Officials encouraged by increase in home construction
by Laura Gaddy
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
May 27, 2013 | 4879 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new home is near completion on Miranda Lane in Jacksonville.  The city has already issued 7 home construction permits this year, which matches the total for all of 2012. Photo by Trent Penny.
A new home is near completion on Miranda Lane in Jacksonville. The city has already issued 7 home construction permits this year, which matches the total for all of 2012. Photo by Trent Penny.
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JACKSONVILLE — When Mayor Johnny Smith learned that seven houses were being built in Jacksonville this year, he began to wonder aloud if the projects were evidence of an economic rebound.

Seven still seems like a small number when compared to the number of homes built just before the housing market crashed in 2008, but the figure swells in comparison to the number of homes built in Jacksonville since then. And when compared to the number built there in 2012 -- seven for the entire year -- the number of homes built this year may give Smith and others leaders reason to think the housing market may be bouncing back.

“Wherever we go from here is going to be a plus,” Smith said. “It looks like an opportunity.”

New home construction is one of the factors used to gauge the health of the housing market. With seven homes on the rise in Jacksonville in the first five months of the year, it’s one Calhoun County city on track to outpace the number of homes built there last year.

“That shows that we’re hanging in there,” said Mark Williams, Jacksonville’s building inspector.

The number of homes sold is another yardstick for the health of the market. Like the number of homes being built, home sales in Jacksonville and the rest of the county aren’t yet skyrocketing, according to the Birmingham Area Multiple Listing Service, a database kept by real estate agents. Anna-Marie Moorer, a realtor with ERA King Realty, said while the number of homes sold may not be increasing, the number of people actively shopping has increased this year.

According to Moorer, there were almost no sales this time last year. That’s changed, she said.

“It feels like it’s moving in a better direction in Jacksonville and in the county,” she said.

Calhoun County saw 213 homes sold in the first four months of 2013. That’s three more than the same time last year.

And while home sales are level, the number of mortgages is increasing in Jacksonville and Calhoun County, according to Rich Simonton, president and chief executive officer of AOD Federal Credit Union.

Simonton said his credit union is approving more than twice the number of mortgage loans this month than it was at the same time last year. The uptick is so significant at AOD that the credit union plans to add a loan officer, he said.

Simonton said his credit union is approving between 30 and 40 home loans each month, but not all of the mortgage approvals are for new purchases — second mortgages are also included in the count.

People are refinancing to take advantage of low interest rates, and that could have a positive impact on the economy, too. That’s because lower rates can help increase disposable income in the community.

The same low interest rates that are prompting people to refinance are also allowing people to transition from renters to homeowners, he said.

“Low interest rates are allowing people to take advantage of their income levels,” Simonton said.

Cheaha Bank President Shad Williams said his bank is also approving more mortgages than last year, especially in Jacksonville and other Calhoun County communities where the school systems are thriving. He said that’s because solid school systems attract young families, who drive the housing market.

“People have finally decided to buy a new house,” Williams said. “They’re more confident in the market and they’ve paid down debt.”

New homes built:


Jacksonville:

2012 - 7

2011 - 10

2010 - 16

2009 - 12

2008 - 38

2007 - 48

source: city of Jacksonville


Oxford:

2012 - 10

2011 - 21

2010 - 56

2009 - 16

2008 - 6

2007 - 130

source: Alabama Center for Real Estate

*Note: the first four months of building permits were not recorded in 2007


Anniston:

2012 - 1

2011 - 5

2010 - 2

2009 - 17

2008 - 5

2007 - 29

source: Alabama Center of Real Estate

*Note: the first four months of building permits were not recorded in 2007

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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