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Home building, resales show big growth in 2000

Despite recession warnings, Realtors and home builders say the growth will continue.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2001


INVERNESS -- The booming economy fueled another strong year for construction and home resales in Citrus County.

The county issued 1,263 building permits for single-family homes during 2000, up from 1,096 the year before -- an increase of 15 percent.

And sales of single-family homes and mobile homes continued to rise, with an even 2,500 Citrus homes sold last year, according to the Multiple Listing Service. That's a 10 percent increase over the 2,268 homes sold in 1999.

"Everything hinged on how good the economy was all over the country," said Jay Jacoby, owner of Sweetwater Homes. "Joe Jones in New York had the ability to sell his house and get decent money for it so he could come down."

The new construction numbers for 2000 included some spillover from a strong 1999, Jacoby said.

The building demand in 1999 outpaced the ability of architects, permitting agencies and building contractors to keep up, he said, so some of the houses planned for that year did not receive their county permits until 2000.

Jacoby said 86 of the 120 homes he built last year were in the planning stages in 1999 but did not receive their permits until 2000.

"When you have a pretty vast increase in the number of homes you have to build, you need more of those people, and they aren't there," Jacoby said. "Every part of the process slows down."

Although many economists have said the economy is cooling, Realtors and home builders say they have not seen any indication that the growth will slow down.

"Even though we've heard talks of a recession, it doesn't seem that way to us," said Chris Ensing, president of the Citrus County Builders Association and president of Southern Exposure Construction, a remodeling firm. "Our workload is just as steady, if not more, and the homebuilders I talk to say the same thing."

With retirees driving much of the growth in Citrus County -- and with the older baby boomers joining the retirement wave -- officials expect healthy home sales to continue.

"A lot of the people relocating to this area have already made their income," said Hollie Kramer, president of the Realtors Association of Citrus County. "They have already completed their years of work and retired to this area with their funds."

With their funds already in hand, retirees are less affected by economic downturns, she said.

Jacoby said an economic slump brings at least one benefit: lower interest rates that make it a better time to buy a home.

"That will offset the slowness of the economy," he said.

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