SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- There is some encouraging news for the housing market. According to the latest government data, new-home starts are at their highest levels since 2008.
That trend is ringing true in the Ozarks as well. The building peak in 2005 brought more than 5,000 new home permits to the Ozarks. In 2011, there were only 850. It is unlikely we will see 2005-type growth any time soon, but there is good reason to be optimistic.
"When our bubble burst, it didn't burst nearly as badly as a lot of places," said Homebuilders Association of Greater Springfield Chief Executive Officer Matt Morrow.
For a lot of builders and contractors it still hurt badly enough.
"Our number of housing starts has dropped dramatically in the last 5 years. We think we've hit the bottom," Morrow said.
Now the HBA believes things can, and will, start looking up. We're off to a good start.
According to data from MarketGraphics Research Group, so far this year new home starts are up 7% compared to a year ago. In June, 109 new home permits were issued--the largest single month number since August of 2010.
"Year over year, each of those first six months of 2012 out performed the same month a year ago except for one," said Morrow.
So what are we doing right in the Ozarks?
"One of the real advantages we have over really any other market in Missouri and over a lot of markets in the U.S. is that our population is still growing. It's still growing in a fairly even way," Morrow said.
That growing population is faring better at the banks and at the workplace. "Part of it is the low interest rates. Part of it is the availability of credit. Part of it is the fact that our unemployment rate here in Springfield is really defying the odds."
As to when things will get back to normal, the HBA is hoping around 2015 or 2016. That might seem like a long time, but the HBA could be much worse.
"Most major areas in the U.S., you see that normal is re-attained more like 2020, 2022 much further out," Morrow said.