Two reports offer conflicting views of the pace of construction in the Augusta metropolitan area.
But Augusta area real estate professionals agree the pace is steady.
A report by the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill's Construction Information Group showed that the value of residential and commercial building permits was up 58 percent for the month of August, up 16 percent for the year so far. It reported the total value of permits for houses and apartments soared 72 percent ahead of August 1996.
But another report, on the number of permits - not their value - showed a different picture.
Construction Week reported the number of building permits is down 2 percent from the number issued by the same point last year. The number of permits issued has declined significantly since 1992.
"The problem with running your report on dollar values is it will never be accurate," said David Wachter, owner of Construction Week. "If you try to get a trend for your market, you're way off" compared to 1992.
The dollar value of homes is one way of predicting the impact on the local economy from the sale of building materials, labor and tax collections.
Lynn Mears, president of the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, said the number of houses sold in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties is up 2 percent compared to the same point last year. Their dollar value is up 3 percent.
The market in Augusta remains steady, she said.
In Aiken, business has also been steady for the last four years, according to Deborah Brooks, owner of Eulalie Salley & Co. Realtors.
"I think it is obvious that the Aiken market is not dead. We were not as affected as Augusta by the (Savannah River Site) layoffs," she said. "I don't think it's as bad as people think."
Things are picking up in North Augusta, according to one real-estate agent.
"I didn't do squat last year, but this year I'm doing great, if you want to get right down to it," said Robert Flanagin, sales representative with Re/Max All Stars in North Augusta.
The difference in the two construction reports is harder to reconcile since builders and brokers report that most of the construction and sales activity is in the lower end of the market. Builders on both sides of the Savannah River are concentrating on houses and townhouses priced $100,000 and lower.
"There are no sales out here that would justify that level of building. They are responding to the calendar," said Bill Beazley, owner of Bill Beazley Homes in Evans. He said builders were starting construction on houses in August to be finished in time for the peak selling season next spring.
The number of building permits issued for single-family houses has dropped in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties:19922,40719932,06619941,91919951,52419961,69219971,239 as of Sept. 25
Source: Construction Week