| SCOTTSDALE, Ariz./WILLISTON, N.D., March 8
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz./WILLISTON, N.D., March 8 (Reuters) -
C harles Cork is gearing up to do something he hasn't done in
four years: Build a $1 million house "on spec."
"I don't think getting a client for this one will be too
much trouble," said Cork, principal of home builder Braxton
Homes in Scottsdale, in the Phoenix area.
His willingness to build is a sign of the confidence being
shown by many home builders in the United States as the housing
market continues to show signs of recovery.
On Friday, jobs figures for February showed that there were
48,000 construction jobs created in the month, the most since
March 2007, which was around the time the U.S. housing boom
began to turn into a bust. In January,
government data showed the biggest jump in new home sales in 20
Before the bust, Cork typically had three houses in the $4
million price bracket under construction at any one time in tony
Scottsdale, outside of Phoenix. The last time Cork gambled on
building a home on speculation - without a precontracted buyer -
Since then Cork, who had been in the luxury home business
since the 1990s, has been riding out the housing bust and the
recession doing remodeling work for "survival" in the Phoenix
area, where home prices cratered by more than 55 percent between
the summer of 2006 and September 2011.
"It took a while for people to have confidence that it's not
going to get worse," Cork said. "In fact they are now thinking
that maybe they ought to do something because it's going to get
better. It's the same old thing, when it's going down, nobody
wants to buy, when it's going up, everyone wants to buy."
By the end of 2012, housing prices had rebounded by nearly
25 percent in the Phoenix area since the bottom was hit in
September 2011, according to the latest S&P Case-Shiller data.
The construction industry was particularly hard hit by the
recession, tied as it was to the housing bubble.
Roughly 8.8 million U.S. jobs were lost between the peak in
employment in January 2008 and the start of the job market's
recovery in February 2010, and more than one in every five jobs
lost was in construction. In fact, the recession in construction
employment struck earlier and lasted longer, with roughly 30
percent of all construction jobs lost in the four years from
January 2007 to January 2011.
The comeback in construction is not focused just in the
areas where the housing bubble was most pronounced. It's also in
new boom towns spawned by the rapid growth in domestic oil
production - places such as Williston, North Dakota, where 40
workers have been on the clock building the Dakota Landing hotel
The 240-room hotel is slated to open in July, and builder
Burke Construction Group Inc, which is managing three other
projects in the oil boom town, is already bidding to build a new
bank and several new apartment buildings, as well as expand the
local fire department.
"I just think this boom is going to keep going," said
Burke's Kim Hale, superintendent at the Dakota Landing site.
Hale, a Chicago native, was out of work for more than three
years when the construction industry was broadsided by the
Last year Burke came calling, offering him a position
managing breakneck building growth in North Dakota's oil patch.
Though he gets home to Chicago about once a month, Hale said
he's focused on the immense workload on his plate.
"I'm here until I get fired," he said.