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It appears 2009 was indeed rock-bottom for the area's home builders.
After six consecutive years of decline, new housing starts for Toledo, the suburbs of Lucas and Wood counties, and Bedford Township, Michigan, rose 20 percent in 2010.
However, the actual numbers — 366 housing starts compared to 306 in 2009 — were a far cry from those of just five years ago, when housing starts in Lucas County alone were 973, nearly three times the total in Lucas and Wood counties and Bedford Township combined.
"I try to be a pretty optimistic guy, but I think the general mood overall in 2010 was close to the same as what we just ended the year here with. It wasn't good, but people are optimistic that the worst is behind us," said Jim Moline, owner of James E. Moline Custom Builders in Sylvania and the president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo Inc.
"I think it's still going to be another couple of years of this until people can get rid of their current homes and buy new ones," he added.
In the city of Toledo, housing starts declined by one permit to 33 from 34 in 2009.
Overall in Lucas County, there were 178 housing starts in 2010, an increase of 11 percent from the 158 a year earlier. In suburban Wood County, which depends heavily on the Perrysburg area for housing starts, there were 148 housing starts, an increase of 19 percent over the 124 in 2009. And in Bedford Township, there were 40 housing starts last year, an increase of 67 percent over the 24 in 2009.
Mr. Moline said he hopes 2010 is the start of an upward trend. A positive sign: He recently ran an ad for his business and got 40 calls about it and five contracts for houses.
"I have run that special section before for homes at a different price level and I got good activity, but I didn't pick up that kind of sales," he said.
Tom Bogdan of Village Building Co. in Sylvania Township, president-elect of the local Home Builders Association, said in his mind "2010 wasn't any better than 2009."
However, Mr. Bogdan said, he too saw signs in December and this month of a potential uptick in housing starts.
"We've signed a couple of new contracts already since the first of the year and we plan to sign a few more in the next few weeks. Of the guys I've talked to, their phones are starting to ring a bit and it appears there's a little bit of life on the horizon for some of these guys," Mr. Bogdan said. "So the start of this year seems quite a bit more promising than the start of last year. Let's keep our fingers crossed."
Builder Chuck Barchick of Barchick Custom Homes in Toledo said he thinks 2011 will be the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I had two calls right before the holiday for new construction and three or four for remodeling projects.
"One is for a woman who bought a home in foreclosure and wants to remodel the whole thing," he said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.