BOOM! Demand for new homes still on the rise in county |

BOOM! Demand for new homes still on the rise in county

Dan BurkhartDan Woods (top) and Jeff Washburn work on a home being built at Ventana Sierra subdivision in Grass Valley.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

After a month’s lull, contractor Jeff Baird has noticed cars driving through the cul-de-sac to look at homes in the Ventana Sierra subdivision where he’s building.

“Right now, there’s a lot of traffic coming through – that’s a precursor,” said Baird, owner of Jeff Baird Construction.

The lookey-loos may be a sign of busy times for contractors if they turn into home-buyers a year later.

“They come and look and look; one year later they buy,” Baird said. “But they’re not spontaneous-type buyers.”

The traffic is one of the early indicators that suggest Nevada County’s home-building construction boom will continue.

This year could continue the construction boom that accelerated in 2000, when people were flush with equity from a skyrocketing stock market. Things have come back down to earth from that year.

Construction is one of the largest sectors of the Nevada County economy, employing 2,700 in March, according to the state Employment Development Department.

Baird said the area is “crawling” with people looking to buy homes. He has sold everything he wanted to sell this year, and is already looking for next year’s buyers.

This is the time of the year when the nails and lumber start flying, as the ground dries up and contractors start pouring foundations for homes.

Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors Association, said this year looks to be a strong year for home construction – though not like last year, when contractors were almost in a frenzy because of all the work out there.

People who move to the area are driving new-home building, Bashall said. She is still getting a lot of calls from people looking for contractors.

Interest rates are low, and home prices in Nevada County look pretty attractive compared to the Bay Area.

Home-building permits issued by Nevada County in 2002 compare favorably with the previous year’s numbers.

For the first three months of 2002, there were 84 new-home permits issued by the Nevada County Building Department. That compares with 75 for the same period last year.

Clint McKinley, director of building for Nevada County, said he is seeing the same activity level as last year, which was strong. There was a slow start this year, but traffic is getting heavy now.

Caseywood Corp, a Charles Drive wholesale supplier of building materials to contractors, is seeing similar activity.

Kevin Casey, the company’s principal, said this year seems on pace with last year, but is unlikely to break any records.

“You are seeing a good normal start to a building season,” Casey said.

Last year was a good year for construction, even after a post-Sept. 11 pause when some people canceled vacation homes on the books. Vacation-home building in the Tahoe-Truckee area is coming back now.

“There was a big hiccup and everyone took a breath after Sept. 11, but then went back to work,” Casey said.

Most contractors have a decent order file into spring, assuming the orders carry through. And the big companies have more, often a year’s worth of work, he said.

Mark Weyman, Realtor-associate for Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty, said there is still a strong demand for homes in Nevada County. Since the end of last year, the market has taken off.

The problem now is, building lots are disappearing, creating a supply and demand problem – too much demand and not enough supply.

“The big problem in my industry is finding well located, attractive houses to sell,” Weyman said. “People in my business are experiencing sticker shock.”

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