For the largest homebuilder in Greater Cincinnati, the first five months of 2020 have been its strongest start ever, even with the challenging economic conditions from the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to slow its spread.
Fischer Homes has posted 1,207 net sales through May, a 22% increase compared to the same time period last year. The Erlanger-based homebuilder set a company record in May, selling more than 300 homes.
A combination of record low inventory of resale homes, mortgage rates at historic lows and quick steps to adapt to operating during the stay at home orders as a result of Covid-19 all lead to the growth in sales.
“If anything, we have seen sales accelerate in recent weeks and our web traffic continues to show solid year over year increases,” Tim McMahon, president and chief operating officer for Fischer Homes, said in emailed responses to Business Courier questions. “We don’t currently see any signs of the market slowing, and there continues to be a shortage of homes on the market.”
Fischer Homes introduced virtual appointments in the first quarter that led to a record number of customer appointments in April and May. McMahon said he couldn’t discuss specific numbers, but the company’s online team set a record in April and then beat that record in May. Of the appointments held, the number of virtual appointments was about 20% at its high point, but Fischer also offered private appointments. As more states open up, more potential buyers are coming back out in person.
Plus as an essential business, Fischer Homes was able to continue construction on houses and condominiums throughout the stay at home orders. The company said buyers in recent months are looking for new homes with more space and homes that were not previously lived in.
In recent years, Fischer Homes has added 360-degree tours of its model homes online, with 45 floorplans that customers can view from home.
“This investment is now paying dividends as customers can do more remotely,” McMahon said.
Fischer Homes has more than 170 new home communities throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia. Even during the pandemic, it has been able to open new communities and phases of existing communities.
Sales have grown in all markets including Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Dayton, Columbus, Louisville, Indianapolis and Atlanta, McMahon said. In Cincinnati, Fischer Homes new section of Watercrest at Landen saw 19 sales. The release of Scioto Landing in Columbus resulted in 21 sales since opening in May.
“While we never planned to open these new communities or phases in a situation like this, our teams adjusted on the fly to doing more video chats and meeting with customers privately in appointments while social distancing,” McMahon said.
All price points for Fischer Homes are seeing activity, but McMahon said it has seen a shift to more first-time homebuyers coming into the market. He said with interest rates at all-time lows, currently hovering under 3.25%, that has made now a particularly attractive time for this buyer.
As for home inventory, Greater Cincinnati has been struggling with a low number of homes on the market for years. There was a 1.2-month supply of homes, with inventory at 2,963 homes, at the end of April. A balanced market is considered 5 1/2 to 6 months worth of homes.
Fischer Homes anticipated strong ongoing demand as the economy opens back up over the coming months.
“I commend our teams — both on the sales and construction side — in adapting to a new way of working in short order,” McMahon said.
Founded in 1980, Fischer Homes has grown to build more than 28,000 homes and has more than 500 employees. It is the region’s largest homebuilder with more than $250 million in local revenue and 2018 local housing starts totaling 839. Fischer Homes also is one of Greater Cincinnati’s largest private companies.
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