Homebuilders toughing it out

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So what are the chances that residential construction will be one of the endangered species that overcomes all obstacles? Will it, like the delisted bald eagle or western grey wolf, return to reproducing at healthy levels?

Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs President Ralph Braden thinks so. He stops short, however, of predicting a 2009 total comeback.

“We’re expecting 2010 to be an improvement — not great, but better,” he said. “If we get up to 2,000 new home permits by year end, that will be a good year.”

Through July, 787 permits had been issued.

“While we’re seeing hopeful signs, don’t expect the market to come roaring back,” Braden said. “Typically that’s our slowest period, so we expect some increase in volume this fall.”

His view might reflect the fact that Richmond Homes announced it would begin building at Banning Lewis Ranch, joining Classic Homes, Oakwood Homes and Capital Pacific Homes.

Sales to date at Banning Lewis stand at about 175, and the closings are averaging five to eight a month, said Kim Mutchler, a spokeswoman for the developer.

But there will be plenty of rebuilding throughout the residential construction industry to do.

Like the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, which has seen 20 percent or more attrition in its active broker membership, the HBA also has experienced contraction.

“Today we have 124 builder members compared to 165 last year and 205 during 2007,” Braden said. “A lot of those still standing lived through tough times during the ‘80s, RTC (Resolution Trust Corp.) days. They learned to be resourceful and to hang on.”

Braden also oversees work on Nor’Wood Development’s 1,400-acre Wolf Ranch, which is home to about 725 families in single-family and townhome communities.

Builders with model homes and on-site sales staff there include Classic Homes, Creekstone Homes, Vantage Homes and Goetzmann Homes.

John Laing and Beazer Homes, both regional home builders, left the market — and Wolf Ranch — last year.

Braden said he expects to see increasing sales in the next 12 to 18 months at Wolf Ranch and at Nor’Wood’s Mesa Ridge development in Fountain.

And, like the bald eagle and grey wolf, he expects to see his industry recover and reproduce at historic levels once the lending and mortgage stalemates come to an end.