Housing market remains 'disaster' in Westmoreland County
Veteran housing contractor Greg Kinzler of Washington Township knows all too well the lingering effects the nation's 2008 recession has had on the region's homebuilding market.
“It's still a disaster, what's going on. How do you expect the housing market to be booming? There are numerous factors causing the housing market to drop,” said Kinzler, president of Sparkle Construction – SPP Inc.
Activity in Westmoreland's residential construction market has fallen so sharply that only 430 building permits were issued in 2013 for new single-family and multi-unit residences, less than half the 1,028 building permits issued 10 years earlier, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
Prospective homebuyers are having a difficult time meeting banks' credit requirements, Kinzler said.
Real estate taxes are increasing, but property appraisals are not, and updated building codes are adding $7,500 to $15,000 to the cost of construction, said Kinzler, former president of the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, who has constructed more than 260 homes since 1989.
“A lot of the contractors are feeling the pressure, and some had to close their doors,” said Fred Williams, president of the Westmoreland Professional Builders Association, a 130-member trade group based in Hempfield.
And those that have survived are feeling the pinch, Kinzler said.
Even when they do build a few homes a year, the profit margin is about half of the pre-recession level, Williams said.
The homebuilding industry in the region also has been hurt by homeowners selling their existing homes, said Williams, operations manager for KLA Construction in Unity.
“It seems like the market is flooded with good deals on existing homes,” Williams said.
Westmoreland County's decline in building permits for new residential construction is mirrored by the more than 50 percent drop in permits at the state level in the past decade – from 47,356 in 2003 to 21,650 in 2013.
Because of the recession, statewide permits for new residential housing plunged to 14,967 in 2011.
“The building permits are trending with the economic downturn,” said Melanie Wise, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Builders Association. The housing industry has been hurt by the tight money market, where it is hard for homebuilders as well as prospective homebuyers, to get credit, Wise said.
But there are signs of improvement.
The number of building permits issued in Westmoreland for new single-family and multi-unit residential construction has risen in each of the past three years, giving homebuilders hope for the future.
“We have noticed a gradual increase in the area,” Williams said.
“The market is coming back at a good pace,” said Roger Glunt, president of Glunt Development of Churchill, builder of high-end homes.
Glunt, like other surviving builders, had found ways to adapt to the changing market. He used to build 25 to 30 smaller homes but now builds 4 to 5 upscale homes that are in the $700,000-to-$900,000 range.
The market has left some homebuilders with few options when housing starts are scarce.
“When we're not building houses, we're into remodeling,” Williams said.
“We're very, very busy as remodelers,” Kinzler said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Westmoreland County on pace to surpass record for drug-related fatalities
- New Derry to celebrate its 200th birthday
- More than 120,000 attend Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival
- Westmoreland Cultural Trust moves to next phase of Palace capital campaign
- Westmoreland judicial candidates spent more than $1.2 million for primary election
- Greensburg woman has a lifetime of hosting foreign exchange students
- Youthful actors bring Disney classic ‘Tarzan’ to life at Geyer in Scottdale
- Initials carved into pig in Georges Township
- Murrysville home damaged in blaze
- Hempfield woman donates music inspired by WWI ‘doughnut girls’
- 3 injured in crash that ties up Route 22 in Salem for nearly 8 hours