Taking a cue from real estate sales, which surged in the first quarter of the year in Wilton, building permits for everything from in-ground swimming pools to decks and home additions are up sharply this year.
The number of building permits filed for the first quarter that ended March 31 was 69, compared with a total of 38 the previous first quarter. That is an increase of nearly double, and bodes well for the local economy, which like most of Connecticut has struggled to recover from the Great Recession that began nearly 10 years ago.
“Yes, we’ve seen an uptick,” a permit clerk at the town’s Building Department said.
The reason for this is multi-faceted, said economist Steven Glazer of Norwalk Community College.
“Based upon these numbers, it appears that it is a positive trend. The explanation behind it is multi-faceted though, and probably varies from one individual to the next. First, it is a sign of people’s willingness to spend on enhancing their homes and does portend to growth in that sector for the next quarter or two,” Glazer said. “Another explanation for this is that last year, the nation was going through a presidential election and the uncertainty inherent in that. After the election, there is less of the unknown.”
What this increase in permits may indicate is faith in the economy, as evidenced by the continually increasing stock indices, Glazer said, and in people’s disposable incomes, making them more favorable to spend on the items for which they are taking out the permits.
The so-called election effect has had a profound impact on the single-family home market. Wilton turned in a powerful first quarter for single-family home sales, with 44 houses being sold, up from 26 a year earlier. That was a remarkable increase of 69.2%, and was the strongest showing of any town in lower Fairfield County.
It may not be advisable to read too much into the permit uptick, though. The winter months are typically slow, there is always an increase in permits in the spring, and it seems a great number of people waited until the election to start planning work, said Bob Root, the town’s building inspector.
“The market does not seem to follow any previous patterns. I have been involved in building for 40 years and I still cannot predict activity with any confidence,” Root said. “I expect an increase in commercial permits for the next year and a steady level on residential permits.”