Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Home Builders Optimistic Contractors Expect Purchases to Keep Up with Last Year's Quick Pace

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Home Builders Optimistic Contractors Expect Purchases to Keep Up with Last Year's Quick Pace

Article excerpt

For Howard White, president of North Florida Builders, Inc. of Jacksonville, the business of building single family houses has never been better.

"We are making more sales than we ever have," White said. "In fact, we have more in the pipeline now than we have had in 23 years."

Statistics show home construction activity on the First Coast is very close to the healthy pace set last year, in sharp contrast to national housing construction figures released this week that showed housing starts took the biggest monthly dive in six years last month, falling 11.2 percent from February.

One way to measure construction activity is by examining the number of building permits issued for single-family houses.

There is usually a lag time between when a builder requests a permit and actual construction, but the monthly number of permits indicates construction trends.

For March 2000, the latest numbers available, the number of single-family permits in a five-county area decreased by three homes, or .4 percent from the same month last year.

In March 2000, there were 764 single-family permits issued, compared to 767 issued in March 1999 in Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Nassau and Baker counties.

Nationally, housing starts slumped 8 percent in March 2000 from last year.

White credits the steady boom in business to good economic conditions, and the overall rise in the stock market. White's company builds homes that range in price from $250,000-$1 million.

Also, White says the housing market is being stimulated by the influx of employees who are relocating to new and expanding businesses in the area.

He says officials at the Chamber of Commerce have done a good job marketing the area to potential businesses.

"This city has come into its own," White said. "We are no longer a little south Georgia cow town. …

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