Twin Cities housing construction up 111 percent in April

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 29, 2013 - 9:32 PM

Twin Cities builders jump in to fill strong demand for apartments and a shortage of house listings.

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April was a hot month for builders, as 372 permits for apartments and single-family homes were issued in the metro area.

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Housing construction in the Twin Cities was up more than 110 percent, making it one of the best Aprils in nearly a decade.

Throughout the 13-county metro area, builders were issued 372 permits to build 817 apartments and single-family houses, according to a report from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. Luxury rentals in two new downtown buildings accounted for nearly 60 percent of those units, but a shortage of home listings helped boost permits to build single-family houses by nearly 27 percent.

From luxury rentals in downtown’s central business district to sprawling new houses in outlying suburbs, the construction industry is having one of its best years since the housing crash. So far this year, builders have been issued 1,386 permits to build 2,475 units, a 50 percent increase in permits and a 30 percent increase in new units compared with last year.

“The degree of optimism and confidence is a lot different than it was in any previous year,” said Herb Tousley, the author of a housing monthly report from the University of St. Thomas. Tousley said that while the shortage of homes for sale is frustrating for buyers, it’s been a boon to area builders. “Data show that the construction and sale of new homes is beginning to play a larger role in the Minneapolis-St. Paul housing market,” Tousley said.

The inventory of existing for-sale houses in the metro at the end of last week fell 4.5 percent, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. That caused the overall number of listings on the market to plunge nearly 30 percent to the lowest level in more than a decade.

April is typically one of the busiest months of the year. It’s a time when buyers with children are eager to find a house, move in and have their kids settled before the beginning of the new school year. And increasingly, those buyers want houses that are in move-in condition. With options limited, many pay a visit to their local builder.

“They haven’t been able to find a completely renovated product that they can move into,” said Jim Seabold, a sales agent with Coldwell Banker Burnet. “They don’t want to live through a renovation.”

Seabold is representing a company that’s turning a 2.6-acre site in the Crocus Hill neighborhood in St. Paul into 13 home sites. Though the average price for just a buildable lot is $300,000, Seabold said that it hasn’t taken long to find a buyer for every single one of them.

“Boom!” he said. “It took about 10 seconds for those lots to be absorbed.”

That same kind of momentum is playing out across the country. On Monday, the National Association of Realtors said that its Pending Home Sales Index rose 1.5 percent last month to the highest level in nearly three years, but that a shortage of listings is stifling even stronger sales. On a year-over-year basis, the group’s index rose 7 percent, exceeding analyst’s expectations.

In the wake of the housing crash and the subsequent slow recovery, demand for new rental apartments that offer flexibility has been deep. The average rental vacancy rate in the metro has remained at less than 3 percent, and in downtown Minneapolis the vacancy rate is even lower.

This month, construction started on two downtown Minneapolis apartment buildings, including a 253-unit high-rise called Nic on Fifth, which is being built by Opus Development Co. at 415 Nicollet Mall. In the nearby North Loop neighborhood, a 137-unit low-rise apartment building called Solhavn is being built at 815 N. 2nd St.

Because of those two apartment buildings, Minneapolis was the busiest city for permits during April, issuing a total of 408 units. Lakeville was second with 32 units, followed by Chanhassen with 29 and Woodbury with 24. Blaine, often the busiest suburb for single-family construction, permitted 20 units.

 

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

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