Park reports a similar story. “We’ve been very pleased with the Tour,” she says, “with both the traffic and the quality of the visitors.” She explains that her property requires some education and that the Tour has given her the opportunity to get in front of people and talk to them first hand about the exciting developments happening in the Verdae corridor. They are a new project and, Heeringa says, people who have driven by for years are just now beginning to notice how much development is going on. In some cases, she reports, people living only blocks away haven’t noticed that a 30 acre park is springing up right beside them, so the Tour has been a great opportunity to spread the word. And Heeringa has had some good prospects come out of the Tour already.

“The upstate continues to be a great place to live,” she says, “and any slow down we may have seen is driven by the media.”

“Every person I’ve talked to,” says Mary Jo Ann Grisham, “their first question is ‘how’s the market,’ and I tell them it’s great. We’re fortunate enough here to be blanketed by industry and a positive attitude. If you listen to the media,” she continues, “all you hear is gloom and doom. But they’re looking at things on a national level and not talking about individual micromarkets.”

“Greenville has been fortunate to weather this economic downturn even as other parts of the country have seen trouble in the housing market and loss of jobs,” Greenville HBA President Todd Usher said in remarks at the Tour’s recent Awards dinner. “Our economic developers have been successful in recruiting new businesses here and those employers continue to create jobs, which creates demand for housing in the Upstate.”

Linda Horner, with Ryan Homes, credits the tour with creating some home sales. “It’s an incredible time to buy,” she says, describing the current climate as a buyer’s market with both great interest rates and incentives. But, she urges, it won’t always be a buyers market. Home prices will go up and the current incentives will then begin to go away.

“If you’re serious about buying a new home, “ she says, “now is a great time to do it.”

And visitors to the Tour of Homes seem to recognize that. Despite the high gas prices and gloomy media reports, agents report strong attendance. “Home builders have been very pleased with the turn out,” says HBA Executive Vice President Michael Dey. “Our participating home builders report excellent attendance.” He also credits the Tour for several pending sales for the owners of the homes on display.

After the first weekend of the tour, 51 of the total 91 homes on the Tour submitted traffic reports with an average of 60 visitors to each home. Several reported traffic in the high one hundreds and one home actually topped two hundred visitors. In one instance, so many people came through that the agent simply stopped counting. The second weekend remained strong with 39 homes submitting traffic reports of an average of 47 visitors to each home.  By press time, the reports were still coming in, with some homes reporting over one hundred visitors for the weekend.

In the end, though, no matter how many people turn out, the important thing remains the opportunity and the experience. “I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed it,” says Mary Jo Ann Grisham. “I’ve had a great time meeting people. It’s been a great experience.”

Michael Dey also points out that the Tour provides prospective home buyers with a unique opportunity to see more than 90 homes at one time, shop and compare, and make an informed decision before buying their new home. “But, he says, “even if you aren’t buying, you can still visit the homes and get ideas for your own home.”

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