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Builders in Connecticut Accentuate Market Positives

With their housing markets performing considerably better than those in many other parts of the country, builders in Connecticut report that they have been working with their local news media to ensure that prospective buyers aren’t scared off by the negative coverage that has proliferated on the national level.

On job growth, a pivotal factor for housing demand, Connecticut has clearly been outperforming the nation as a whole, and despite some marginal slippage in December, there were 16,600 jobs gained since a year earlier, said economist Donald Klepper-Smith.

Connecticut never soared to the lofty peaks seen by the top housing markets during the mid-decade housing boom and consequently hasn’t experienced the extreme lows now afflicting those areas.

Well above the national average, the state’s housing sales last year held up to 87% of the 2006 level, according to the Home Builders Association of Connecticut, and there is still relatively healthy demand in many communities, especially for smaller and high-end custom homes.

The members and staff of the Connecticut association have been in regular contact with local reporters, reminding them of the unique dynamics of the local market and supplying them with information from local builders.

For instance, a story in the Jan. 29 Hartford Courant on a decline in housing permits in Connecticut last year, includes the perspectives of Bill Ferrigno, president of the Connecticut HBA and owner of Sunlight Construction in Avon; and Greg Ugalde, president of T&M Building Co. in Torrington, immediate past president of the builders association and a member of the NAHB Board of Directors.

The article presents the construction permit slowdown as a good sign that builders have been able to keep their inventory of unsold homes under control so that they will be in a good position when the market returns to its cyclical growth phase.

“We are building at a rate that is sustainable for the economy we’re in,” Ferrigno said. “In the old days, it was build, build, build. Now, a lot of us are responding as we should.”

In the news story, Ferrigno says that he plans to build more this year, with two projects under construction — a modestly priced active-adult community in East Hartford and a 14-unit luxury development in Avon with homes priced between $1.5 and $2 million.

“I think there’s pent-up demand,” Ferrigno said. “In the past two months, we’ve talked to more people than in the last four months before that. Are we more cautious? Yes. They are seeking more options. But we’re planning on 25% more homes this year than last.”

"We're still signing contracts," Ugalde said, "but not at the pace of those record years in 2004 and 2005. We are better off than others parts of the country, without a doubt, but we are influenced by that."

The association’s efforts to work with the media have resulted in papers adding local, more positive statistics to national stories and seeking out members’ perspectives on housing statistics, said Lisa Kidder, the HBA’s director of public relations and communications.

The association has also been promoting good news about the industry, such as the involvement of its members in the community, green building and efforts to improve energy-efficiency during the winter months.

The HBA has also assembled panels of its members — including builders, remodelers, bankers and real estate professionals — to provide business reporters with an overview of the local housing market. One local paper has already run a housing outlook article and another is preparing for the interviews.

“In the last three months, we’ve had six local television news stories — two on a building project for an injured veteran, two on remodeling for energy efficiency, one on a green building project and one on January housing starts,” said Kidder.

The headline for a Jan. 9 New Haven Register article on a 2% rise in the median price of single-family homes in the state in November, “Home Prices in State Buck Trend,” shows the kind of reporting the association is encouraging on a market that has its own story to tell.

Want to Know the Housing Forecast for the Top 100 Metros? 

Find out in HousingEconomic.com’s 2008 to 2009 Metro Forecast (free preview).

Get the metro forecast with in-depth analysis, overviews and downloadable Excel tables.

To learn more, visit www.HousingEconomics.com.

Free NAHB Kit Gives Builders Back-to-Basics Tips to Navigate the Slowdown

What was once expected to be a relatively mild housing slump following three years of record new home construction and sales has given way to a significant downturn.

To help members navigate the uncharted waters of this slowdown, NAHB has compiled a comprehensive “Back to Basics” online toolkit — the best of the basics, the tried and true and the truly new. To access the toolkit, click here.

To access the “Back to Basics” toolkit, you must be an NAHB member and have a login to www.nahb.org. To create a login, go to www.nahb.org/login or click on the log-in button on the main menu bar.

For assistance, call the NAHB Member Service Center at 800-368-5242.

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