There were 63 permits issued for new single-family homes throughout Cobb in March, just slightly lower than the 66 permits issued in February. In March 2009, only 25 permits were issued. Last month was the first month since September 2009 when there was a month-to-month decline in the number of permits issued. There were 23 permits issued in September, 25 in October, 38 in November, 59 permits in December and 64 in January.
During the month of March, most of the permits came from unincorporated Cobb County, with 48. Six permits were issued in the city of Acworth; four in both Smyrna and Marietta; and one in Powder Springs. No permits were issued in Austell or Kennesaw.
Year to date, 193 permits have been issued. That is a significant increase compared to the 81 that were issued in the same time period last year.
Jim Hughes of Building Ventures Inc. said he is cautiously optimistic about this year's higher numbers, but still hasn't seen as much action as he thought he would see in the home construction and remodeling industry.
"Right now it's slower than I was expecting it to be," Hughes said. "It's not totally dead - it's not in cardiac arrest - but it's slower than I thought it would be this time of year."
Hughes said he thought the slight dip in the March number might be weather-related, and looks for that number to rebound in the coming spring and summer months.
But he says the main issue with new builds right now is that most of the homes on the market are in foreclosure, so it's difficult for builders to compete with the low prices.
"Some of them are selling so low it's hard to build against them," Hughes said.
Hughes said he looks to the job market to pick up first, then expects the housing market to follow.
"There are no jobs," he said. "That's the killer, you've got to have jobs to build and sell houses."
Gene Kerley of the Marietta-based Kerley Family Homes said he also thought that bad weather in March kept people from buying homes. But he said his business has seen a substantial improvement over last year.
"I think we're going to have a great April because of the incentive," Kerley said of the federal tax credit for homebuyers who close on a house before April 30. "People are real apprehensive. I think a lot of people want to buy homes and they just need some encouragement that things are getting better."
Kerley's son and business partner, Joe, said the company has probably started about 30 to 40 homes since January, as compared to last year's total of 21.
Joe Kerley agrees with his father and thinks that some of the increase can be attributed to the homeowner tax credit, but he also said he doesn't foresee construction taking a noticeable nosedive once the tax incentive is over.
"Everything seems like it's coming back together and starting to swing back up," Joe Kerley said.