Visalia Times-Delta: "local Housing Market "Trending Up"

The local housing market appears to be on the mend.

Current market conditions, low interest rates, builder incentives, and buyers’ perspectives are pushing up the housing market, real estate broker Andrea Santos said.

Currently, Visalia city officials are reporting an uptick in permitting, including permits for single-family homes and the review of plans for a dozen subdivisions. If numbers hold up for the second half of the year, 2015 will register the highest number of single-family home permits given out in Visalia in seven years.

“We are seeing a definite uptick when talking about home permits,” said Chris Young, who’s with Visalia Community Development.

In Tulare, city administrators must work to have at least 84 acres re-zoned to accommodate projected growth. An estimated 3,594 units must be built to keep up with the projected future growth, said Ted Holzen, a representative for housing developers. And the homes to be built must meet demands from all six population segments, including seniors, single-female head of household with children, large families, farm workers, homeless and disabled.

“The housing market is trending up. It’s doing better over all,” said Mike Lane, who’s with the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings counties.

Across the county, 26,910 new units must be built to accommodate the expected growth, according to Holzen. It appears current market conditions will have to keep up to meet projections.

In Visalia, the city’s building department reported 262 single-family home permits have been issued over in the first six months of 2015. The 15 permits for multi-family construction is the highest this decade and is just two shy of the last four years combined.

Also up are the reviews for subdivisions. Young, who said there were no subdivision reviews in his first four years with, said there 12 currently under review.

The subdivisions under review average 60 homes per subdivision, which could mean 620 homes could be built in next year, Young said. The proposed subdivisions are spread out around Visalia.

“Balanced growth with downtown, that’s the best scenario we can have,” Young said.

Santos, who founded Front Gates Properties in Visalia, said this month has been her best yet. In her office, other agents are also busy.

“It has been a wild ride,” she said.

Housing activity has increased over the last three months, Santos said. A three-part scenario is likely what’s moving the housing market.

“I think people are seeing equity in their homes,” she said. “The interest rates are low. They are ridiculously low.”

A third factor, Santos said, is job market conditions.

“Employment is getting better in our area and that contributes to having more qualified buyers,” she said.

Builders are also helping out, Santos said. They are offering incentives such as environment-friendly appliances and paying for closing costs.

“It’s hard to turn those down,” she said.

Santos said she has spotted increased activity around the county.

In Tulare, San Joaquin Valley Homes is building out the Savannah subdivision, north of West Cross Avenue at West and Olema streets. Savannah is an example of home building needed to suffice projected growth. Woodside Homes is also building in the eastern part of the city.

Holzen said the city has plenty of land to consider for land re-designation to accommodate future housing.

Mintier Harnish, a Sacramento-based consulting firm hired to complete a housing element report, identified as many as 185 acres where future housing could be located, Holzen said. In total, there are 25 sites.

“Those are potential sites that meet the requirements for rezoning,” he said. “Some are vacant and are available for re-zoning.”

Not all the land identified will be used for housing as it’s way more than the area required, he said.

Holden said city council should re-zone the first 44 acres by late fall. The next step would be re-zoning 40 acres within three years.

Holden said land rezoning likely brings in value to undeveloped property.

However, there could be legal action from property owners, Tulare City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz said.

Maria Elena Villa Ortiz is buying a 2,034 square foot

Maria Elena Villa Ortiz is buying a 2,034 square foot home in Shannon Ranch, as she hugs Yolanda De La Isla, her real estate associate. Photo taken on Monday, July 27, 2015.  (Photo: Johanna Coyne, Johanna Coyne)

Future home building is welcome, Santos said. The additional stock will mean buyers seeking to purchase in the $130,000 to $150,000 range, will have options. That’s below a local housing prize landmark. Holden said the median price for home in Tulare over the last four years is $163,000.

In Visalia, it’s $190,000.

“I would think that would help,” she said. “Buyers won’t be pushed out of the market.”