CARSON CITY, Nev. - Bob Fredlund wouldn't say the housing market is turning around, even as he waded through the sawdust of a half-built home and lauded its craftsmanship.
Fredlund, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Best Sellers, was highlighting how he and some partners are trying to buck the trend of Carson City's still-sagging home building sector. As he puts it, "we're building houses and putting people to work" - despite market expectations.
Since July 2010, only 11 building permits for single-family homes have been issued in Carson City. Ridgeline Development and Black Pine Construction, which are building the homes Fredlund is selling, are responsible for more than half of them so far.
"These are all pre-sold except this one, which is spec so we have a product to show," he said, talking over the buzz of work being done on the show home.
Fredlund said they have several more properties that are ready to be developed in the subdivision, at Silver Stream and West College Parkway in Carson City. The properties are part of the Silver Oak Homes development off West College Parkway. Just this year, eight homes have been sold, with three more pre-sold properties with the homes set to be complete by about March, said Sam Landis, of Ridgeline Development.
The developers are building slowly, they said, to meet customer demand and keep unnecessary inventory off the market - not to mention wanting the flexibility to customize homes.
Rick DeMar, CEO of the Builders Association of Western Nevada, said he would hesitate before saying anything is picking up from the downturn, though he didn't begrudge the folks behind the new subdivision.
"I don't mean to be a total downer, but times are hard for just about everybody," he said.
But he included a caveat in his assessment: If builders have access to private investment money, they don't have the bank troubles holding them back as much. And some builders have just discovered a market that can still be tapped, even people laugh at news of the recession being over.
It's what Fredlund says he and his partners have done with their homes: Hit a low enough price point to compete with the short-sales and foreclosures without sacrificing customization. He said his clients so far have run the gamut from young families to retirees.
Jim Baxter is one of the retirees who bought one of the newly built homes, along with his not-quite-retired wife. He moved from California after falling in love with Carson City and settled on the property.
He said they looked at troubled houses on the market before settling on the four-bedroom home with granite countertops.
"This is going to be our last home, virtually ... and when you're in that stage, you want things just the right way," he said.
Baxter had nothing but praise for Landis and the other builders, saying that the high-quality builders are the ones that will survive. But, Baxter said, they were also fortunate enough to have the means to buy a house now.
Landis said the secret to their success so far has been listening to customers and being able to outclass the houses that typically land on the foreclosure and short-sale rolls.
"In previous markets, builders were just so busy that they just built tract homes and didn't really have to listen to the customer," he said. "As long as builders and developers are willing to sit down and listen to the customer, we'll always have at least a niche market."