Weather Dampens First Quarter

Buyers still outstrip sellers in the residential market but the first quarter totals for housing permits in metro Pittsburgh aren’t reflecting upward pressure on new construction, even with an increased number of new subdivisions coming on line.

Permits for new single-family detached homes totaled 409 from January through March in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties. There were 228 units of attached and multi-family housing started during the same period. Most of those units were townhomes or other for sale property. Only 74 units of rental apartments got underway.

Totals for housing and nonresidential construction in 2004:1.
Totals for housing and nonresidential construction in 2004:1.

The brutal winter weather for construction made it difficult to generate new construction business; however, so it’s impossible to judge whether there has been an unexpected slowdown in the residential market or just a deferment of growing demand until spring and summer. My bet is definitely with the latter. The cold weather and snow kept traffic very light for all kinds of home shopping, according to the region’s leading realtors. Fewer home buyers toured new construction sites in winter 2014 compared to last year. Even those builders who reported having sales activity say that the construction for new contracts was delayed. More than 900 units of apartments are in for permit approvals in April so it’s possible that the catch up could occur by May or June.

Cold weather affected the start of nonresidential projects as well, but the impact was more muted. The nonresidential segment of the market is predominantly renovation work, so weather has less impact. In fact, for the first quarter of 2014 contracting rose slightly, up 2.5 percent to $491.2 million.

After a brisker March, bidding has fallen off steeply in April. The $29 million Freeport Middle School is out to bid, due May 9. Contractor PJ Dick will be bidding a couple of the projects it landed in 2013: the packages for the $34 million Eastside Transit Center and the new office 216,000 sq. ft. building at Bakery Square 2.0.

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