New home construction drops in Franklin County

September 19, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Franklin County, Pa., continues to experience a downward trend in new home construction, with only 71 building permits for new homes issued in the first half of the year.

Ten times as many permits were issued in the same six-month period five years ago, according to data from the Franklin County Planning Office.

“It’s very bad. It’s been bad for a year and a half, and it’s not getting better,” said Tom Hanks, executive director of the Franklin County Builders Association.

Home builders are taking on remodeling projects to pay their bills, Hanks said. Unemployment statistics are misleading because many builders are self-employed, he said.

“When they don’t have work, they don’t draw unemployment,” Hanks said.

Realtor Darwyn Benedict said Franklin County — which experienced a housing boom in the mid-2000s — is mirroring national trends.

“We’re still doing a good amount of home sales, but it’s flat,” said Benedict, who is president-elect of the Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors.

Prices have returned to 2000 to 2002 levels, and much of what is being sold is existing housing stock, according to Benedict.

About 20 percent to 30 percent of the inventory is bank-owned or short sales, Benedict said.

“You do have a pretty good amount of homes controlled by foreclosures,” he said.

Buyers are sticking to the $150,000 to $250,000 range, with town houses selling around $150,000 and single-family homes starting around $210,000, Benedict said.

“Anything around $200,000 or less is what’s selling,” he said.

Hanks and Benedict said the downturn has a ripple effect to other industries, including tool and truck makers, settlement companies and insurance providers.

“The housing market, when it’s low like this and it’s hard to get financing, it affects everything,” Benedict said.

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