Area construction builds up; 2001 total may be second best

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

It was a good year for construction in Cape Girardeau, possibly the second-best ever despite a sagging nationwide economy in 2001.

Permit totals passed the $48.6 million mark, but officials won't know where the year ranks in city history until December information is complete. It certainly won't beat the city's busiest construction year on record: 1999, when $64.5 million in permits were granted.

Two big December permits, $1 million for the Best Buy store to be located at 3025 William and $1.4 million for a new Soskin Toyota dealership at 357 Siemers, boosted the construction cost total to just shy of the $49.7 million mark set in 1998, currently the second-highest on record.

Plans were submitted in December for three more new commercial buildings, including a Casey's General Store, but they are still in the processing stage, said Tarryl Booker, director of the city's Division of Inspection Services.

The annual totals for 2001 include a $17 million project for the new Central High School, but new-home construction added more than $9 million to the grand total, up from $8.9 million a year ago.

New commercial construction permits were down more than a million dollars from 2000 totals.

Home sale market

The market for existing home sales also soared in the area during the second half of the year.

A total of 203 people purchased homes throughout the Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City area during the first five months of 2001, with more than half of the sales volume coming from Cape Girardeau. Over the past seven months, more than 600 people purchased homes in the same areas, totaling 827 sales for the year, according to a list compiled by local Realtors.

The market for existing home sales nationally is at record levels, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Dr. David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said this is a positive development, with housing continuing to stand tall in the U.S. economy.

"Existing home sales have been consistently stronger than expected this year," he said. "What's more, we're looking for another strong performance in 2002.".

NAR President Martin Edwards Jr. said the housing market is gaining the most from low interest rates.

"Mortgage interest rates held pretty steady last month, close to the lowest levels we've seen since the 1960s," he said. "With low interest rates and more homes coming on the market, we have an excellent window of opportunity for the first part of the new year."

According to Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.66 percent in November, up slightly from a record low of 6.62 percent in October. It was 7.75 percent in November 2000.

Freddie Mac began tracking commitment rates in 1971.

The national median existing-home price was $147,300 in November.

Meanwhile, home building in Cape Girardeau maintained about the same pace as a year ago. A total of 56 single-family home permits were issued for a total of $9.2 million, an average of about $164,000. The same amount of permits were issued in 2000, for a total of $8.9 million, or about $140,000 per home.

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