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Housing market picks up

Home construction rose slighting in ’11

By Joe Beck — jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County’s housing market showed some tentative signs of perking up in 2011, according to data compiled on annual home starts.

New home construction rose from 51 units in 2010 to 57 in 2011, the first yearly increase since 2004. Of those new housing starts, 11 came from the Shenandoah Farms subdivision, the largest concentration of new home starts in the county, said County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley.

Stanley and Jeremy F. Camp, Front Royal’s director of planning and zoning, spoke with cautious optimism about the 2011 figures.

Stanley said it would take at least two or three more years to be certain whether “we really turned the corner or are we still stuck in a recession?”

Housing starts in the town in 2011 didn’t budge from the seven that were recorded in 2010. Still, Camp said he saw some reason for hope.

“Obviously from the town’s perspective, it’s not a big difference,” Camp said. “It appears from looking at the data, as well as collectively at other parts of the state, we’ve reached bottom, and we’re more on the upswing at this point.”

Despite the increase over 2010, the number of new home starts remained far below the 425 recorded in 2004 and the 10-year average of 248.

In a memo to county Planning Commission members, Stanley noted that the current annual growth rate “is well below our 2 to 3 percent maximum outlined in the Warren County comprehensive plan and is well below the 1.58 percent average experienced since 2000.”

In a phone interview, Stanley said most of the new housing appeared
concentrated among homes priced at no more than $200,000, a reflection of the worries still dogging homebuyers.

“Younger people can’t afford larger homes and mortgages and can’t come up with the down payment for them,” Stanley said.

“What we have seen is a lot of small homes anzd small lots,” he added.