Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA)
Building a better Houston
Business View Magazine profiles the Greater Houston Builders Association for our focus on the U.S. Residential Construction Sector
Fact. Houston, Texas is among the largest housing markets in the entire U.S. There were 34,000 new homes built in the Houston Metro area over the last 12 months ending in September 2020, which generated nearly $9.5 Billion into the local economy and created or supported 113,664 jobs. With a housing market that enormous, it comes as no surprise that the 4th largest home builders’ association in the country also calls Houston home.
The Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA) traces its roots back to 1941, when it was created to bring together single-family residential builders, developers, remodelers; and as associates they brought on vendors, mortgage companies, and realtors. In essence, every group that may be related to the construction, sale, or remodelling of homes. Since that time, GHBA has grown to include approximately 1600 member companies, involved in the development, homebuilding, and remodeling industry in Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Waller, Liberty, Wharton, Galveston, Matagorda, Austin, and Colorado Counties.
“Membership tiers are based on whether you’re a builder, developer, remodeler or associate,” explains Casey Morgan, former Executive VP and CEO of the GHBA, “and an associate is a catchall for anyone who is not one of those three types of tradesperson. And then, for each category, it is broken down further based on the number of homes you build. For example, some of the Association’s larger builders, that are called volume builders, are the ones who have more of a national presence and a footprint in other places besides Houston. They would be at the top of that list and then it trickles down to builders who maybe build 25 homes a year – the smaller operations or custom builders. There are fewer distinctions under associates, but it includes everyone from the air conditioning companies, through real estate and marketing, even the mortgage lenders.”
Why would companies belong to an association like this? First and foremost, it is about advocacy. The major benefit of joining a trade association like the GHBA is that you are immediately part of a larger group. For that reason, you can advocate for issues and get an audience that might not be possible as an individual.
“Think about the start of the year,” Morgan says, “In February and March, when COVID started to become a reality, the GHBA and the state association – the Texas Association of Builders (TAB) – really lobbied hard for the residential construction industry to be deemed essential and permitted to continue operations. Individual companies wouldn’t have been able to do that. In different parts of the country this industry was shut down for various reasons. However, collectively, if they were able to organize and use one voice there may have been a more optimal way out than being completely shut down. That is just one example of the way the GHBA can quickly organize and pivot and advocate to regulators or elected officials for certain issues.”
The GHBA also offers education and certification programs to its members. These programs give builders not only a way to make sure they have certification in most modern practices but also allows them to distinguish themselves among their competitors. Some of the classes are online, some are pre-recorded, and some are in person – allowing participants to easily get in the hours necessary for certification.
Morgan notes, “The GHBA also has membership programs designed for different groups that make health insurance available to smaller companies. If there is a three-person or two-person operation the GHBA has resources to help with health insurance and 401K access, builders’ risk insurance, and different type of rebates. It means by being a member of the GHBA there are a lot of different tools for smaller businesses that other larger operations naturally have.”
In a normal year, the City of Houston encounters many challenges when it comes to building. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a way of life there but they have become increasingly more volatile and destructive. This means regulation changes and being vigilant in terms of not cutting corners on safety. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the nation this year, the main problem has turned out to be material shortages. Land prices and labor shift a bit year after year, but the scarcity of materials is a new problem. Lumber, as an example, has gone up a record 19% nationwide. And while it is difficult for a local trade association to lobby issues that have more to do with taxes, tariffs, and disease, through the COVID outbreak, the GHBA has still been there as a support system, working with members to make the most of the situation.
“It has been really interesting,” muses Morgan, “if you just look at the home building industry and the stock market, you will think that overall it was a great economy, but it’s been difficult to reconcile the success of those two things compared with everything that is going on in the economy due to COVID. GHBA builders have managed to experience record quarters and record closings for different months even going into the fall. September is typically a slower month. Buyers are usually looking for new homes starting in the spring and through the summer, and then once fall hits you try to stay close to home because school starts and people return to routines. But not this year. The building has been very robust through the fall and the Association’s members are sort of holding their breath to see when this is likely to stop. Perhaps it is that homes now have become more than just what they were in the past. They’ve become shelter but also a place of work and the place of school. More people seem interested in leaving areas where there are multifamily high-rise apartments and are interested in that single-family home.”
Although no one can know for certain, there are hopes that the industry remains as robust and busy as it is now. “Houston has always been known for our housing affordability,” says Morgan, “so I certainly hope that continues. But it will be contingent upon regulators, and the GHBA’s work on the advocacy level, demonstrating the need for very straightforward regulations because of what they ultimately do to the cost of a home. As far as the Association, I do think that some things GHBA has adapted to as a result of COVID will remain and I think most trade associations, whether in the home building industry or not, will continue the programs that they conducted virtually. Online classes for example are something that continue to be successful and can be one more tool, one more way to get information out to members.
“I want to reiterate the importance of being a member of a trade association. It is a great way to distinguish yourself from your competitors and it shows customers and prospective home buyers that you care a lot about your profession. When you join a professional trade organization, especially one that offers educational resources to keep everyone updated and educated about current regulations or state local government laws or code changes that may occur, it shows you want to be the best. I am also a firm believer that it strengthens your business, your networking, your relationships, and allows you to engage with other companies, vendors, and associates in the industry. It is a great way to not only grow local businesses but to thrive within your own.”
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AT A GLANCE
Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA)
What: The voice of Houston’s residential construction and remodeling industry
Where: Houston, Texas