The building pace in Grand County is picking up, according to anecdotal reports as well as statistics from local building departments.
The Grand County Building Department has reported nearly double the number of single-family home permits from 2011 to 2012, as of this September. Last year, Grand County issued only 25 permits for new single-family homes. The county department includes the towns of Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs and Kremmling.
"I think the Denver market is cranking again and that trickles to our satellite location of second homes and commuters," said Dave Clingman, president of the Grand County Builders Association and owner of Imagin3 LLC, of Fraser.
"Also, our housing stock from the first wave in the '90s is dated. (Consumers) are putting some money in increasing efficiency and finishes."
Although permits for single-family homes are increasing, the total valuation of all 486 projects (including remodels, roofs, garages and sheds) in the county building department has decreased from $32.9 million last year to $21 million this year.
At the other building department, which includes the towns of Winter Park, Fraser and Granby, total valuations are up year-to-date, from $8.2 million last year to $9.9 million this year. Out of all projects, most of the new single-family home activity is taking place in Granby Ranch, with 17 permits pulled in 2011 and another 17 pulled in 2012.
Permits for new single-family homes increased in the town of Fraser this year, with three new homes being built in Grand Park and another three in Rendezvous; and in Winter Park, one home is being built compared with a permit for one new single-family home last year.
Although no permits were issued for duplexes or multi-family dwellings, the Grand County Building Department is nearly keeping up with years in permits for home remodels, detached garages and shop buildings.
According to Clingman, summer had a slow start in terms of the local building climate, but "as of fall, everyone within our organization and its sub parts is really busy. New starts are still low, but the remodeling has been substantially busier. Folks are retrofitting their houses as opposed to a total move."
The uptick in interest has contractors like Larry Steffen of Steffen Builders West Inc. looking forward to a busy building season in 2013.
"People are starting to think that we may have hit the bottom and do not want to miss the low interest money and eager tradesman that are still willing to work for lower costs," Steffen said. "They don't want to 'miss the train,' as one potential client told me."
"Now is a pretty good time to build I think," said Brad Smith of Terra Firma Custom Homes.
He too is seeing a "pent-up demand" for building projects from clients who maybe had been sitting on the fence for awhile, he said. Low interest rates and well-valued land in Grand County may be giving them the nudge to move forward, he said.
Since it has been a buyer's market for a few years, clients seem to be demanding more of a builder's time and more efficient ways of building and communicating, Clingman said.
"This has proven to be challenging for some of the 'old-school' builders," he said.
Clients are becoming aware of such choices as state-of-the-art products, challenging designs, smarter construction and third-party energy testing, "and if you are a builder who fights or ignores these things, clients weigh that in their decisions," Clingman said.
According to several builders, clients are trending more toward smaller and smarter homes with more modern finishes.
During the Great Recession, Grand County went from boom to doom in the building industry. As a result, many builders left the county to chase work elsewhere.
The remaining builders - including many who have long been cultivating reputations of trust in Grand County - especially are noticing fewer subcontractors in the area.
"The housing construction market took a huge hit up here," Clingman said, "but the interesting thing is that progressive-thinking, quality- and integrity-building has shown through. Those who are really building to a higher standard are the builders and subs who have weathered the storm. That is great for our community - a higher standard of building is occurring, and I hope it is here to stay for awhile."
- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603