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Dick Turpin

Slow-Growth Measures Activate Buyers

June 05, 1988|Dick Turpin

There's a lot of tugging at the "I'm aboard, pull up the anchor" theory that permeates today's housing industry.

While activists for the limited or anti-growth faction and the builder/developers tangle verbally and cry wolf in their respective keys, the single-family housing market has become a hot item over the last several weeks.

As the slow-growth sector attempts to fight off further encroachment into buildable areas--by submitting the issue to the ballot box--another group has entered the picture.

This group is not as vociferous as either of the openly warring factions in public debate but its members are certainly eager to buy a home now.

They are those who want to get aboard--who want to buy a home--and avoid what they perceive is ahead, an inevitable limit on the numbers of houses to be built.

This sudden sales boom even rated the No. 1 spot on page 1 of last Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.

Prospective buyers have been camping out again, a sure California sign of real desire. They are willing to wait, to sign up and to buy the builder's product, almost sight unseen, give or take a few sales-office renderings.

Meanwhile, recession-wise builders, having weathered so many, cyclical good and bad time storms, find themselves in a chancy place.

They have been hearing about a pending recession. At the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco just 12 days ago, economist Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize laureate, also predicted a mild one ahead but, of course, not when.

If builders have permits for construction, they can proceed with a lottery and get to work. In such a market, they can also boost prices.

That possibility presents another push for prospective buyers to get their names down on the "interest" lists.

This buying fever just about puts affordable housing into limbo or on hold, and may spark some speculative buying as well.

Or, as some panelists suggested strongly at the PCBC, vertical living--making construction more economically favorable for builder and buyer--is very much in the future of housing. Density, creatively done, may become the "in" thing.

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