A group of heavy hitters from the Wichita real estate world agreed Thursday morning that the city has momentum and is heading in the right direction.
During a lively roundtable discussion at the Wichita Business Journal’s Old Town headquarters, a group that included Stan Shelden (Shelden Architecture), Penny Johnson (Keller Williams Signature Partners), Andy Robl (Robl Construction), Braden McCurdy (McCurdy Auction), Brad Saville (Landmark Commercial Real Estate), Dawn Truman (J.P. Weigand & Sons) and Cuy Mauck of Rose Hill Bank discussed the trends they’re seeing in the city’s real estate market and beyond.
Here’s some of what they talked about:
It’s no secret that the Wichita housing market is squarely in the seller’s category. How much so, however, can vary depending on the price range, according to Johnson, who cited South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service numbers.
"In the $180,000 to $199,000 range, that’s where it stops going from three months worth of inventory and up," said Johnson. "Under that, every other price range is at one-to-two months of inventory and more are one than two. Those homes are flying off the shelf and people are paying more than what they’re listed for."
Overall, according to its March report, the MLS says Wichita has about a 2.4-month supply of homes on the market. A figure representing less than five months of supply is generally thought of as a seller’s market.
"When you go to $500,000 and up, it’s 14 months of inventory," Johnson said. "It is a seller’s market, depending on your price range. That makes a big difference."
So who’s scooping all these existing homes and why are they doing so? Johnson said it’s a variety of reasons.
"It’s all reasons," she said. "Divorce, death, there’s a variety. Some people are moving down for less maintenance, some are moving up because they have grandchildren. Life happens, so it just all depends on who’s in that house and what they’re situation is. There’s so much squabbling now over homes in that lower price range because they’re not being replenished with new builds."
Johnson added that the trend of corporate buyers scooping up entire blocks of cheaper homes to turn into rentals has added to the pressure on the lower-end housing markea.
Shelden, owner of Shelden Architecture, says he’s witnessed a definite shift in how people are thinking about downtown Wichita.
"Getting a downtown that feels more vibrant is huge in getting young people back into Wichita," Shelden said. "(Bokeh Development’s) Mike Ramsey, his stuff that we’re working with him on, his hope is that we have fun stuff, different stuff in Wichita. Downtown is becoming more alive and more activated. We’re super excited about that."
Shelden, who has five daughters, added that his children now see living in Wichita as a long-term possibility. That wasn’t always the case, he said.
"We’re starting to get a few phone calls from (businesses) that want to come back downtown," said Saville, Landmark Commercial Real Estate’s CEO.
Truman, who has worked downtown for more than three decades, says she’s seen a significant shift in the vibrancy of the area in the past 10 years. Truman works as the senior vice president and general manager of J.P. Weigand’s Commercial Division.
"I used to work (downtown) on the weekend and you didn’t see or hear anybody all weekend long," Truman said. "You felt like you were there by yourself, but now there’s activity."
Economy and lending
Mauck, Rose Hill Bank’s president and CEO, pulled no punches. He says the area’s economy is running on all cylinders.
"We go to every economic meeting there is," Mauck said. "Wichita has been very, very steady in its growth. I tell this to our lenders — when you wake up, you should thank Koch Industries and Spirit AeroSystems for being here. It gives us a tremendous and stable base."
"Millennials are a bigger group now than the baby boomers and they’re starting to get traction. No matter what people say, I think millennials are going to be homeowners — they’re smart. This economy is the best I’ve seen in my banking career and I’ve been at this for 30 years. Everybody’s aggressive right now and there is money out there."
Mauck and Shelden said they suspect people — consumers and lenders — learned from the economic collapse about a decade ago.
"There’s money out there," Mauck said. "The projects that are being done, if it’s a $10 million project, putting 25 percent down generally hasn’t been an issue. People are wanting to get deals done."
Thursday’s roundtable participants also talked about the importance of growing Wichita’s workforce talent pool, seizing on the momentum that the city seems to have and the noticeable pride that residents seem to have these days in their city.