Local remodelers see gains alongside housing market growth
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Sep 02, 2013 | 4300 views |  0 comments | 79 79 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roger Williams, a customer at Oxford Lumber, speaks to salesman Danny Jones about new doors.  Photo by Bill Wilson.
Roger Williams, a customer at Oxford Lumber, speaks to salesman Danny Jones about new doors. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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Wallace Higgins is willing to do any type of remodeling for area homeowners, be it upgrades to kitchens or bathrooms.

His business plan appears to be paying off.

"Remodeling is going pretty good lately," Higgins said.

Higgins, who owns Higgins Construction LLC in Anniston, is one of several area home remodelers who has seen business improve in recent months — benefiting in part from consistent growth of sales and prices in the Calhoun County housing market.

According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate, county home sales increased 9.3 percent in July compared to the same month last year. July is consistent with month-over-month home sales improvement the county has experienced since February. Meanwhile, many homes in the area have increased in value. Statistics show county housing affordability decreased 3 percent in each of the first two quarters of the year due to rising sales prices.

The county's housing market is in a far different situation than the sluggish state it experienced in recent years since the Great Recession hit.

Phil Webb, owner of Webb Concrete and Building Materials in Oxford, said general contractors in the area have experienced steady business growth in remodeling in the past year or two.

"People are buying here, upgrading and adding on," Webb said.

Higgins said his remodeling customer base has become a solid mixture of not just residents who have owned the same home for many years, but also relatively new homeowners.

Bill Newman, president of Oxford Lumber, said he has seen growth in sales to home remodelers and builders in general.

"The last couple of months we've started to see some improvement," Newman said. "More people are bringing home plans in to be figured and more residential and commercial people are coming in to consider buying."

Newman agreed with Webb that many area remodelers are getting business from recent home buyers, not just long-time homeowners.

"People are moving into homes and fixing them up," Newman said. "One thing I've noticed is when real estate values start to rise, people start to spend more ... people start to do projects they've put off."

Sam Almaroad, president of Sam Almaroad Construction in Jacksonville, said he has had steady business this year in home remodeling.

"Some people are buying houses and then asking us to do updates to them," Almaroad said.

While some aspects of housing market have improved, however, new home construction has still lagged most of this year, Almaroad said.

Higgins agreed, saying he has not built many new homes this year.

"New construction is still kind of slow," Higgins said.

Nonetheless, a change in the weather could mean a change in builders' fortunes.

"Residential building in the past few weeks, after having a break from all the rain ... there's been signs of a little more activity," Webb said. "Individuals are building homes."

Almaroad said he is optimistic for the foreseeable future after recently closing on a new home project in Oxford and starting a home in Jacksonville.

"For me 2013 has been a better year than the last four years and 2014 I think we'll see things get a little bit better," he said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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