Homebuilding started 2009 so statistically sunny here that it’s like January and February’s almost solid dreary weather — never an aid in construction — never happened. Even with day after day of rain, snow, sleet and gloom, the number of building permits issued for single-family structures jumped 51 percent through February compared with the first two months of 2009 in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore and Norman. "We had a terrible winter. To have those numbers up is remarkable,” said Mark Dale, president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association and owner of Carriage Homes in Oklahoma City. The big jump, builders said, turned on two hinges: the depths of the economy in winter 2008-2009 and the federal tax incentives for people to buy houses. The market was miserable a year ago. Builders, like everyone else in business, were still reeling from the late-2008 economic collapse. Plus, they were stranded by a construction credit market turned frozen tundra. Now, the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers and $6,500 credit for certain repeat buyers are working their market magic, builders said, especially in their waning days. To receive the credits, buyers must have signed a contract by April 30 and closed on the purchase by June 30. Oklahoma City, Edmond, Midwest City and Moore together issued 551 permits through February, compared with 339 the first two months of 2009. Edmond issued 45 permits, up 95.7 percent. Midwest City issued 34, an increase of 54.5 percent. Moore issued 61, a jump of 52.5 percent. Only Norman was down, with 37 permits, a drop of 7.5 percent. Some builders may have started more houses in February than normal to aim specifically for tax-credit buyers, Dale said. That has some people wondering whether demand will play out when the credits expire, as they did in December before the credit for first-time buyers was extended and the one for current homeowners put in place. Dave Osborn, president of Heartland Homes in Oklahoma City, is betting it won’t. Heartland took out 16 permits in March. "Typically, we have a number of specs we try to keep in our inventory all the time. We always backfill,” he said, meaning houses built with no buyers already under contract. "We decided we were going to add some specs to our inventory.” Consumer confidence is returning, Osborn said, and builders are responding. "Certainly, the tax credit has played a part in that, but from what I’ve seen the economy is kind of coming back in Oklahoma,” he said.