COLUMBIA — As owner of Four Seasons Construction, Ray Yoder was comfortable overseeing his housing projects from the office. That was until the housing market bottomed out.
Earlier this month, Yoder was cutting lumber and helping his crew on a new home under construction in the Cascades. “Now I’m doing things I normally wouldn’t be doing,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve put the tool belt on in 10 years.”
According to the Columbia Department of Public Works, the city issued 41 permits for new home construction in May 2009 compared to 96 in May 2007 — a 57 percent decline.
The trend was similar in unincorporated parts of Boone County, where 12 permits for new homes were issued in May 2009 compared to 35 in May 2007.
Unlike some builders in Columbia, Yoder has been able to stay in business. He thinks the local housing market will slowly recover.
“For the ones that can hold out, it will come back around," Yoder said. "We’re trying to stick with it. Hopefully, it will come back around. We’re optimistic.”
According to the U.S Census Bureau, national housing permits for May 2009 were up 17.2 percent from April, but that was still 5.8 percent fewer new homes compared to May 2008.
With the exception of this past February, permits to remodel existing homes in the city have outpaced new home permits every month since March 2008.
“We’re used to building houses, now we’re remodeling more,” said Jay Wilson, owner of Jay Wilson Construction. “We have to do anything to make a living.”
Dan Kliethermes, owner of Kliethermes Homes & Remodeling, believes the building situation is simple.
“Back when it was booming, they were building more houses than were needed," Kliethermes said. "The banks were loaning money to whoever wanted it. Now it’s dropped down to where it needs to be. Within the last three months, we have been getting demand back.”
Kliethermes said the lack of demand has put some builders out of business, which has led to fewer builders bidding on certain jobs. He believes the demand will eventually catch up with the supply of new houses and the housing market will soon become healthy.
Yoder said he personally knows of three builders who have gone out of business. "I hope we can outlast the competition,” he said.
Roger Wolverton, a homebuilder in Columbia, said he is waiting for the housing market to recover. “You don’t want people to start building and not have the market to support it,” he said.