Homebuilding way down in Triangle

January 22, 2009 2:47:58 PM PST
New home construction nationwide has plunged to an all time low and the Triangle area is not immune.New home permits dropped 62 percent in the fourth quarter compared to last year. That's leaving people out of work and out of money.

In Raleigh, as late as last summer, Salvador Esquina had eight roofers working for him. Now, many of his pneumatic hammers are quiet, and his construction workers, many of them immigrants, are gone.

"There's also a lot of people who left the state because they couldn't survive," he explained.

Half-finished subdivisions are sprinkled throughout the Triangle. If there is building, it's often just one house at a time. One big problem for construction is the huge number of homes already for sale. Builders like to build when there is less than a 6-month supply of homes. But these days, the supply is 19-months, and growing.

Some builder have responded by slashing prices, and that cuts the value of neighboring homes.

"Puts you on edge because you've put so much into it for a return in the long run," offered Wake Forest resident Ken Monaco.

The building freeze hurts not just builders, sellers, and neighbors to new homes. Economist Mike Walden says construction makes up about 15 percent of the Triangle's economy.

"If there are fewer people working in construction and those that are, are making less, restaurants and malls will suffer. So anything in retail suffers also," he explained.

Walden thinks a home building recovery could come near the end of 2009, but some construction workers are desperate now.

There is a small silver lining. Average home values in the Triangle have continued to hold steady and experts say now is probably a great time to buy a home with some mortgage rates at all time lows.


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