Builders staying busy |

Builders staying busy

John HartMartha Lingen, co-owner of Sierra Timberframers, on Wednesday stands in what will be the living room of the Lingens' new home.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Despite a slower economy, the level of new-home construction permits issued last year remained strong. Nevada County figures provide a rough gauge of home-building activity because people do not always build homes immediately upon taking out a permit.

The figures suggest the construction market is still holding up from previous years’ high levels, despite the recession.

An analysis of single-family home permits issued by Nevada County show 2001 was down only slightly from the prior year’s high levels.

New-home building permits issued in 2001 totaled 393, down 5 percent from the 412 permits issued in 2000. There were 396 permits issued in 1999, 344 permits in 1998 and 244 issued in 1997.

Alta Sierra saw the most permits of any of the subdivisions listed for the last six months of 2001, followed by Lake Wildwood, Lake of the Pines and Penn Valley.

Construction activity has surged in recent years as more people moved up to the Sierra Foothills region, including Nevada County. High-tech telecommuters found they could hold down a job in Silicon Valley while living in this area. Many Bay Area retirees wrung high prices out of their old homes, built new ones in Nevada County and still have money in the bank.

Since 2000 was so busy, a little slowdown still leaves plenty of work for contractors.

“It’s going from an absolute frenzy to a manageable amount,” said Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors Association. “I think it’s more manageable now, but there’s still plenty of work out there.”

Bashall said the last six months of last year were not as busy as the same period a year ago, and activity slowed down near the end of the year.

Sierra Timberframers co-owner Martha Lingen said business did slow down after Sept. 11, and the business saw fewer inquiries and calls.

That was not a problem, since after five years of 35 percent annual revenue growth, the business started turning people away last year, Lingen said.

The 11-year-old North San Juan business builds new homes using timber beams that lock together with mortise and tenon joints that are secured by wooden pegs and wedges. It also provides timber framing for homes built by other contractors.

The company builds custom homes throughout Northern California, with about one-third of its work in Nevada County.

This year has seen a busy start so far, with six projects lined up – three in Nevada County. Last year, the company built four houses in Nevada County, about a third of its work.

“January is a little early, and it’s exciting they’re coming to us in January rather than March,” Lingen said.

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