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Home permits rise for year

Allen County sees small gains, sharply higher prices

Single-family home construction – a leading economic driver – increased last year in Allen County, but improvements will continue to be gradual, market experts say.

The Home Builders Association of Fort Wayne on Tuesday said there were 45 residential construction requests in December, compared with 43 permits the same month a year ago. Year-to-date figures showed a 1.6 percent increase at 691 permits.

The average sales price in 2012 was $226,058, up nearly 22 percent from 2011.

Home Builders Association President Charlie Giese said the industry is “going in the right direction.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but it does make you smile a bit when you see the numbers,” he said. “It’s been a slow, gradual pace but it’s nice to see.”

Giese, vice president of Westport Homes, said Westport shifted and made “move-up” buyers its main target customer because first-time buyers have a more difficult time gaining financing because of tighter lending restrictions.

Another reason for the switch, he said, is the price point for typical first-time homes “had us competing with foreclosed homes.”

“You don’t know what the (terms) are or how bad the banks want to get a (foreclosed) home off their hands,” which can put a builder at a disadvantage, Giese said. “Most of our homes last year were in the $175,000 to $200,000 range.”

John Stafford is director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW. He said the rebound from the worst recession since the Great Depression will continue to be gradual.

“There’s also such a supply of homes out there,” Stafford said. “But there has been job growth that’s been relatively strong and that will be a positive factor long term.”