While the housing industry remains far below where it needs to be for recovery, there are some houses being built, such as this single-family house under construction in Flagler Beach earlier this week. (News-Tribune | David Massey)
The housing market nationally and in Flagler County is looking up, but it will be a long haul before anything approaching robust growth occurs.
That was the message from the National Association of Home Builders’ fall construction forecast conference Wednesday.
David Crowe, chief economist for the Washington, D.C.-based builder group, said while there are differences in opinions among economists about the future, there are a lot of similarities as well.
“We have included three economists that will give you at least four opinions of what will happen,” he joked at the beginning of the event, which was broadcast online. “You’ll get a little chance to see some small differences.”
Crowe said it’s important to realize that every housing market is different and any housing recovery is going to happen at a different pace depending on local conditions.
“We are at the mercy, basically, of what happens in the overall economy,” he said. “We are expected to see some slight and continuous buildup.”
Crowe said the housing sector “has not been doing its share” to fuel the economic recovery.
“It’s been waiting for the rest of the economy to pick up,” he said.
Crowe discussed some of the issues affecting the economy, including consumer confidence, joblessness, house prices and foreclosures.
He said the latter continue to have a profound impact on the housing sector.
“Foreclosures, no question, they are a heavy burden on the housing market,” he said. “The good news is the number of them is declining.”
In addition, Crowe said it is important to note that 70 percent of foreclosures have occurred in only a dozen states, including Florida.
Foreclosure activity is an issue in Flagler County, according to debi Peterson, executive officer at the Flagler/Palm Coast Home Builders Association.
“They’re still coming on the market,” she said. “That short-sale market is still negative against us.”
Peterson said the housing market in Flagler is “kind of a mixed bag” overall.
“I’ve got members that are busy and I have other members that are still waiting for it to turn around,” she said.
Peterson said she believes that builders are becoming more optimistic.
“For the Parade of Homes we have coming up in March, we have new models coming,” she said. “We haven’t had new models in a long, long time.”
Flagler Beach builder and Realtor Barbara Revels, owner of Coquina Real Estate and Construction, said things are beginning ot look a little brighter.
“The different people that I talk to are all saying the same thing, that they’re holding their own but seeing some faint signs of glimmer,” said Revels, who also serves as a Flagler County commissioner.
Revels said the two areas that are seeing the most improvement are the high and low ends of the housing market. And she has heard from some contractors that activity is picking up.
“I have a subcontractor I share with Adams Homes and he says they have (houses) popping up all over the Central Florida region,” Revels said.
Revels said right now there is a lack of consistency in the market.
“It turns off and it turns on,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. It’s a very long, slow hard climb.”
That mirrors Crowe’s assessment of the market.
“The recovery is going to be spotty,” he said. “That’s another reason why the overall national numbers will be spotty.”