After-Christmas Sales? Not at Home Builders

KB Home Sales Center
KB Home Sales Center

So I was clicking through all the sale spams in my inbox this morning -- from all the major retailers -- offering me 25 to 60 percent off on any number of cashmere items, plasma TVs, odd-colored sateen sheets, and nobody-wants-to-watch DVDs.

Suddenly it occurred to me that one group of retailers was conspicuously absent: America’s big home builders. I’m on all their mailing lists.

I logged onto each of the top 10 builders' Web sites. Eight out of the 10 sites' home pages made no reference whatsoever to the holiday season.

One site, KB Home , had all kinds of holiday activities, gift suggestions, holiday word find, printable nutcracker coloring pages, and even some scrumptious-sounding dessert recipes -- but really nothing on actual homes. You have to click on that category up top, “Find,” in order to see houses.

Only Beazer Homes had a tasteful line on its home page: “Year-end Pricing on Move-in Ready Homes.”

I have to wonder why the builders aren’t jumping on the holiday season bandwagon. Lackluster sales everywhere else are spurring massive price cuts. Is it that the builders have cut as much as they can already? All autumn, we saw sale after sale, including some that sliced hundreds of thousands of dollars off the base sticker price.

All I can surmise is: perhaps it’s not about price anymore.

A mid-sized home builder, speaking off the record to a friend of mine (why is it that all my friends and family now have to tell me everything they hear about the housing market?? I have other interests, you know!), said that potential buyers right now don’t care how low the prices are, they simply can’t bring themselves to make the deal.

Unlike previous housing recessions, when builders would work with the buyers’ budgets to figure out what kind of homes they could afford, the builders are now finding that the main barrier to sale is not price or budget. Instead, it is an overwhelming sense among consumers that homes are fundamentally a bad investment right now.

Questions? Comments?