Home builders busy

Local home builders say they are busier than they have been in several years.

“It was like at the first of the year like someone turned a faucet on. We started to get calls for new homes. I would say new home construction is up 15 to 20 percent over last year,” said Jim Brown, president of J.R. Brown Construction Inc., Hollidaysburg.

“This is the busiest we have been since 2008,” he said. “We are still getting calls for new homes, and I don’t see it slowing down.”

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the overall pace of home construction rose 6.8 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 914,000.

Single-family home construction, nearly two-thirds of the market, rose 0.3 percent last month to an annual rate of 599,000. That followed two months of declines.

Apartment construction, which is more volatile, surged 21.6 percent to an annual rate of 315,000. That came after a big drop in April.

Drew Swope, president of Keystone Custom Homes and Development Inc., Hollidaysburg, has seen an improvement in single-family home construction.

“Single-family construction has ramped up this spring. Since 2008, we did a smattering of single-family, but between now and October we have seven single- family starts,” Swope said. “This is the best it has been since everything went south.”

Swope said he is doing construction work in the Stone Harbor, N.J., area. “It is super busy there.”

“Realtors say they can’t get spec homes fast enough,” Swope said. “Overall that is a good sign, and I hope it is sustainable. I expect this to continue into next year with things being solid, but rate increases could throw the brakes on it.”

Mark Metz also said he has been busy this year.

“I’ve been busy throughout the spring. I started slow, but I have been getting more inquiries than usual about building,” said Metz, president and owner of Metz Builders Inc., Duncansville.

“For me, the last few weeks’ activity has gone up quite a bit,” he said. “I think a lot of people are starting to feel the economy is recovering, and homes are worth more. People are thinking it is a good investment.”

Joe Crossman, owner of Joe Crossman General Construction, Hollidaysburg, said the trend toward new home construction has gone up.

“In the early 2000s, we would see 80 percent of customers do the job. Then when things got bad around 2008 to 2010, it was only about 20 to 25 percent of the people who were interested that followed through,” said Crossman, who last year partnered with John Castle to build 12 new homes.

“Now I have seen about 50 percent of customers following through and building,” Crossman said. “We are making progress.”

Donald Delozier, president of Donald C. Delozier Inc., Altoona, said he isn’t seeing a significant increase in the number of new homes being built, but he has a major project under way – a more than 15,000-square-foot, $2 million home near Petersburg – the largest home he has ever built.

Delozier said he has seen a change in the home construction business.

“Most contractors are going further to get work, expanding their coverage area and doing things they wouldn’t do before,” Delozier said. “We are doing more commercial and remodeling work to supplement new construction.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467. The Associated Press contributed to this story.