Cold weather chilled homebuilding in January, but heated construction in tornado-ravaged Moore kept metro-area averages firm.
Builders, looking ahead, took permits to start 410 houses in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Midwest City, Moore and Norman, according to the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association.
Compared to January 2013, permits issued were down 2.8 percent in Oklahoma City, down 17.7 percent in Edmond, and down 32.6 percent in Norman.
The small numbers, as usual, made for drastic-sounding statistics:
Midwest City’s drop from 4 permits in January last year to 3 percent in January this year was a 25-percent decline, for example.
Even in Moore, where rebuilding from the May 20 tornado continues, the increase from 18 permits in January 2013 to 49 permits in January 2014 amounted to a seemingly booming increase of 172 percent.
Construction itself slowed with freezing weather, said Steve Allen, president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association.
“The weather has not been a good friend to us this winter. It limits our ability to work,” said Allen, president and CEO of AllenStyle Homes and Allenton Custom Homes in Bethany.
He said to pour a concrete foundation, for example, requires 72 hours of temperatures above freezing; a cold snap resets the three-day clock.
Exterior painting requires temperatures above 50, he said, and roofing shingles can be damaged while installing if the weather is too cold, so roofing often stops during a cold snap. Landscaping and sod cutting for lawns stops at freezing, as well, he said.
“Everybody is ready for a break and for spring to get here,” Allen said.
He said builders expect an increase in activity come spring when home shoppers come out of winter hibernation — although tight labor could keep the brakes on. Competition for workers among residential as well as commercial contractors is stiff, he said, since “we’re building all kinds of things in Oklahoma.”
Lots are still short, too, said Nels Petersen, president of the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.
Land development came to a near standstill when housing slumped here — and crashed in the country as a whole.
A variety of factors, including tightened lending and retirement by some developers, is slowing recovery at the development stage.
“Builders are all pretty much back in,” said Petersen, owner of RE/MAX Preferred Properties in northwest Oklahoma City and RE/MAX Associates in Edmond. “A lot of them are clamoring for ready-build lots right now. They’re ready to put houses on the market.”
Petersen said demand for homes also is meeting a tightened supply of listings. January ended with 6,071 houses listed for sale, 550 fewer than in January a year ago, according to the Realtors association. That’s a drop of 8.3 percent.