Don Caylor has been in the construction business for more than three decades and has been a member of the Memphis Area Home Builders Association for just as long.
He started Summerset Homes Inc. with his brother Bob Caylor in 1982, back when out-of-the-office messages were relayed through pink “while you were out” notepads and nearby dime-operated payphones were the main source of contact while out on the job.
“When I started homebuilding, there wasn’t any computer. You had a stack full of dimes,” Caylor said. “If you needed a concrete truck, you’d have to go down to the local store and hope you weren’t five miles out in the muddy field to try to get there to where you could call and find out where your concrete truck was. Nowadays, you can call anywhere. It’s a lot easier to be a builder today communication-wise than it was when I started.”
A native Memphian, Caylor comes from a construction and commercial demolition background, as his grandfather founded Chandler Wrecking Co. Inc. in 1946. His resume includes past positions in corporate America, certifications like being a licensed Realtor in Tennessee and Mississippi, and now 2013 president of the homebuilding trade organization he’s been involved with for the majority of his life.
He’s built hundreds of homes across the city across all price ranges. Besides Summerset, which specializes in custom homebuilding and remodels, Caylor and his brother own a cabinet company called Superior Kitchen and Bath. And in his down time, he’s an avid day trader.
Caylor has certainly seen the homebuilding industry – and the economy as a whole – transform many times over during his career. But now is perhaps the time when the changes are the most evident.
“What’s affected us the most is the value of houses because it costs more to build one than you can actually get one appraised for today,” Caylor said. “People can buy a lot of house for the money. And then you put the low interest rates, which they’re about a half to a third of what they used to be years ago, it makes new constructed housing an exceptional value.”
But Caylor said it’s not going to be that way for long. Prices are going up on lots and houses alike. Most of his homebuilding peers have been consistently raising prices over the last 24 months due to escalating material costs. Dry wall expenses spiked twice this year and roofing has doubled.
“What’s affected us the most is the value of houses because it costs more to build one than you can actually get one appraised for today.”
“For years, we’ve been telling people that, ‘Now’s the time to buy,’” Caylor said. “I don’t think we’ve ever gone wrong with that. The prices are going to get pretty high.”
And it’s all due to supply and demand. Caylor said lots, especially those that are well priced, are depleting at rapid rates. Many new homes are also now receiving multiple offers.
“We can’t supply enough new houses right now,” Caylor said. “Builders are saying that the average time that they have a house sit on the market after it’s completed is anywhere from 30 to 45 days and it’s sold. That’s a change in the marketplace.”
Also shifting is the way MAHBA defines itself as an association. Because of changes in technology and in government, the group’s focus is now more education-based.
“We constantly are having legislation come at us,” Caylor said. “We’re always bobbing and weaving, so to speak, to try to take care of those changes in laws that affect the cost of housing.”
Last year, MAHBA saw a huge victory when it combined with other associations across the state to stop mandatory fire sprinklers in residences, saving both builders and homeowners money. The group’s “next significant fight,” Caylor said, are regulations and code changes by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will translate into increases in lot development.
Caylor’s goals for next year at the helm of MAHBA include “seriously looking at growing our association again.” He’s already noticed membership tick up slightly for builder and associate members, both of which have lessened over the years due to the lackluster economy.
Builder moral and board participation is also noticeably different.
“I think overall, builders have a better direction now of whatever they’re going to do, whether it be remodeling or custom homebuilding or speculative-type building,” Caylor said. “They seem to be taking a hold so to speak.”