Mark Brown was on a roll.
The senior vice president for finance and research at the Indiana Association of Realtors was telling attendees at the second annual State of the Bloomington Regional Economy why it was time to start talking again about growth in residential real estate.
Sales were up; average and median prices were up; home values had remained stable despite the recent recession.
Then, he got to slide No. 19 in the PowerPoint presentation: Monroe County single-family residential building permits, 1997-2011.
Brown paused and looked at the roller-coaster-like bar chart that peaked in 2003-04 and then dropped and dropped and dropped and dropped, all the way through 2011.
“I don’t know what to say,” Brown said after a few moments of silence. “I just don’t know what to say.”
He turned and looked over the audience gathered at the Bloomington Country Club.
“Any builders here?”
No one answered, and Brown continued with his upbeat assessment. In truth, many of the people in the room — bankers, real estate agents, developers — were painfully familiar with what the data showed. After more than a decade of steady, robust growth, new home construction in Monroe County didn’t just slow during the recession — it fell off a cliff.