Harford's housing industry

Construction is under way in the Blake's Legacy development off Red Pump Road north of Bel AIr. Though Harford's new housing market is beginning to show signs of a comeback, it has a long way to do to reach its pre-2005 levels. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Homestead Publishing / March 20, 2013)

While homes continue to be built around Harford County, the market has a long way to go before it gets to the heights it sustained before the nationwide housing market crash began in 2007.

"In general, we are tracking equal to, or slightly above the national numbers," Jim Richardson, director of the county's Office of Economic Development, said Tuesday.

Richardson referred to reports of the housing market across the country showing signs of a rebirth in recent months, especially in the area of single-family detached homes.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Tuesday that 946,000 new home permits were issued across the United States in February, the highest number since June 2008, according to Bloomberg.com.

Data provided by Harford County's permit office indicated a significant jump in the number of permits approved for single-family dwellings in 2012, from 240 permits issued last year, compared to 176 in 2011 and 142 in 2010.

A total of 450 residential building permits were issued by the county in 2012 for modular homes, townhouses, apartments and condos.

The data showed 543 residential permits were issued in 2011, and 376 in 2010.

Demand returning

"In general, we have a very favorable loan market," Richardson said. "The cost of money is very reasonable and the demand has started to come back to the county."

He cautioned that it is more difficult for prospective home buyers to obtain a loan, as the federal government and banks have tightened regulations for lending.

Interest rates, however, have reached a historic low.

Richardson also noted houses are not staying on the market as long as they did a five years ago at the start of the housing crisis.

"We were looking at a year and six months (in 2007 and 2008) that it took to sell a house, and now we are down to less than six months," he explained.

Richardson said "the other good news story about the increase in single-family home permits is the fact that we have also absorbed the excess number of homes that existed after 2005."

The housing boom that swept the nation during the 1990s and early part of the 2000s hit its peak in Harford County in 2005. At that time, the county was approving about 2,000 residential permits per year, according to local officials.

"From the '80s to the '90s to the early part of the 2000s we were averaging 1,800 to 2,000 permits a year," Pete Gutwald, director of Harford County's Department of Planning and Zoning, said.

Thirty-nine subdivisions were under construction throughout Harford County's development envelope as of the end of 2012, according to data on Planning and Zoning's website.

County officials had approved 5,901 single-family, townhouse and apartment/condo units, and building permits had been issued for 1,477 of those lots.

Greater Bel Air, HdG active

Gutwald said much of the development has been concentrated on the outskirts of Bel Air and in the area of Havre de Grace.