Thirty-four permits were issued for single-family housing construction in Rome and Floyd County in 2012, an increase of 9.6 percent from the 31 permits issued in 2011.
Taking a longer look at housing statistics, in spite of the collapse of the local housing market in 2007, the first decade of the 21st century saw a 2.1 percent increase in new housing starts compared to the last decade of the 20th century.
From 1990 to 1999, there were 3,197 single-family permits issued in Rome and Floyd County. From 2000 to 2009, there were 3,265 permits issued through the Rome-Floyd Building Inspection office.
Over the last three years, however, only 120 permits have been issued for new single-family homes in Rome and Floyd County. Twenty of them were inside the city limits of Rome, and 100 were in the unincorporated area of Floyd County.
Nevertheless, there is optimism among local real estate agents.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who would prefer to buy a new house — not the majority, but there’s a certain clientele that would like to buy a brand new house,” said Brooke Temple of Toles, Temple & Wright Real Estate. “We constructed a brand new house in Battle Farm (Armuchee) and sold it within 30 days, and we’re fixing to start another one.”
Temple said his staff closed on a lot last Wednesday, and the purchaser indicated that plans are to start construction within 30 days.
“We closed two other lots in the last six months, and they’re telling me they are going to build this year,” Temple said. “We haven’t sold lots in a while. They’re selling at a reduced price, which encourages people to buy and to build. Building costs right now are reasonable.”
Temple said his firm expects to start at least two more custom-built homes in the Battle Farm subdivision and expects to see more than eight new homes built in that one subdivision alone this year.
“If we can do more than that we will, but we feel like the market is really strong to sell eight to 10 houses out there this year. And I didn’t think that last year,” Temple said.
“I think that’s pretty much true in all the subdivisions,” he added. “The problem is, we just don’t have new products. We don’t have new construction to sell, but whenever we do they seem to evaporate pretty fast.”
Mark Brewster, president of Garden Lakes Realty, also said his company is beginning to see some movement in the sale of vacant lots.
“There’s a few lots trading hands. They’re pretty low prices, but we’re starting to see some people kick around the idea of building a house again,” Brewster said. “It’s actually a pretty good time to start building a house.”
Brewster said lot prices, depending on location, are down anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent compared to what they were selling for in 2005.
“There are some that are holding much better than that, but they’re all down for sure,” Brewster said.
Brewster and Larry Maxey, head of Lakes Construction, said new construction is in the conversation much more often than it has been in the recent past, probably because a lot of the quality pre-existing inventory has been picked over.
“I think we’re finally at a place now where you can build something close to what you can buy something for, and when that’s the case, people start wanting to build again,” Brewster said.
Brewster also has a speculative house that has recently been completed in the Savannah Place subdivision off Garden Lakes Parkway. The price is $169,000, which, according to Maxey, is the same building plan that previously sold for $189,000.
In the past, Toles, Temple & Wright partnered with Wayne Robinson Builders to construct custom-built homes in new subdivisions, but the market got so weak that Robinson essentially left the business and is focused on a growing Steak ’n Shake operation.
Toles, Temple & Wright is currently working with Dan Childs to build the new homes that are going up at this time. Childs said that, like Temple, he was somewhat optimistic about the market for new homes going forward.
“I’m actually talking to three different people who are interested in having houses built,” Childs said. “Just having interest is a big improvement. Unless people start calling and talking to you, they’re certainly not going to do anything.”
In terms of employment, Childs said he has never really had a large workforce of his own — just a few carpenters at any given time.
“I mostly used subcontractors,” Childs said.
On any given house there are plumbing, electrical, heating and air, and painting contractors that get involved at one time or another.
“Every time I call a plumbing contractor, it’s a week worth of work for three or four men. For a painter, it’s a month’s worth of work for three or four men,” Childs said. “As we start building more houses, certainly I see more people being employed and the subcontractors being able to keep their people busy.”