Housing market looking up in Western Tidewater

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jim Hart with Hart Construction Co. inspects a roof replacement being completed by his company on a customer’s home on Meadow Lane in Franklin. -- SUBMITTED

Jim Hart with Hart Construction Co. inspects a roof replacement being completed by his company on a customer’s home on Meadow Lane in Franklin. — SUBMITTED

FRANKLIN—The Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Dept. of Commerce reported in mid-August that building permits and housing starts across the country have made increases.

“Building permits in July 2013 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 943,000, up 2.7 percent from the revised June rate and up 12.4 percent from July 2012,” according to the agency’s website. “Housing starts in July 2013 were at a SAAR of 896,000, up 5.9 percent from the revised June estimate and up 20.9 percent from July 2012.”

While the local sources differ as to degree, the consensus is that housing in Western Tidewater has also gone up since this time last year.

“I would say there’s been an increase. It’s noticeably better,” said Candace Saunders of Saunders Real Estate Professionals in Franklin.

As to whether the trend is for existing versus new homes, Saunders has noticed more of the latter.

“Me personally, it’s been with new construction, and in Southampton County in particular,” she said.

Indeed, there were 12 permits for single-family dwellings issued in August 2012, and there were 14 permits just last month alone.

A former pediatric nurse, Saunders made the career change to real estate in March 2007.

She opened her place on Oct. 1, 2012.

While summertime was a busy one for Saunders and her fellow agents, she foresees a leveling-off period for the rest of the year.

Jim Hart of Hart Construction offers another perspective on the area housing marketing.

“There’s not really a flurry of activity for new homes,” Hart said. “We’re still trying to recover from foreclosures.”

While he had no numbers immediately available, he said he knows from memory there’s been a considerable amount of construction compared to a year or two years ago.

“What’s been keeping construction going is that people are doing additions, such as home renovations,” Hart said. “They’re taking their existing home and making it more financially available to meet their needs, such as making a nice kitchen or adding a master bedroom suite.”

He noted that interest rates have gone up to 4 to 6 percent for 30-year mortgages. Before, a homebuyer could get a 3.75 percent rate. Hart also said that he’s heard people say how high those numbers are for them. But he could remember when the rates were 16 to 17 percent back in late-70s through the early 80s.

“It’s not quite back into a normal market, but real close to a Franklin market,” said Hart. “There’s more stability.

“People have more money in their pockets,” he continued. “They feel better about the local economy and businesses. There’s more confidence.”

Hart attributed that to the establishment of relatively new businesses such as ST Tissue and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Isle of Wight County.

Speaking of that area, the outlook there is also favorable.

“Things are better,” said Isle of Wight County Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney. “In 2012, we had 1,200 deeds recorded, and there are 950 so far in August. If we keep that pace, we should end up with 1,400 to 1,425 by year’s end.”

There were 91 new housing permits issued in 2012, he said, and already there have been 77 permits issued within the past eight months. Gwaltney figured that staying at the level, it should be about 132 by the end of 2013.

He added there was an 18 percent increase of deeds for houses from 2012, but had no date immediately available for analysis.

Gwaltney also said Isle of Wight has also seen a decrease of foreclosures to 6 percent of sales so far in 2013, compared to 9 percent in 2010, which he thinks was the high point of the recession.

“We’re seeing fewer foreclosures as a percentage of the total sales,” said Gwaltney.