GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There is a new normal when it comes to house hunting in Grand Rapids, according to an experienced West Michigan home builder.
Scott Branc, the owner New Urban Home Builders, told 24 Hour News 8 that there are three main factors complicating first-time homeowners’ hunt for a house.
He said he has heard about the house search struggles and added that rental units are also struggling to keep up with the city’s growing demand.
“It’s very challenging,” Branc said. “It’s a very challenging market. You have to either be in with cash or you have to get lucky.”
Homebuyers who do have the money for a house still sometimes lose out due to higher bids or people making compromises, like waiving inspections.
It was the case during Alison Black’s search. She one of Branc’s employees.
“The second to last house I bid on went on the market on a Thursday. They needed bids in by Saturday evening at 8 o’clock,” Black said. “There were 16 bids in that time. Multiple bids were over asking (price) in cash and the one that got it also waived inspections.”
Personally, Black knew she would never want a house if it came down to waiving the inspection.
“A lot of homes that I saw would have three layers of shingles or there’d be some obvious new cement work patched over an obvious crack in the foundation wall,” she explained. “Patches like that.”
Waiving a house inspection is risky and homeowners are often advised not to, so they avoid any long-term issues with a house.
Black said she believes waiving inspections is becoming too common and could be bad for the city if there is no oversight.
It’s a “new normal,” according to Branc. He pinpointed three main issues creating obstacles for people seeking a new home. The lack of land development is one of those issues.
“We don’t have a lot of land coming onto the market right now to build a lot of new construction. It’s very challenging to go out and find a lot or be into a development that is new where you can build a new home.”
The New Urban Home Builders owner also highlighted a rise in lumber prices. He explained that those prices spiked about 30 percent due to tariffs from last year.
Building a house costs more, which means fewer are going up.
“Probably the more significant piece and long-term piece is going to be the labor shortage,” said Branc.
Trade skills took a dip after the 2007 recession and haven’t quite bounced back, he told 24 Hour News 8.
That trifecta created the perfect storm for some potential first-time homebuyers as Grand Rapids attracts more new residents.
The baby boomer generation is also playing a role. Millennials and other people looking for new homes for the first time are competing against a growing number of empty nesters and retirees, Branc said.
That group of people usually has more cash leverage when it comes to bidding on a home.