Momentum builds for Grand County construction industry
Permit data shows an improving construction industry in Grand County, which may show early signs of an economic rebound.
In Colorado, U.S. Census data released in July show building permits for single-family homes reached their highest point in six years. In Grand County, building permits are at the highest levels seen in the last two years, which has local officials and industry professionals feeling cautiously optimistic.
“It’s encouraging to see, we’re getting all kinds of phone calls about wanting to build a new house, asking what they need to do,” said Scott Penson, building official for Grand County, which serves Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Grand Lake and unincorporated portions of the county.
According to Penson, the trend since the economic bottom fell out was permits for improvements and repairs instead of new home constructions. He attributes this, in part, to homeowners working to make their properties more sellable. Homeowners finished basements and added decks or patios to make properties more attractive. Homeowners have also added wanted additions.
“The guy who wants a nice shop, for example, to put his toys in – we saw a lot of that kind of activity,” Penson said.
For Grand County Builders Association president Joe Gould, who also owns Rocky Mountain Spray Foam, home improvements also indicate property owners are once again willing to spend.
“We’re continuing to see indicators that would show we’re slowly coming out of the building recession,” he said.
Permit data is similar for the Winter Park building department, which serves the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and as of 2010, Granby. Permits for improvements and repairs still vastly outnumber new construction, and new construction is nowhere near 2007 levels. Still, permits issued for new homes are slowly on the rise.
According to Gould, areas in Grand County that sat fairly quiet over the last few years are seeing the construction silence broken. “The Valley at Winter Park sat completely idle for about six years,” he said. “There’s new building going on there.”
Drives on Highway 40 reveal building activity at a multi-family development at the The Reserve at 10 Mile Creek near City Market in Granby, which listed 12 units for sale in its Garland building.
Although local building departments have only calculated permit data since June, numbers are expected to continue growing. Gould said fall often is the busiest season for construction in Grand County. Penson, too, expects more building this year, saying construction permits numbers are moving ahead.
“This June was better than last June, and July this year is looking better than July last year,” he said.
For economists and the U.S. Census Bureau, building permits are leading indicators signaling a change in the economic climate. New home construction can drive other economic activity, such as construction employment and real estate transactions.
U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics data show construction industry jobs slowly climbing statewide. Still, they’re only at a fraction of the 2006 and 2007 boom years. Comparing activity in June, constructions jobs are down by about 27 percent since 2007, but up by about 11 percent since 2011.
Robin Herbert, president of the Grand County Board of Realtors, has seen small improvements that might signal a real estate uptick. In Grand County, her data for member agents show the number of active listings is down and the number of sold listings is up when comparing July 2013 to July 2012, although the improvements are small. Median home sale prices have jumped by about 19 percent, moving from $252,5000 in July 2012 to $300,000 in July 2013. Average sale prices are up slightly as well.
“I wish I could predict the future,” she said. “I think we definitely have more activity than we did.”
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