Summit’s building scene could be on the mend
April 30, 2012
Signs are indicating Summit County’s construction business is picking up over the last few years. Local builders say they’re seeing more interest, at least.”I think that the building industry and home-building is gaining some momentum. You can see that nationally, and we’re kind of following that,” said Clark Johnson, president of Apex Mountain Homes in Frisco. “I do feel we’re trending upward as far as Apex Mountain Homes is concerned.” This year will be better than the last two for the company, Johnson said. In 2010 and 2011, remodels made up an equal or greater percentage of his business. This year, he expects new construction will.Land also seems to be moving, Johnson said. “First-hand experience with that tells me that land is selling,” Johnson said. “In years past, we were looking at property less than we’re looking at property now with potential clients.” Over at Pinnacle Mountain Homes, inquiries about the company’s high-end home-building services are up, although as of right now, president Chris Renner said they’re on track to do the same number of builds as last year (10). “It seems like there’s a good bit of pent-up demand,” Renner said. “We’re talking to more people this spring than we have in three or four years.” But, it still remains to be seen if all of that interest will turn into projects, he said.Another trend Renner has noticed: His clients – the vast majority of which are second-home owners looking for new houses – are requesting smaller homes. The average size three or four years ago was in the 6,000-7,000-square-foot range, while today’s clients are looking for 3,000 – 5,000.”People are willing to spend more money per square foot, but recognize that smaller homes are more efficient, both energy-wise and economical,” Renner said. There’s definitely an increase in construction projects across the board, according to Town of Breckenridge chief building official Glen Morgan. Through April, the town has issued eight building permits for new single-family residences, and seven new ones were approved by the planning commission at a recent meeting. “Home remodel permits with values ranging from a few thousand dollars up to $1.4 million are also strong, and a number of condo associations have been approved for comprehensive exterior remodels in 2012,” Morgan said. Marc Hogan of BHH Partners in Breckenridge is seeing an uptick in activity at his planning and architecture company – in remodels, and some new construction. Which is good, because business had been “pretty rough” since the downturn, forcing the company to cut half its staff. “It’s a great time to build because everything’s still on sale,” Hogan said. Design services and subcontract labor is down; materials costs are creeping upward due to supply and demand, and the cost of energy, he said. Paying in cash “The general consensus is that building is up this year, but I think if you look at the nature of the business, a lot of it is production homes (like the Valley Brook development),” said Craig Campbell, general contractor at J&E Development in Breckenridge. The custom home market still seems to be lagging a little, he said. “From my perspective, the availability of financing is an issue,” Campbell said. “Over the last three years, I have not had one bank-loan customer.” The shift is a dramatic one considering that before, nearly all of his clients had a bank loan. Now, it’s all people who pay in cash. “I’ve sensed a dramatic shift in the marketplace,” Campbell said.