Home building industry looking up, Region 8 ahead of the curve

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - You don't have to go far in Northeast Arkansas to see neighborhoods expanding. More and more homes are being built across Region 8. According to the Census Bureau, home starts and permits are at their highest rate since the economic downturn in 2008.

Libby Donohue, the Senior Vice President of Mortgage Lending at Liberty Bank says that's because of a combination of reasons.

"Y'know, we have reasonable home prices, and we have some good loan programs and we have low, low interest rates, so I think people are just getting really excited about purchasing homes," Donohue said. She added more people are coming in, looking to become home owners.

"The word is really getting around about how low our interest rates are right now," Donohue told Region 8 News. "it's turning their attention to home purchases and refinances."

Donohue said these reasons are making now a good time to buy.

It's to only is it a good time to buy, but a good time to build too, according to general contractor Todd Wilcox.

Housing starts are up 6.9 percent as of July of 2012, the highest since October of 2008.

"So it's a good sign. All the indicators are that it should just keep increasing," Wilcox said.

He added that as far as Region 8 goes, the area has pretty well always been a step ahead of the rest of the state when it comes to home building.

As a member of the Arkansas Home Builders Association, Wilcox said he meets people from other areas of the state that haven't been as successful over the past four years.

"Jonesboro, actually, is in the top 10 in the nation in the most improved housing markets in the last two releases that came out from the NHB so that's really positive around here right now," he told Region 8 News.

However, Wilcox said there's still room for improvement.

"2006 was when it was, I would say the housing bubble really hit nationwide. I don't think we're back to that point yet but if things keep growing I think we could see that again," he said.

Donohue added that just because we're not back to where we were, don't let that scare you.

"When they compare it, they may even pay less for their house payment than they would with a rental."

Though housing starts are up, housing permits fell slightly from May of this year.

They are, however, up nearly 20 percent compared to this time last year.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All Rights Reserved.