For the third month since October, Augusta-area residential construction was down from the same month in the previous year, according to a report released Monday by F.W. Dodge, the construction division of McGraw-Hill.
The value of building permits issued in the five-county, two-state metropolitan area in January fell about 16 percent, or $4.13 million, from $26.30 million in January 1997 to $22.17 million in January 1998. The figures are calculated monthly for Columbia, McDuffie and Richmond counties in Georgia and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.
Despite low interest rates on housing loans, many local builders and real estate brokers attribute the drop to an unusually wet winter. Figures from the fall were dramatically different.
"There's been so much rain," said Diane Yonce, a real estate agent with Edgefield Properties in South Carolina. "We haven't been able to finish the foundations."
Tim Troutman, of R.D. Brown Contractors in North Augusta, agrees.
"In my 15 years in Augusta, I don't remember a winter this wet," he said.
The value of nonresidential construction permits for January 1998, however, were up 38 percent from figures for January 1997, the report showed. The value of contracts in January 1998 were about $9.97 million and $7.24 million in January 1997.
Mr. Troutman, project manager of a commercial contracting company, said the figures reflect the numerous commercial construction projects in the area.
"Business is pretty good for us," he said.
According to the report, the value of total building construction contracts for January 1998, about $32.14 million, was roughly 4 percent below what it was in January 1997, about $33.54 million.
Some local builders and real estate brokers predict construction figures for the spring months will shoot up as the weather dries and more people start buying homes.
"People generally move in spring and summer," said Glynn Bruker, president of Bruker Company Homes in Martinez.