Waukesha County second highest in new home construction
Homeowners feeling more confident to build; companies responding with new subdivisions

By Katherine Michalets - Special to The Freeman

March 5, 2015

 Workers install a roof on a home under construction on Prairie Creek Boulevard off Highway Z in Oconomowoc on Wednesday afternoon. Despite the cold weather, crews are working hard to keep up with the increased demand for new homes. 
Katherine Michalets/Special to The Freeman

OCONOMOWOC - Under sunny skies Wednesday, workers installed a roof on a home under construction in Oconomowoc despite the frigid wind to help keep up with the increasing demand for new home construction in Wisconsin - but especially in Waukesha County.

“Everything is looking up; people are back out there,” said Paul Bielinski, chief operating officer of Bielinski Homes. “People are interested in new homes.”

In fact, Bielinski said, the industry is starting to see a property lot shortage, which was predicted but companies didn’t feel comfortable preventing by investing more money during the economic downturn.

“We have gotten a good reception from the municipalities; they are happy to see this start up again. They are pretty much letting us in with open arms.”
- Paul Bielinski, chief operating officer of Bielinski Homes.

Kirsten Lee Villegas, state executive officer of the Wisconsin Builders Association, said statewide there has been an 18 percent increase in the amount of single-family home permits being pulled when comparing January 2015 to January 2014.

The leading county for new permits is Dane County, followed by Waukesha County and then Brown County, she said.

In Waukesha County in January, there was a decrease of permits pulled compared to January 2014. Last month, 35 single-family home permits were obtained in Waukesha County, compared to 56 in January 2014, according to data from the U.S Bureau of Census. In Dane County, 60 single-family home permits were pulled in January 2015 compared to 45 the year before and in Milwaukee County there were four permits pulled in January 2015, five less than January 2014.

When comparing all of 2014 to 2013 the county had a sizeable increase; however, there was a total of 705 single-family home permits pulled in 2014, 48 more than 2013’s total of 657, according to the U.S. Bureau of Census.

In comparison, Dane County had 1,102 permits pulled in 2014 and 1,111 in 2013. Milwaukee County had 138 permits pulled in 2014 and 154 in 2013. Overall the state had a decrease of 4 percent in single-family home permits pulled in 2014 compared to 2013.

Villegas said the housing market for existing homes has become more stable, which in turn creates more confidence in homeowners to list their homes for sale to start construction on a new home. Also, land developers are “taking the plunge” to invest and develop land, which they sat on for years during the economic downturn, she said.

“It’s cause and effect,” Villegas said. “When one thing happens it triggers another thing and another thing.”

Other drivers for new home construction in Dane and Waukesha counties, she said, are job growth and available land to develop.

Matt Neumann, president of Neumann Companies, Inc., said as the weather improves people start to get out and actively search for their next home.

Neumann Companies is active in more than 20 communities, he said, and intends to construct nine new developments in 2015. Woodridge Estates in the Town of Delafield off Maple Avenue and Highway KE is a 2015 Parade of Homes site with homes being constructed right now, Neumann said. The first phase has nearly sold out so another phase is planned.

“We feel real good about the demand,” Neumann said, adding that “really good is based on the rotten years we had during the recession.”

New permits for single-family homes, he said, are still 50 percent lower than where they were during the peak prior to the recession, but that’s better than when they bottomed out at 80 percent beneath that amount, he said.

“I don’t think we are going to get back to the peak; there was overbuilding,” Neumann said.

Bielinski said his company is working on various new developments and in 2015 four existing projects will add a new phase to meet demand. Bielinski Homes is also constructing a single-family development in Dousman and three condo projects in Waukesha, he said.

Additionally, Bielinksi said banks are interested again in offering financing.

Another plus of the rebounding home construction market is the additional hires that businesses like Neumann Companies have been able to make. Neumann said his company has tripled in size since 2011. Including the different divisions of Neumann Companies, about 65 to 70 people are employed by them, he said, not including subcontractors.

Municipalities are also fairly eager to work with developers, Bielinski said.

“We have gotten a good reception from the municipalities; they are happy to see this start up again,” he said. “They are pretty much letting us in with open arms.”