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US homebuilder confidence at 6 1/2-year high

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm •  Published: December 18, 2012

Builders are locking up more land and ramping up construction. All told, builders broke ground on new homes and apartments in October at the fastest pace in more than four years.

Olson Homes, which builds homes in Southern California priced roughly from $300,000 to $700,000, said demand has picked up since February, and the company now projects sales will be up 45 percent for the year.

"We've had the best fourth quarter I've seen since probably 2005-2006," said Scott Laurie, Olson Homes' president. "Sales have been unbelievably strong."

Olson has been acquiring more land in coastal cities and making plans to open new communities before spring, which is traditionally the peak period in the year for home sales. The builder also has ramped up hiring. It has increased its work force 25 percent this year, to 70 employees.

The moves reflect Laurie's builder's belief that the housing recovery is now on a sustained track. "We think we're definitely past the worst of the market," he said.

At Houston-based David Weekley Homes, which builds homes in eight states, sales are up 40 percent from last year. That's allowed the builder, which sells homes priced from $150,000 to $1 million, to raise prices as much as 5 percent.

CEO John Johnson said that the market is better than it has been in the past five years, but he's not sold yet that housing is locked on course for a full recovery because unemployment remains high. "Long-term, that has to improve for the market to really come back to where it should be," Johnson said.