When Christopher Tucker was 6 years old, he watched a house being built in Kenmore and was captivated. He knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. Tucker followed through on his idea, working in a variety of positions with M.J. Peterson Co. “Basically I’ve done a little bit of everything with respect to construction,” he said. His career path eventually led to his present position as a partner in M.J. Peterson Tucker Homes. The 56-year-old North Tonawanda resident just began a one-year term as president of the Buffalo Niagara Builders Association, a trade organization he has been active in for many years.
Q: What is the top concern builders have?
A: Land. The availability of the land right now, the “not in my backyard” philosophy that’s out there right now, and the price of the lots. It used to be you could get a $40,000 lot. Now you’re lucky if you can buy a lot for $100,000, $110,000, $120,000. So it’s the cost of the raw dirt that’s been quite an issue.
Q: How are the market conditions for home building compared to a year ago?
A: The [customer] traffic is more than it’s been. And I believe that’s likened to two things. The interest rates have stayed at a great rate for long enough that people that were on the fence or that had some concern are now getting off the fence and doing it. I think that the public concern out there for where the country was going is obviously an issue. … Something we live with all the time is, we’re our own private Idaho in Buffalo. You can be one hour east of here in Rochester, and you can have different home styles, different building practices, and different pricing than right here.
When you buy your home, it’s the largest investment that each and every person is going to make. You’ve got it for most times 30 years. That said, if in fact there is some concern about it, you’re not going to go out and buy. You may add on that family room, you may add on that bedroom, or you might just tough it out and stay exactly where you’re at. We’ve found customers to have those same concerns. That’s why we’re doing more remodeling now than we ever did. And the people are just getting off the fence now.
Typically in December and in January, we don’t have a lot of people looking at housing. Right now, we have a fair number of people looking at housing and wanting to draw plans and wanting to move forward with the process.
Q: What housing product types are people focusing on?
A: Everybody I see is downscaling. I think the term “McMansion” has been overused, but the large, grandiose house, with the big open ceilings, the wasted [space] areas, the four-car garage – sure, there’s a certain amount of the public that’s going to buy it, but it’s not what everybody’s looking for. What most people are looking for is efficient, smaller, financially feasible houses, high-tech, with the technologies, with heating, alarms, cable, “smart” houses, all that stuff.
Q: Are patio homes still popular?
A: I see that a lot right now, for people on the go, for empty nesters, or for people whose kids are gone and they want to slow down a little bit and they don’t want the maintenance on the outside. Sometimes [it’s] townhouses, patio houses, villas – smaller. Once again, it’s going toward smaller homes. Much more obtainable, much more livable, much more cost-effective sometimes.
Q: What about the affordability of new homes?
A: We used interest rates from today, and it was phenomenal how much more a person could actually afford in a house [than before]. We used it as a sales tool.
Q: What kinds of customers are building homes?
A: We’re seeing a couple of different things. In the ranches and the patio homes, we’re seeing the empty nesters. The younger families are buying the two-story, the smaller homes, right up to some of the bigger ones. But I believe percentage wise, there’s much fewer bigger houses being built now than there are smaller homes.
Q: What do you want to accomplish as the group’s president?
A: I think the common goals for the builders association are to make it stronger, also to help with the needs and to combat some of the issues that run across us on a daily basis, be it wetlands or tax issues or appraisal issues or whatever, for the betterment of the builders themselves.