A map on the Planning and Zoning website showed many subdivisions being built near the Bel Air town limits, along the Route 24 corridor and along the I-95 and Route 40 corridors in the Joppa and Edgewood areas.

Gutwald said many single-family homes have also been built in ones and twos around the county, many in outlying areas.

"There's constantly a number of single-family [homes] that are generated throughout the county," he said. "It's not any one given area."

The planning director cautioned that the current numbers did not so much indicate an upswing, but "a stabilizing in the economy."

The county's three municipalities issue their own residential building permits. Havre de Grace has seen a great deal of residential growth in recent years with the development of the Bulle Rock and Greenway Farms subdivisions along Route 155 and Route 40.

Development of Bulle Rock, which is a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, condos and duplexes, and Greenway Farms, which is only townhomes, began in 2005, said Neal Mills, the city's planning director.

Bulle Rock consists of 2,126 lots and 961 had been built on as of August 2012, Mills said. Greenway Farms was approved for 690 lots, and 153 units had been built as of last August.

"If you look at our data, it's safe to say that about two thirds of the building permits issued are Bulle Rock and the other third is Greenway Farms, across the board from [Fiscal Year] 2010, 2011, 2012 and the first six months of 2013," Mills said.

Permit data provided by Mills indicated 87 permits were approved during the 2012 fiscal year, with 36 for single-family detached homes – meaning homes surrounded by yards and not attached to other houses – 51 for townhomes, and none for duplexes and condos.

Sixty-five permits were issued in the 2011 fiscal year, with 41 for single family, 23 for townhomes, one for a duplex and none for condos.

There were 169 permits issued in FY 2010, with 83 going for single-family dwellings and 86 for townhomes. No duplex or condo permits were issued.

"It's my opinion that the Fiscal Year 2010 numbers were inflated because of people taking advantage of the first-time homeowner tax credit offered by the federal government," Mills said.

Mills noted the tax credit, which was offered as a temporary stimulus to encourage Americans to buy homes and bolster an economy which was still melting down at the time, expired in the spring of 2010, toward the end of the city's fiscal year.

He said 19 permits were issued from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2012, the first half of the current fiscal year, compared to 40 for the first six months of 2011.

In the first half of 2012, 13 permits were for single-family homes and six were for townhouses. Fifteen were issued for single family and 25 for townhouses in the first half of FY 2011.

Mills said the city typically issued about 100 residential building permits per year prior to the economic crash.

"We're roughly about 75 percent below what we should be, so I'd say we were comparable to the county," he said.

More eager buyers

Michael Euler Sr., a developer from Fallston said he has remained busy building homes in the Bel Air vicinity despite the housing slump.

He is overseeing home building in the 129-lot Blake's Legacy subdivision, on land formerly farmed by the Blake family, who selected Euler and his late business partner Joe Deigert to develop the property.