The number of people building new homes and commercial buildings in Ashe County is about the same as it was in the first six months of last year.
Still, Joel Robinson, president of the Ashe County Home Builders Association, is cautiously optimistic that if the economy isn’t exactly improving, it’s at the very least begun to “stabilize,” which is good for home builders and all who reside in the county.
“Things are starting to pick up some,” Robinson said. “We’ve seen a lot of people with more interest (in building homes).”
From January through May of this year, approximately 143 building permits have been issued by the county’s Building Inspections Department. Twenty-five of those have been for the construction of new homes while six have been for commercial construction.
The numbers for the first five months of this year are significantly higher overall, but the numbers for new home and commercial buildings are about equal to what they were this time last year.
From January through May of 2013, approximately 117 building permits were issued. Thirty-two were for new homes and three for commercial buildings.
The bulk of permits issued since January have been for additions or alterations to existing structures, like garages, carports and storage sheds.
The spring and summer months are when the bulk of permits for new home construction start to spike.
Last year, approximately 45 permits were issued for new home construction in April through August.
“My personal thought is that the economy is more stabilized,” Robinson said. “It’s nowhere near where it was in 2006, but things seem to be improving.”
Robinson, who’s also the president of Jefferson-based Log Homes of America, said he and others in the business are seeing a renewed interest home building in the High County.
“We’ve started doing a lot more estimating of houses,” Robinson said.
Most of the people he’s been performing estimates for are property owners who’ve yet to build a home on their property.
“These are mostly people who’ve had property for the past four or five years,” Robinson said. “They’ve been doing research on the aspects of building it.”
Thirteen (slightly over half) of the permits issued for new homes this year have been for individuals and families who live outside the county.
“Our second home market is largely the retiree market,” Robinson said. “It’s a matter of wanting to build a retirement home in the mountains. The truth is, when you’re retired, you can’t wait forever to finally build that house.”
While Robinson said interest in second home ownership in the county continues to grow, if this year’s trend continues, the numbers likely won’t match or surpass last year’s total of 50.
The number of new mobile homes being permitted is up from where it was this time last year.
In 2013, a total of 18 new mobile homes were permitted in the county. However, during the first five months of this year, permits for 12 had been issued whereas only eight had been issued through May 2013.
All told, 88 permits for new homes and five for commercial buildings were issued in all of 2013. Three hundred and twenty permits were issued altogether.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.