Vancouver sees spike in new-home permits in April

Growth spurt fails to clear up confusion over state of local economy

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
photo

An April growth spurt in Vancouver’s housing market continued to add to the confusion about the state of the local economy.

On the one hand, job growth is meager and few businesses are expanding here. On the other, 27 permits were issued to build single-family houses within the city in April. That was three times the number of permits handed out in the same month last year, according to a Wednesday report issued by Vancouver’s community development department.

So far this year, 119 permit applications have been issued to build single-family homes in Vancouver, up from 40 permits during January to April of last year.

Local builders seemed reluctant to say the market is in recovery. Still, they are seeing renewed demand to build single-family houses for newcomers who are again beginning to trickle into the county, after a housing downturn that began in late 2007 and lasted through 2011.

“This year has been the best year since the crash,” said Randy Quested, co-owner of Vancouver-based Manor Homes.

He said the company has built and sold 106 houses so far this year in Clark County and Happy Valley, Ore., a community east of Interstate 205 near the Clackamas Town Center mall.

Quested said he’s noticed fewer sales of bank-owned foreclosures and short sales -- a transaction in which the bank agrees to take less than is owed on the mortgage of an existing home.

“There aren’t quite as many on the market right now, even though

we’re being told there are quite a few in the pipeline,” he said.

Foreclosure rates have continued to fluctuate in Clark County this spring, according to the most recent data from California-based RealtyTrac Inc. In March, there were 214 houses in some stage of foreclosure. That was a 59 percent increase over February’s 134 foreclosures, but down 21 percent compared with the same month last year.

Quested said his company builds for first-time and move-up buyers at price points that range from $159,000 to $300,000.

Home prices have started to stabilize in Clark County, where the median price --half sold for more, half for less -- of all homes sold in March was $176,000. It was a 6.7 percent increase from February, but still down 5.6 percent year-over-year.

Quested said his company’s most popular location is a 200-lot subdivision in East Vancouver called Falcon’s Nest.

“There are about 120 lots left,” he said. “Out of about 200.”

Robust attendance at last weekend’s Home and Garden Idea Fair was also an encouraging sign for builders, said Ryan Zygar, owner of Vancouver-based Tamarack Homes and president of the Clark County Building Industry Association.

“It’s really nice to see people engaged.” he said of potential homeowners who attended the event.

Zygar said some builders are even building houses “on spec” again, meaning homes are being constructed with the belief that a buyer will eventually come along.

“New homebuyers are coming back into the marketplace,” he said.