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Building confidence

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:09 PM

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Chris Glover is feeling more confident about the housing market these days.

The owner of Palmwood Construction said he's sold five homes in the last five months.

And while that doesn't seem like many, consider that in previous years, he might have done five total for the entire year.

"It's all relative," Glover said.

In the boom years, he was doing 85-100 homes a year "before things got crazy."

Like other builders, Glover has taken on more commercial projects to keep afloat. On Wednesday, he was standing inside the new 8,000-square-foot medical office — soon to open as The Center For Bone & Joint Disease — that his construction company is putting up along State Road 50.

He has more such buildings on the drawing board.

"You have to crawl before you walk," he said.

Glover, who also is president of the Hernando Builders Association, said he hopes residential construction will undergo a rebirth in the near future.

For the first time in six-and-a-half years, Glover has hired two people to handle the extra work load. During the boom years, he had 25 on staff and is down to the present five.

"I'm cautiously optimistic we're seeing a little bit of an uptick," Glover said.

Glover said he still has to contend with the glut of used homes on the market because they are cheaper than new houses.

"But I've seen an attitude change in customers in the last few months, with customers who say they've spent their time looking around at existing housing stock and it's either no good or in a bad location," he said.

Many of these homes are in disrepair and by the time people fix them up, it's almost cheaper to go the new home route, he said.

The number of single-family building permits issued from January through August 2012 is 107, according to the county building department.

That compares to 79 for the same eight-month period in 2011; 120 in 2010; 113 in 2009; and 223 in 2008.

Dudley Hampton, owner of BJH Construction, said the federal government needs to reduce the bureaucracy new homebuyers must go through to secure a home loan.

There are people who want to buy a new home but give up on the process because of the endless paperwork the banks now must require, Hampton said.

Not that he believes banks should go back to granting loans to unqualified people, which led to the collapse. But there is a middle ground, he said.

"We have to make sure people can afford a home they want to buy but you get to the point of being so burdensome they might not even try," Hampton said.

Hampton, on the board of directors of the HBA, said he is doing small remodels and subcontracting to other builders during these difficult times.

He agrees with Glover that there may be a glimmer of hope in the building industry. But it will never rebound to where it was in the mid 2000s, he said. He called that an industry anomaly.

"That's not going to happen and people need to understand that," he said.

Hampton said Hernando County must realize that the economy will only rebound if more attention is placed on attracting other clean industry. Call centers, he said, may be a viable option.

"Hernando County can no longer rely on the construction industry as far as an economic engine as it did in the past," he said.

Meanwhile, nationwide housing production rose 2.3 percent in August, according to newly released figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The increase was fueled entirely by gains in the single-family sector, where the pace of new construction rose in every region of the country.

"The pace of overall housing production has been edging gradually upward all year as consumers become more confident in their local housing markets, and the latest data are further evidence that the housing recovery is here to stay," National Association of Home Builders chief economist David Crowe said.

"That said, the pace of this recovery continues to be constrained by various hurdles, including a tough lending environment, inaccurate appraisals and more recently, rising prices on key building materials," Crowe said.

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