Construction Slowed In 2019, But Values Up Slightly

By: Tim Wood

Construction slowed a bit in Chatham last year in terms of volume, but the value of the work increased by 8 percent. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM – Building activity in town slowed somewhat in 2019, with fewer permits issued for additions and new homes. The total estimated value of construction, however, rose slightly higher than in 2018.

The number of permits for new houses dropped by 26 percent, from 42 in 2018 to 31 last year. But the average construction value of new dwellings reported on building permits rose nearly 8 percent, from $779,825 to $841,714. That's still lower than the highest average new dwelling construction value, which was $930,068 in 2014.

The average home value in town now approaches $1 million, Town Manager Jill Goldsmith reported in her budget statement to selectmen Monday. The average home value based on assessing records now stands at $938,145. That represents a 275 percent increase from 2000, when the average home value was $249,975. She attributed some of the increase to inflation and material cost hikes, but said the increase “is indicative of a strong market demand for housing in Chatham and the type of homes being constructed.”

The total number of building permits issued in 2019 fell to 918 from 1,060 in 2018, a 13 percent drop. the 2018 figure may have been a spike, said Community Development Director Katie Donovan, as the total number of permits issued annually has been fairly consistent, in the 800 to low 900 range, since about 2014.

Last year, the total value of permits, however, was $78,608,470, up just under 1 percent over 2018. That excludes $1.4 million in public projects; if town construction projects are included, construction values were up 3 percent at $80,094,780.

“People are still putting money into their existing properties,” Donovan noted.

The drop in the number of new home permits may reflect the decreasing availability of buildable vacant land. Donovan noted that there were five- and 14-lot subdivisions in the previous few years but no new subdivisions last year.

Annual construction values have been rising steadily since 2016, after falling sharply that year from an all-time high of more than $86 million in 2015. The number of permits issued has also steadily increased over that period.

The number of demolition permits also dropped, from 24 in 2018 to 20 last year. The number of demolition permits has steadily decreased from a high of 45 in 2014.