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Oklahoma City

How a “Construction Summer Camp” Could Increase Oklahoma City’s Housing Inventory

By Tanya Svoboda
June 2021

The close quarters created by pandemic quarantines, the shift to working from home and virtual schooling, have caused a heightened interest in single-family homeownership in Oklahoma City. However, the demand for both existing and new construction homes is outpacing the area’s inventory.

In fact, demand for new construction on homes is so high in Oklahoma City that homebuilders are turning customers away. The high cost of building materials certainly plays a part in the struggle to keep up with the demand, but a chronic shortage of workers in the building trade is also contributing to the delays.

A New Generation of Workers Can Help Address Oklahoma City’s Inventory Issue

Oklahoma City home builders built more houses in 2020 than in nearly a decade. The year 2020 saw “a demand for new homes that we haven’t seen before in this market,” said Erin Yarbrough, director of marketing for Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods, in Norman. “Working and learning from home created new needs for homes and neighborhoods: home offices, learning spaces, playrooms, and outdoor neighborhood amenities.”

However, keeping up with the demand for new construction homes, both now and in the future, seems uncertain given the lack of interest in the trades for younger generations. Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Home Builders Association, believes education and exposure are the keys to sparking a passion for the trades in the nation’s youth. He said, “People are not excited about the trades because they don’t know about the trades.”

In response, Jack Werner, owner of A to Z Inspections and a National Association of Home Builders-certified educator, is starting a “construction summer camp” for kids in 2022 to inspire and train a new generation of home builders and general contractors.

The average age of plumbers, HVAC installers, and electricians hovers around 60 years old which means the current shortage is likely to only get worse.

Werner’s proposed summer camp would offer participants hands-on experience with masonry, electrical work, heavy equipment operation, and other construction trades. While Means believes virtual experiences offer some value, he notes a hands-on experience is more meaningful.

While visiting a Build My Future OKC career exploration day at the OKC Fairgrounds, Means overheard a student remark, “I’ve never held a hammer in my life.” He added, “Holding that hammer could change the direction of a life.” Tradespeople often make $60,000 to $80,000 per year and many eventually run their own business. So, in addition to helping solve the area’s housing shortage, future tradespeople can secure their own future stability.

The Demand for New Construction Homes is Likely to Continue

The additional time people are spending in their homes due to the pandemic is changing what homebuyers want from their homes in both form and function.

“An extra room that can be used as a home office or other type of flex space is currently of utmost importance to most of our homebuyers,” said Devin Holloway, vice president in Oklahoma City for D.R. Horton, a national homebuilding company based in Arlington, Texas. “We don’t expect this trend to change anytime soon, and as a result, many of the floor plans we offer have more than three bedrooms to allow for the additional space and flexibility our homebuyers desire.”

Training the area’s youth now will help the homebuilding industry keep pace with the increase in demand for custom homes.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a New Construction Home

If your current home isn’t meeting your needs and you aren’t finding what you want on the market in your area, a new construction home may be the right choice for you. To buy or build a new construction home, you’ll need to follow many of the same steps as you would if you were purchasing a pre-existing home.

  1. Work With a REALTOR®: While it’s not technically necessary to hire a REALTOR® when purchasing or building a new construction home it can be very helpful. REALTORS®, after all, are skilled negotiators and educated professionals who know the ins and outs of the home and property buying process. It’s a smart idea to have someone knowledgeable in your corner when you’re dealing with builders.
  2. Find a Lender: Just like a traditional home purchase, you’ll need to work with a lender to secure financing.
  3. Attend Open Houses: When you’re buying a new construction home you should have the opportunity to tour the development’s model home. Don’t get hung up on the beautiful finishes and staging (they come with a hefty price tag). Instead, focus on the home’s floor plan and the quality of the construction. This is another area where a REALTOR® can provide valuable insight.
  4. Require a Home Inspection: Just because the home is a new construction doesn’t mean you should skip the home inspection. During a new build, your inspector has the unique opportunity to view the home while it’s being built and truly see what’s behind the walls.

Oklahoma City’s demand for new construction homes may be outpacing the current level of production. But with forward-thinking and creative programs like Werner’s “construction summer camp”, the future of new home construction looks bright.



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