By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

New homes are still being constructed in Central Texas, and renters are still coming into vacancies in the area despite tightening in the national market.

Home builders have seen a downturn in the market, but as of late a lot of houses have been selling, said Terry Neiman, Central Texas Home Builders Association president and Neiman Homes owner.

"I think it will be up and down all year long," Neiman said.

Neiman admitted that home construction numbers were really high in years prior to the national economic downturn, and he is not expecting to see those number again anytime soon.

For cities such as Harker Heights, the month of February saw 12 permits for new homes, January was the same, said David Mitchell, Harker Heights Planning and Development director.

September 2008 started to see a dip in new home permits with 13 for the month, then five in October and eight in December, Mitchell said.

"In my tenure here that is a little low," Mitchell said. "We usually average about 20."

But in years past, it was not rare for Harker Heights to see a month with 40 to 80 new home permits, Mitchell said.

"I feel like the market is moving, but it is not crazy," Neiman said. "As long as we can keep our houses down to where people can afford them, then we are going to keep building."

What is important is that homes are still being constructed and that it has just not stopped, Mitchell said.

Renters also are still moving in according to local rental property management companies.

John Reider Properties rental homes have been at about 5 percent vacancies on average during the past couple of months, but in February and March were under 3 percent, said Danya Reider, co-owner of Reider properties.

JWC Rentals have seen a vacancy rate of about 15 percent in the past months, but it is improving, said Jim Wright, JWC owner.

Over the years, their vacancy rate has run between 3 percent and 7 percent, Wright said.

The reasons for the higher vacancy rate is not largely due to the national economy, both Wright and Reider said.

The overlap in Army deployments and longer deployments has affected the market, Wright said.

With longer deployments, family members of soldiers are likely to go where they have the family support instead of staying in Killeen, Reider said.

Because of troop movements and deployments, property managers have learned to function in a new environment, Reider said.

"Soldiers can live in a place for six months, three months, or less and get out of a lease because of clauses for deployments," Reider said. "The quick turnaround on those leases can really affect the home and the market."

Contact Mason W. Canales at or (254) 501-7554.

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