Summit County breaks records with 852 building permits representing $244 million
February 1, 2018
The number of building permits issued by Summit County went through the roof last year.
As a result, the county set a record for the number of inspections performed in 2017 at the same time the number of building permits issued spiked to the highest levels since at least the Great Recession.
According to the Summit County Building Inspection Department's 2017 summary report, the number of permits issued by the department skyrocketed to 852 in 2017 after the county issued 710 in 2016 and 644 in 2015.
The number of inspections also soared in 2017, going from 13,978 in 2016 to 16,923 in 2017. That was almost 3,000 more inspections than the county did in 2016, which was more than double the growth rate from 2015 to 2016, when the number of inspections rose by 1,395.
Meanwhile, the total value represented by all those permits issued last year jumped from $152 million in 2016 to $244 million in 2017, a staggering increase compared to previous spikes.
"It's fast and furious," said Matt Mueller, development director at Summit Sky Ranch, a planned 240-unit neighborhood in Silverthorne that features a range of homes at different price points.
Mueller said the high number of permits and rapid building pace is likely a product of demand, and it shows just how successful his project, and others across Summit County, have been.
"We can be somewhat of a machine at times," Mueller said of his company. "We're organized on-site, we have a plan and we're chopping away as we go, trying to get as many homes done as we can."
Putting it into context, the $244 million valuation of building permits issued last year was 246 percent of the estimated valuation in 2015 ($99 million) and four times greater than the valuation of the permits issued in 2011.
"I think that the building boom that we're currently experiencing shows that the recession is truly in our rear-view mirror, and we expect (the growth) to continue for the foreseeable future," said Scott Hoffman, chief building official for Summit County.
Story continues below charts.
Describing the growth in real terms, Hoffman recalled not too long ago when the county's building inspectors would do 70 inspections on their busiest day in the summer. Now, they can handle 70 on a Wednesday without hardly even thinking about it, he said, like they did earlier this week.
Not complaining about the additional work, Hoffman credited the county commissioners and upper-county management for giving the inspectors the resources they need to run "like a well-oiled machine" and bang out up to 120 inspections on a "huge day" with everyone pitching in.
Instead, Hoffman pointed to Summit County's building community — everyone from the architects, engineers and designers to the general contractors, electricians, plumbers and "the concrete guy" — as the ones who've actually shouldered the county's building boom.
"Each piece is an important part of the machine," Hoffman said of the players. "We're blessed to work with the best group of builders, I think, in the nation, but especially in the mountain-resort niche."
The properties they're building range from multimillion-dollar luxury homes to condos and major workforce housing developments. They've also undertaken a number of commercial builds, but the county attributes much of Summit County's growth to a resurgence of condominium projects and investments at the ski resorts.
Still, Hoffman said the permits issued by the county run the gamut, covering everything from new construction, remodels and rebuilds to smaller additions and scrape-offs.
There was also a large increase in new starts and spec homes, according to county building officials, whose inspections cover everything from improvements at the ski resorts to mining properties.
"There are a lot of really neat projects we get to work on," Hoffman said, adding that he has high hopes for the mixed-use Fourth Street Crossing project for downtown Silverthorne and large-scale workforce housing projects going up in Silverthorne, Keystone and Breckenridge.
"The community is going through a great growth cycle with a positive effect," Hoffman said matter-of-factly, adding that the builders all have to eat lunch, drive trucks and do countless other things that greatly expand the economic impact the building community has on the local economy.
"This growth creates a ripple effect of economic opportunities for workers in the local real estate business, management services, restaurants and many other sectors," Hoffman wrote in the summary.
One of the downsides to the torrid growth, however, is the upward pressure it puts on housing prices, which remains a major challenge for the local workforce, according to the report.
Looking ahead, 2018 is expected to be another big year for the builders.
Chris Renner, owner of Pinnacle Mountain Homes, said his company usually builds about 10 custom-built homes in a year but has already started 2018 with more work under construction than they did all of last year.
Renner said the number of custom-built homes starting construction last year actually fell slightly — dipping from about 45 in a year to 37 in 2017 based on what he can see — while spec homes more than made up the difference.
Still, he's fielding more requests for work than he can accept.
"Before we start any homes (this year), we already have more work on the books than we did all of last year," he said. "And we expect to start 10 more homes next year."
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