In an environment in which there are 1,000 fewer homes being built each year than during the housing-bubble years, there is something to be said for having consistency and stability.
More than 2,100 permits to build single-family homes were pulled in 2012 in the core counties of the Augusta metro area – 2.4 percent higher than in 2011.
It is the third straight year since the Great Recession that local builders have had more than 2,000 homes to construct.
“While nationally you hear about some of the markets doing marginally better, (it is) because they went down so much,” said Matt Ivey, a co-owner of Evans-based Ivey Residential. “Fortunately for us, we didn’t have near the drop that some of these other markets had. Holding steady is a really good place to be right now.”
Ivey said the market is up on construction permits but flat on sales, and he expects 2013 to be similar.
According to Construction Week, which tracks building data, there were 2,141 new-home permits in 2012 in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties, up from 2,089 in 2011 but lower than 2,176 in 2010. It was 500 homes more – 23.5 percent higher – than in 2008.
Last year, there was an increase in the number of new homes in Columbia and Richmond counties, offsetting a decline in home starts in Aiken County.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which records new home permits for the entire six-county metro area, builders were putting up as many as 3,785 homes in 2005. It dropped to 1,797 in 2008 and recovered to 2,217 in 2011.
The bureau won’t release the December numbers until Jan. 17, which will provide the complete picture for 2012. The bureau reported 1,955 permits as of November.
There are two trends that could result in a bump in new home construction, Ivey said.
Empty nest buyers, who didn’t need to sell their homes during the flux years, are out “kicking the tires” more, Ivey said.
“The empty nest buyers have basically over the last couple of years sat still,” he said. “We’ll see that buyer come back into the market.”
Getting such homebuyers into a new home isn’t so much dependent on the mix of subdivisions, but having the right floor plan for the neighborhoods out there, Ivey said.
The other trend that could spawn more new home construction is persuading more people to get out of rental properties. As more of them are able to save money, more will convert to home owner from renter, Ivey said.
Nationally, the comfort zone for builders has been improving, according to a monthly index by the National Association of Home Builders.
The confidence rating reported for December is as high as it was in April 2006.
“While there is still much room for improvement, the consistent upward trend in builder confidence over the past year is indicative of the gradual recovery that has been taking place in housing markets nationwide and that we expect to continue in 2013,” said David Crowe, the association’s chief economist.