Residential building has tripled in less than three years, officials say

By Gary Mitchell

Not only are major businesses — such as the new cheese plant, Lowe’s, Hobby Lobby and Chili’s — coming into the area, but new homes are on the increase as well.
In fact, residential construction in the Clovis area has tripled since 2001, according to statistics from the city of Clovis Inspections Department. In 2001, new residential construction amounted to $2.5 million, but by 2003, it had increased to $7.6 million.
“There is a tremendous amount of activity going on right now,” said Tom Heap, city building inspector. “That activity has really increased over the last two or three years. It’s reflective of the low-interest rates and other factors. We’re sitting on a lot of pluses here. Our area is spring-loaded for advancement — with cheap land, excellent labor force, a railroad center. We have the makings of big commerce all around. It’s almost like a sleeping giant under the surface.”
Gayla Brumfield, a real estate broker with Colonial Real Estate, said in a recent sales meeting, “out of the 10 sales we were highlighting, nine were buyers from out of town. Normally, the ratio is 50-60 percent for in-town buyers.”
At the next weekly sales meeting, about 60 percent of the sales were from out-of-town buyers.
“They weren’t all military, either,” Brumfield said. “A couple were military, some were new retailers coming to town, some were new teachers just hired by the school district, maybe a new railroader coming to town, a retiree coming here. It was a good group.”
All the commercial and residential construction has left contractors struggling to find qualified help.
“There’s definitely a labor crunch — framers, bricklayers and concrete workers,” said John Bourne, president of John Bourne Custom Homes. “Everything except the mechanical trades. I probably have better luck than most because I’ve used the same people for such a long time. It’s tougher if you’re a private individual to try to secure subcontractors in a timely manner.”
Even with the building boom, there are still fewer homes on the market than in the recent past, Brumfield said.
“We used to average about 450-500 houses on the market (in the Multiple Listing Services),” said Brumfield, whose Colonial Real Estate is in a joint venture with R.L. Furrow Construction to build an 18-unit new subdivision, Scottsdale Village, in the north part of Colonial Park. “Everybody is so busy. There’s a lot of building going on.” “Right now, we’re running under 200 houses on the market. For a seller, the market’s very good. Houses don’t last long.”
Furrow has 12 to 14 of the new houses built, and “all but two are already sold,” Brumfield said. “As soon as we get three-quarters finished with a house, it’s sold.”
Bourne said the last two or three years have been “overwhelming” for him as a builder.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve kept 8 to 10 houses going all the time,” he said. “Our houses are custom or semi-custom. We kind of set a trend — we come up with new ideas and build ‘spec houses,’ we call them. We make them a little different to create interest, and we use a lot of woodwork inside.”
Bourne said a “good cross-section” of people buy his houses — military, people moving up and people coming into town.
“Right now, $70,000- to $80,000 homes are selling like crazy — if you can find them,” he said. “It’s due to low-interest rates primarily.”
Bourne said when he last checked the housing market, there were only 153 houses in Clovis on the market.
“Homes are selling really well right now,” he said.