A spike in June building permits is spurring hope that Maine’s housing market is beginning to stir after severe winter weather made for a slow start.
While the number of building permits issued for single-family homes in Portland and Maine was down slightly in the first six months of 2014 compared with last year, according to U.S. Census data, the number of building permits issued last month rose 18 percent over June 2013.
Of the 384 building permits issued statewide last month, more than half went to southern Maine communities, where activity dwarfed that of last June. In Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties, permits were up 40 percent over the same period a year ago. In New England, building permits were up by 17 percent, while nationwide they rose 10 percent for the month.
“It was a miserable winter,” said Mark Patterson, co-owner of PATCO Construction Inc. in Sanford and a former president of the Maine Homebuilders and Remodelers Association. He added that the phones didn’t start ringing until March.
“If you don’t have customers coming in, and it’s zero degrees out, breaking through frost to dig a foundation is not exciting.”
Since it takes a few months from the time a permit is issued to when the resulting home is sold, he’s eager to see fall permit figures and whether they reflect increasing activity through the warmer months.
“I have a feeling that you’re going to be on track for September,” he added. “I don’t think they’re going to be crazy, or make up the difference between everything we lost in the last three to four months, but I think they’re going to be up.”
The flurry of activity in southern Maine drove the state’s increase last month. In the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, 197 permits were pulled in June, compared to 141 the previous year. A large part of that increase was driven by condo and apartment developments with five units or more. Last month, permits for 50 new units were pulled in the Portland market, compared to just five in June 2013.
“There’s certainly a lot of energy in the Portland housing market,” said Jonathan Culley, a developer with Redfern Properties. Culley is building West End Place, a complex of 39 market-rate apartments, along with Munjoy Heights, a 29-unit luxury condominium complex on Munjoy Hill. He’s also applying for permits for an apartment complex of up to 53 units in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood.
In the first six months of the year, 1,517 building permits were issued in Maine, off 3 percent from the same period in 2013. In New England, 14,306 permits were pulled in the first half of the year, up 1 percent from the year before. Nationwide, there was a 5.86 percent uptick in the number of permits issued for houses, up to 50,441.
Jennifer Van Allen can be contacted at 791-6313 or at