Vt. builders say housing is back - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. builders say housing is back

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The sound of a nail gun is music to the ears of contractor Brian Gilfillan. It's the sound of money.

"I've got a lot of new construction," Gilfillan said.

He's building a new, three-bedroom home in Jericho. And like many Vermont builders, he has plenty of housing projects lined up to keep busy this summer, so busy he's turning some work down.

"I think people are comfortable to start spending money again," Gilfillan said.

The Vermont Home Builders Association agrees. Demand for single family, multifamily and commercial construction is up about 7 percent.

"There's pent up demand. Interest rates are low," said Josie Palmer Leavitt of the Vermont Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Northern Vermont. "The phones are ringing. They're getting multiple bids. That's really good."

Industry experts say many builders are confident for the first time in about seven years. And when contractors are busy, a long list of people are busy, too.

"It's everybody: building suppliers, lawn care, pavers, everybody, lighting, flooring people, doesn't stop, right through to the painters," Gilfillan said.

But there's still a ways to go before we're back to prerecession job numbers. In April 2006, construction jobs peaked at 17,600 in Vermont. In February 2010, those numbers dropped to a low of 13,200. In April 2012, 15,100 Vermonters held construction jobs.

"People had to downsize to hold their own," Palmer Leavitt said.

But the Home Builders Association says it could have been worse. Most Vermont contractors weathered the financial storm because of Irene-- rebuilding damaged or destroyed homes after the tropical storm hit the state.

"It kept people busy when times were tough," Palmer Leavitt said.

Some economists worry that some jobs will be lost when Irene projects wrap up. But that's being countered by a drop in foreclosures and a steady rise in home prices and sales.

"It's just nice," Gilfillan said. "It's nice."

It's not only new construction, additions and remodeling projects are also up.


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