Housing industry insiders cautiously optimistic

Increases in building, Parade of Homes attendance seen as good signs
Housing industry insiders cautiously optimistic

Hundreds of people paraded through Madison-area homes over the weekend.

But were those people serious buyers or just curiosity seekers?

The 2012 Parade of Homes comes amid some positive news in the local housing industry.

In an industry begging for good news, Dane County building permits for the month of May were up 26 percent from a year ago.

But insiders like Mike Vilstrup say those figures hardly represent a building boom.

Vilstrup left his job at a building materials supplier in 2005.

With that decision, he also started life without a net.

“I’d been wanting to start my business for a long time,” he said of the decision.

But Vilstrup, who now heads the Madison Area Builders Association, couldn’t have forecasted what lay ahead: a historic downturn in the housing market. One he had to meet head-on.

“I’ve worked very hard during that time. Always tried to have a model open to meet people,” Vilstrup said.

But now signs of life are coming back to Vilstrup’s industry, albeit it ever so slowly.

Last month’s increase in housing starts was a jump, but it was a jump over a small number.

“Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but normally by this time of year we would’ve built 900 houses in Dane County,” said Vilstrup. “This year we’ve built 300.”

Many attendees at the Parade of Homes like Judy Nowak aren’t looking at purchasing a new home, but are instead at the parade for remodeling ideas.

Housing industry insiders cautiously optimistic

But Nowak said she thinks the annual event does open people’s eyes to other possibilities.

“I think it does get people thinking about how they can afford that or maybe they would buy when maybe they couldn’t have,” said Nowak.

Either way, builders are betting that people are itching to do something.

That’s why Mike Vilstrup makes his presence known at the Parade of Homes.

“There’s huge pent-up demand,” said Vilstrup. “It’s very important. You can talk to and listen to people, because that’s how you learn and that’s how you find out what you’re going to need to do.”

Vilstrup said attendance was much better this weekend than last.

And that there were more people overall than at last year’s Parade of Homes.

Again, many of those attending may not be interested in a new home.

But Vilstrup says the importance of people attending is huge for the housing industry.