Chattanooga led all markets in the Mid South region in the growth of new home starts during the first half of 2018, according to a new report on building trends by Market Edge.
Home builders in major counties in and around Chattanooga began building 1,378 new residential properties in the first six months of this year, up 23.6 percent from the same period a year earlier. The biggest gains came in the North Georgia counties of Catoosa, Walker and Whitfield where home starts jumped by more than 50 percent this year.
"Home starts track employment growth and with the improving economy, we're seeing builders start more new homes, especially in strong markets like Chattanooga," said Dale Akins, president of Market Edge. "In many of the markets we track, builders would want to build even more homes but they are having trouble finding available lots or getting enough workers these days."
Chattanooga showed the biggest gains of any of the 17 metro markets in the Mid South region tracked by Market Edge, a Knoxville-based company that tracks trends in residential and commercial building across the South.
Market Edge compiles building permits for the Chattanooga market from Hamilton and Bradley counties in Tennessee and Catoosa, Walker and Whitfield counties in Georgia.
Over the past year, metro Chattanooga has added about 10,000 more jobs. The Greater Chattanooga Realtors said the inventory of homes for sale is down 13.2 percent from a year ago even though the median price of all homes sold is up 6.2 percent in the past 12 months to $188,000.
The typical home sold by a Realtor sells in 3.5 months — the quickest sales pace in more than a decade.
"The market is definitely strong and people are still eager to buy new homes, although the affordability of new housing is a real challenge," said Win Pratt, president of Pratt and Associates, Chattanooga's biggest home building company. "We're adding more new lots and the inventory of homes on the market is tighter so that is encouraging builders to add more units."
Pratt said his company continues to add new subdivisions to its portfolio, including a new 200-home Magnolia Farms opening this fall in Apison.
Despite the challenges of higher prices for lumber, steel and some other building products pushed up by import duties, builders so far have been able to pass along the higher costs to home buyers.
"We're selling homes so quickly that we have to bring on more new projects," Prat said.
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