Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Sandy Effects, Bad and Better

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Sandy Effects, Bad and Better

Article excerpt

The housing industry in Southwest Florida could gain refugees as cutomers, but prices for materials might rise

AMID CONCERNS THAT SUPERstorm Sandy could dampen tourism in Southwest Florida, the local real estate and home building industries also are weighing potential effects -- both positive and negative.

Tourists from the Northeast often become home buyers in the Sarasota-Manatee area. But as storm-weary residents dig out and rebuild after Sandy, experts warn that travel and relocation plans could be set back -- possibly for years.

"A lot of folks who travel down here from that region are probably not coming this year," said Kim Vogel, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Venice.

"Those people are looking for a good investment and where to retire. Those plans might be put off when money is being spent on repairing and rebuilding their homes," she said.

The silver lining, for some, is that the long-depressed U.S. construction industry is bound to get a boost from the rebuilding effort after the monster storm, which directly hit New Jersey and parts of New York and affected an area from the North Carolina coast up to Connecticut.

But the bad news is that economic damage inflicted by Sandy could hit $50 billion, forecasting firm Eqecat Inc. said. Several economists warn that the storm could shave a half percentage point off the nation's economic growth in the current quarter.

The storm also could have ripple effects in Southwest Florida that hurt builders.

That is because demand for construction materials and workers will rise as the communities begin to rebuild or repair homes, commercial buildings, roads and bridges.

And, as has happened with past hurricanes, that increased activity could lead to higher prices and limited availability of materials in Florida and elsewhere.

"There were times when it was difficult to get concrete or drywall," said Alan Anderson, executive vice president for the Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota. "It did raise prices a bit.

"We might see some of that in the long term. I do know some prices are going up anyway, just because construction across the country is up, and we are doing very well here, considering where we have been," he said. …

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