Most Viewed Stories
Yuba-Sutter housing market hangs onto hope
Brian Winship may have the best and worst of the housing worlds right now.
The Sutter County contractor is shackled to a home in Fresno that he bought just before the housing bubble burst, yet a steady trickle of residential home construction in Yuba City continues to help him to pay the bills.
He's earning about 10 percent to 15 percent less than he did six years ago for the same amount or more work, but at least it is work, he said. With construction of new homes inching up, he has even been able to hire additional workers for the family business, Winship Brothers Construction.
"We can't build a home for any less than we are building it right now," he said. "The good thing is, nobody else is building any homes."
Winship said he is grateful to Interwest Homes Corp. for stepping up to ensure construction continues in the community. On Wednesday, he and his crews were working on framing a house, one of a cluster the developer is completing near Portsmouth Drive.
"We've been chipping away, one here, one there," Winship said. "And these are actually selling."
With the housing market gone nearly stagnant in everything from new construction to foreclosures to sales, there is little promising news to report. But at least the situation is no longer in decline, government and industry officials said.
Four permits to build new homes were issued in Yuba City through June, and another six were issued this month. In comparison, 14 were issued in 2011, a mere smattering of the 991 during the 2004 peak.
Michell Harrington, senior permit technician with Sutter County, also reports a decline in permits. Only five have been issued this year, which is on par with last year's total of 10, but far less than the 70 issued in 2005.
Yuba County's building department referred inquires about building permits and the county's housing situation to chief building official Martin Griffin, who did not return calls seeking comment.
The impacts of minimal new residential development are widespread, said Aaron Busch, Yuba City's community development director. Perhaps lesser felt is the lack of revenue from development impact fees, which delays planned improvements for roads, parks and other public facilities. More visible is the trickle-down effect from less people working and less money infused into the economy.
"We are thrilled Interwest continues to build, but it's disappointing that no other homebuilders — local or out-of-town — are seeing an opportunity," Busch said.
Yuba City approved a reduction in developer fees a few years ago, in hopes it would spur some development. But Interwest is the only one to continue to take advantage of the opportunity.
"As an industry, I'm hearing that the housing market is coming back in the state as well as the Sacramento region," Busch said. "We have yet to see signs of that here, but we hope it's just a matter of time."
Elouise Kinne, broker with Keller Williams Realty, is beginning to see some reassuring activity, even if real recovery is still a year or two off, she said.
There is a shortage of all kinds of homes on the market right now, whether new, short-sale, resale or foreclosure, she said. That bodes well for sellers and might spur more regular sales to come onto the market.
ForeclosureRadar's new report, released Wednesday, indicates banks moved less toward foreclosure in Yuba-Sutter in June than in the previous year, with all three stages (notices of default and sale, and back to bank) of the process dropping last month in the region compared to a month earlier.
Builder, an online tracker of the construction industry, reported Wednesday that the Yuba City metropolitan area saw an increase in closings of new homes in April, year over year, but less than in March 2012. A total of 104 new homes were sold during the year that ended in April, up from 102 for the year that ended in March.
Kinne is hoping to soon close on a listing she has had in Live Oak since April 2011, after the first two buyers fell out. If someone is willing and able to wait, she said, short sales can be a great option.
"The price will be better than a normal sale and you are still looking at clean, no cabinets missing, no toilets missing, no walls pulled out," she said.
She cautions people from giving too much weight to reports on the state of the housing market, whether sale numbers, pricing or market inventory.
"We are a whole different animal here," she said. "We are much more depressed than some other areas. You can't compare Sacramento to here anymore, you can't compare Roseville, you can't compare some place in New York."
As Winship continues to form walls, windows and doors of a new house in Yuba City, he is hopeful new homeowners will soon be claiming it.
"Now is the time to buy. You are not going to get anything cheaper than you are today, and you are not going to get a better rate," Winship said. "I think people are finally starting to realize that."
CONTACT Ashley Gebb at email@example.com or 749-4783. Find her on Facebook at /ADagebb or on Twitter at @ADagebb.