There’s a sharp increase in the amount of homebuilders applying for construction permits, data from Perimeter area cities and Buckhead show.
Builders are responding to a growing need for inventory in a market that’s become increasingly competitive. They’re finding that keeping up with the demand isn’t as easy as it was five years ago.
“This is exactly the kind of problem I want to deal with,” Dunwoody homebuilder Bill Grant said.
The number of single family home permits issued for the first six months of 2013 are striking compared with 2012 figures.
Sandy Springs reported the best numbers for 2012, with 158 permits issued. So far this year the city has issued 66. Buckhead has shown the most dramatic improvement. In 2012 there were 29 permits issued. So far this year, there have been 60.
“The new construction market is on fire right now,” said Randy Glazer, owner of Glazer Design and Construction. “In the last four months every single one of my projects went under contract, before they were even built, and I’m seeing the same thing from all my friends that are builders.”
While the lack of homes on the market is keeping builders busy, the lack of inventory is creating problems for buyers.
Patricia Sklar and her husband have been looking for a home in Buckhead or Brookhaven, but so far haven’t had any luck. Homes she’s liked go off the market almost as soon as they get there. Sklar said she came close to buying one home, but the deal fell apart when she discovered the home needed $100,000 worth of repairs.
“We haven’t been able to buy anything because we’ve been outbid,” Sklar said.
Their Realtor, Billy Howard with Keller Williams Realty, said the tight market puts pressure on the brokers to deliver for their clients.
“They feel like we’re not doing our job, but it’s really frustrating when you’ve got so many buyers after two or three years of a terrible market,” Howard said. “Now we have all the buyers we can stand and nothing to sell to them, so it really is frustrating.”
Mary Anne Walser, a Keller Williams Realtor who also writes about real estate at maryannewalser.wordpress.com, said she noticed a big increase in interested buyers about a month ago. She said the market is beginning to cool off a bit.
“Interest rates took a couple of sharp ticks up, and that slowed down activity,” Walser said. “We went through a period where it was really dramatic. You’d put four houses on the market and get four offers that day.”
According to Businessinsider.com, at the end of June the interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.46 percent, up from around 4 percent at the beginning of June.
“People are worried that [interest rates are] going to keep going up, and a lot of buyers have a sense of urgency they didn’t have before,” Walser said.
People on the supply side of the market are concerned about labor shortages and the price of materials.
Grant said he’s had problems finding workers since the state General Assembly passed immigration reform in 2011, driving out much of the skilled labor in the homebuilding business. He said the labor shortage has slowed down the rate of production.
“I think it’s had a dramatic impact,” Grant said. “We’re kind of like the farmers in south Georgia who couldn’t find anybody to pick crops. We couldn’t find anybody to drive the nails.”
Grant said people cut fewer trees during the recession, resulting in an increased price of materials.
Glazer said he’s had problems finding workers, too. In addition to workers affected by immigration reform, he said there are fewer companies building homes than there were before the recession hit.
“A lot of the guys that were in business are out of business now, the smaller companies back in the day, are out of business,” Glazer said. “They filed for bankruptcy or closed down their stores and their shops. A lot of my old contacts, I call them and their phones are disconnected.”