County Housing Decline Data Misleading, Say Builders| Stampeed To Beat Impact Fee Increase Said To Skew Figures

November 11, 1990|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

The housing industry in Carroll continues to decline, but not as much as third-quarter building permit applications might indicate, two county developers said.

Applications for residential building permits were down 88 percent from the second quarter of this year, but only 28 percent from the third quarter of 1989, a county report shows.

Martin K. P. Hill of Masonry Contractors Inc. in Manchester said second-quarter numbers were inflated artificially when builders tried to beat an expected increase in impact fees.

Sam Rothblum of Daybreak Estates, developers of Robert's Mill Run in Taneytown, agreed.

The rush was for naught, though, because the County Commissioners did not approve an increase in the fees when the issue came up for a vote in September.

The commissioners had considered raising the impact fee for single-family homes $500 to $3,200.

High infrastructure costs, as well as the impact fee, may have contributed to the decline in building activity in Carroll, Rothblum said.

Builders can't expect the housing market here in the 1990s to be as explosive as it was in the 1980s, he said.

"1989 was the end of the red-hot market. It was a continuation of eight years of expansion and growth. This business is cyclical," he said.

Daybreak's sales in Carroll and Baltimore counties are down about 50 percent this year as compared to last year, Rothblum said.

Hill, who is selling homes in Westminster and Hampstead, said his sales in Carroll are down about 25 percent from the third quarter last year.

"Things are just slowing down. There's people out there looking (at homes), but they are very hesitant to make a commitment, and I believe that's due to lack of confidence in the economy," Hill said.

Sales of homes he's building in Hanover, Pa., also are down about 25 percent, he said.

County numbers show builders applied for 287 permits in July, August and September of this year, compared to 540 in the second quarter and 367 in the third quarter of 1989.

Hill said he expects figures for the second and third quarters of next year to reflect building activity more accurately.

Lou Scharon, past president of the Carroll County Association of Realtors, said the real estate slowdown is affecting all parts of the county.

"It's too bad, because it should be a buyer's market. Money is available and interest rates are reasonable," he said.

Scharon, a Realtor with Long & Foster Realtors in Westminster, said business picked up for him in October. Buyers are realizing they have a good chance now to buy a home at less than the list price, he said.

County statistics show the total value of residential building permits applied for in the third quarter this year was $18,815,328. The value for the third quarter of last year was $22,894,322.

The number of residential building permits issued in the third quarter this year was down 77 percent from the second quarter, county numbers show.

The county issued 199 permits in July, August and September, compared to 353 in the second quarter and 305 in the third quarter of 1989.

The total value of residential building permits issued in the third quarter was $15,852,800, the report says. The value for the third quarter of 1989 was $23,973,853.

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