Extreme Weather Slowed Region’s Homebuilders in February


February’s cold weather reduced new home building across metro Detroit, where just over 200 single-family home permits were issued in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and St. Clair counties — down nearly 30 percent when compared to the year before.

“It was a full 10 degrees colder on average,” says Michael Stoskopf, president of the Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan, which released its monthly housing permit on Wednesday. “We also had about 40 more inches of snow this winter (when compared to last). And then the frost is down about five to six feet in the ground, so it’s just about impossible and extremely expensive to dig a hole for a basement.”

While the number of permits issued is down, that doesn’t mean there isn’t demand, Stoskopf says. At a recent builder forum, he noted that one building department said they have a stack of 60 permits waiting for builders to pay them and start their projects once the weather warms up. “Builders want to be building. They’ve got jobs to build, but they just can’t do (them),” he says.

Looking forward, the association forecasts that 2,367 permits will be issued from March to August, down 12 percent when compared to the same six-month period in 2013. “We’re looking forward to a particularly strong April and May,” Stoskopf says. 

Meantime, the severe low temperatures made less of an impact on the state’s retail shoppers, with the February Michigan Retail Index showing improved sales and short-term forecasts following a flat holiday season.

“We saw a small thaw in the numbers, but February’s unrelenting cold and snow continued to hammer most consumers and retailers,” said James P. Hallan, MRA president and CEO. “What we need is a good, warm spring to help everybody get back on track.”

While only 42 percent of retailers increased sales over the same month last year (46 percent recorded declines), more than half expect sales during March to May to increase over the same period last year.