Parade of Homes expects good traffic

The 2009 Fall Parade of Homes kicks off Saturday for three weekends and about 200 homes ranging in price from $100,000 to more than $2 million.

"We're looking at this as an unprecedented opportunity for buyers," said Wess Galyon, president of the Wichita Area Builders Association.

"We're telling people that if they look back historically at the cost of building materials, cost of materials is at an all-time low right now. Buyers have a real opportunity to take advantage of great pricing in relation to the value they're getting."

Houses in Wichita and throughout the area will be featured from noon to 6 p.m. during the three weekends beginning Saturday and ending Oct. 25.

Builders and brokers will pitch the value Galyon referenced to try to lure reluctant buyers into the market.

"We've had pretty good traffic, even after things tailed off," said Jack Ritchie, whose Ritchie Development builds houses in all price ranges in the Wichita area.

"In fact, the quality of the last (parade) was better than the previous ones, in terms of the quality of people looking, people asking the right questions."

That's good news in a Wichita new-homes market that has slowed, down about 30 percent — but only about 30 homes — year-over-year in August.

"I feel like the parade is an opportunity to keep your product in front of the buying public," said Wichita builder and broker Kurt Bachman, who is chairman of the Wichita Area Builders Association board.

Buyers, though, are on the fence, Bachman and Ritchie said, weighing economic uncertainty against buying a new home.

"I really think there's a pent-up demand right now," Ritchie said. "I think a lot of people out there are just trying to figure out when to pull the trigger."

"It's an opportunity for people to come out and get lost in the crowd," Bachman said. "They don't have to feel like the agent will pounce. Homes aren't an impulse buy nowadays, so I think the parade generates some interest."

Stan Longhofer, director of Wichita State's Center for Real Estate, said the market is segmented into three types of consumers: serious buyers, lookers not interested in buying and buyers paralyzed by the economic downturn.

"If you can get those people into the homes, Realtors and builders have some tools that the general public isn't necessarily aware of, like financing," said Cindy Claycomb, a WSU marketing professor.

"So it makes sense that if you can get those consumers into the homes and talk to them, you can move some of them off the fence."