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Published: Saturday, 2/16/2002

Building industry stays healthy

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE REAL ESTATE WRITER

Perrysburg builder Doug Holdridge has heard all the stories about the economic downturn, the job losses, and the hesitation by consumers to spend after the Sept. 11 acts of terrorism.

But he has yet to see it in his own industry and does not expect to this coming year.

“Nobody seems to know why the housing industry is holding up so well ... but I don't see any dark clouds on the horizon,” said Mr. Holdridge, the new president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo, Inc.

Agreeing is Mike Poulos,cq the president of the Toledo Board of Realtors, Inc.

“While it's impossible to predict, all reports seem to indicate the housing market will be strong again this year,” said Mr. Poulos.

The commercial real-estate market is expected to be healthy this year, fueled by several million square feet of proposed retail space and the close to 1 million square feet of new industrial space, expected to come on line, said Harlan Reichle, managing director of CB Richard Ellis, Reichle Klein in Springfield Township.

“While there certainly was a blip that shut things down after Sept. 11, we started to see an uptick in December and into [January],” Mr. Reichle said. “People seem to be back in a decision-making mode ... so we're cautiously optimistic about the prospects for this next year.”

Permits for new houses jumped 13 percent last year to 1,237 from 1,076 the year before, according to the Lucas County Building Regulations department and the communities of Toledo, Oregon, Maumee, and Whitehouse. The county agency processed 74 house construction permits in December alone.

“Everybody expected things to slowdown and they did from about Thanksgiving to the first of the year, but now builders are reporting their getting calls and they're optimistic for this year,” Mr. Holdridge said.

Local builders and real-estate agents say last year's historically low interest rates definitely boosted sales of existing and new homes, so what rates do this year may well impact sales. Rates on 30-year fixed rate mortgages have been hovering at around 7 percent in recent weeks.

The median price of the 6,525 homes sold last year in Lucas County was $90,000, a 7 percent jump from the previous year, thanks to competition among first-time buyers for homes priced under $100,000, according to the county auditor's office, which records property transfers. (The median is the point at which half the houses sold are more expensive and half are less expensive.)



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