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ABQ home construction hits six-year high

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A burst of activity in the final months of the year pushed single-family home construction in 2015 to its highest level in six years in the Albuquerque metro area, according to Datatraq.

Building permits were issued for 1,645 single-family homes, a 4.4 percent increase from 1,576 homes in 2014 and the highest permit count since 1,669 were issued in 2009. Home building has been in a slow recovery mode in the metro since hitting bottom in 2011.

After lagging the 2014 pace for much of the year, 2015 finished with 390 building permits in the fourth quarter, up from 278 in the final quarter of 2014 and 264 in the final quarter of 2013. The 390 permits was the best showing for a fourth quarter since 403 permits were issued in the final three months of 2009.

As a rule, permit activity for single-family homes begins to taper off toward the end of the year before picking back up, usually by March.

“I think the market is thawing out,” said John Garcia of HBA of Central New Mexico, the local home builders group. “The fourth quarter came in positive. That’s a good sign of where things are headed. I think consumer confidence is driving it. Builders are ready for it.”

The 1,645 homes permitted in 2015 is less than half the average of about 4,000 permitted each year in the 1990s, a construction pace that some observers believe would represent a healthy market today. Home building peaked at 9,445 permits in 2005, the height of the housing bubble, and bottomed out at 1,192 permits in 2011.

Atlanta-based Pulte Group surpassed DR Horton Homes of Fort Worth, Texas, as the metro’s top homebuilder in 2015. DR Horton had been Albuquerque’s top home builder since 2003.

Pulte entered the metro housing market in 2003 with its acquisition of locally owned Sivage Thomas Homes. A factor in its emergence as the top home builder is its Del Webb-branded Mirehaven subdivision on the West Side, which Datatraq identified as the metro’s busiest subdivision in 2015 with 131 permits.

Launched in 2014 to cater to the age 55-plus demographic, Mirehaven is a good example of the way home builders are adjusting their product lines to meet evolving consumer demand, Garcia said.

Sixty percent of the permits issued in 2015 were for homes in Albuquerque, while 27 percent were for homes in Rio Rancho, according to Datatraq.

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