Area home builders seeing improvement in the market
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jun 18, 2013 | 3100 views |  0 comments | 112 112 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A partially completed house in Eva's Corner subdivision in Oxford. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
A partially completed house in Eva's Corner subdivision in Oxford. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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Tony Waddell has plenty of work to do these days.

He couldn't be more thrilled.

Owner of Waddell Construction Company in Heflin, Waddell has seen business for his home-building company increase in Calhoun County in recent months.

"Yes, it's improved with us tremendously," Waddell said. "We've got a lot more work, a lot more building."

Waddell is not the only home builder seeing improvement this year.

U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday show all U.S. new-home construction starts, which include single-family homes and condos, increased 6.8 percent in May compared to April figures and 28.6 percent compared to home starts in May last year. Meanwhile, a National Association of Home Builders report released Monday states builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes is at its highest level since 2006. The reports indicate the home-building market is recovering from the Great Recession — an important component of the overall U.S. economic recovery efforts, economists say.

The census data show single-family home construction, almost two-thirds of the home-builders market, increased 0.3 percent in May compared to April. Also, single-family housing completions increased 4.2 percent in May compared to April.

The National Association of Home Builders report indicates the confidence rating was 52 in June, an increase of eight points from the previous month. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor. The report, calculated every six months, has not had a rating over 50 since 2006, according to a Monday press release from the association.

“Today’s report is consistent with our forecast for a 29 percent increase in total housing starts this year, which would mark the first time since 2007 that starts have topped the 1 million mark," said David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, in the press release.

Home builders across the country have struggled in recent years since the Great Recession hit in 2008, which caused massive layoffs and discouraged many people from buying new homes.

"We've struggled ... I've been in this business for 36 years and I never thought I'd see it like we have had the last four years," said Sam Almaroad, president of Sam Almaroad Construction in Jacksonville.

However, in the last few months, Almaroad has seen business improve.

"I think the market is turning as far as my company," Almaroad said.

Almaroad said he is building custom homes in Jacksonville, Oxford and Piedmont. Almaroad noted, however, that his company is still mainly remodeling homes or building additions to get by in the still recovering economy.

"As things progress though, I think there's going to be a demand for lots," he said.

Waddell said most of his new home construction is in the Oxford area. He said low interest rates and cheaper building materials are helping stimulate more interest in home building.

"The cost of building materials are the lowest they have been in several years," Waddell said.

Shad Williams, president and CEO of Cheaha Bank in Oxford, said his bank has had more loan requests for new home construction this year. He said he is optimistic the housing market will continue to improve.

"Our bank has been contacting builders to let them know we have money for new homes," Williams said. "I believe there is a demand for new homes in Calhoun County."

Robert Robicheaux, chairman of the department of marketing, industrial distribution and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the home construction market is a vital part of the economy.

"The home building industry is huge in that whenever a person builds a new home, construction crews benefit, but so do retailers ... you have to buy new appliances, new carpet, new drapery," Robicheaux said.

Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, agreed.

"The economy is basically a three-legged stool — one leg is having factories to produce, the second is creating jobs and the third really is the housing market," Deravi said. "It's such a huge sector of the economy."

Deravi said improvements in employment have helped stimulate the housing market. A drop in unsold homes has also stimulated the market. The recession led to an influx in cheaper foreclosed homes, which lowered demand for new home construction.

Robicheaux said the housing market is far from recovered, but there are changes in the economy that should help the market improve further.

"The rise in the consumer market, unemployment is being lowered ... all these things are falling in line to show we are having recovery," he said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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