2018-02-01 / Local News

Building rises nearly 12% in ‘17

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Construction activity continued to rebound from the economic downturn of 2008 as the value of projects permitted rose for the fourth straight year.

According to the county Construction Code Authority’s (CCA) year-end report, the estimated value of projects for which permits were issued totaled $64 million — 11.9 percent higher than 2016.

The number of building permits issued enjoyed an even bigger rise — 43 percent.

“I say we’re building like it’s 1999, and last year that was true,” said Bob Evatt, owner of Suttons Bay-based Seeco Construction. “We’re always busy because of our established clients. But we’ve had more houses, additions and kitchens than usual.”

(Permit totals and the estimated value of projects provided by the CCA differ from those appearing in Section 2 of this week’s paper as they cover different time frames. For this story, we are only using year-end figures provided by the CCA.)

Some 753 building permits were issued last year by the CCA, a steep hike from the 526 permits issued in 2016 and more than double the 376 permits recorded in 2013.

New home starts, numbering 166, marked the fourth-straight year of growth since the Enterprise began tracking them in 2014. That year, permits for single-family dwellings totaled 99.

Paul Maurer Construction based in Elmwood Township had a good 2017 and is booking projects well into the fall of 2018.

“It’s a good position to be in,” said Ben Maurer, vice president.

His company specializes in high end custom homes. Eighty percent of its clients are having work done for their second, third and even fourth homes.

Even so, the construction company was impacted a decade ago by the economic slowdown.

“We ended up doing some remodels and additions, which was very rare for us,” Maurer said. “Last year we had much more new building.”

As the economy improved, contractors experienced a secondary effect of the recession — finding enough skilled workers to fill out their crews.

Many of those workers left the area to find work and had yet to return.

“A year ago, we were nervous about that. But within the past six months or so we’ve hired some exceptional employees who are even better humans,” Maurer said. “We’re at full capacity now with 47 employees.”

The 2017 construction value number set a record for building — with an asterisk. Changes made in 2008 by the county Construction Code Authority devalued construction permits. Using a ratio established by the county to compare the two systems, permitted construction totaled $52.8 for comparison purposes to pre-2008 numbers. That would make 2017 the eighth-busiest year since the county started keeping figures in 1977.

While new home projects in 2017 comprised less than a quarter of the permits issued by the CCA, they represent more than 60 percent the total value of construction at just over $40 million. The value for new homes rose over its 2017 figure of $38.8 million.

The average value of permitted single family homes in the county last year was $242,970.

What will this year bring?

There’s no indication the pace of home construction will falter in 2018 based on what’s happened since the calendar changed. As of last week, contractors had already pulled six permits for new single-family residences.

No permits for single-family homes had been issued by this time last year.

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