But the last four years have easily been the worst.
“I’ve had to refocus … it’s been a life changer,” Almaroad said, referring to the sluggish economy. “I had to quit developing and went back to basics … lots of remodeling and home additions.”
Almaroad, president of Sam Almaroad Construction in Jacksonville, was recently inducted into the Alabama Building Industry Hall of Fame, the highest honor presented by the Home Builders Association of Alabama. The accolade comes at a time when Almaroad’s industry is still reeling from the 2008 economic recession and has shown little signs of recovery.
The housing market crashed in 2008, followed by massive layoffs and home foreclosures. With a glut of foreclosed homes on the market, high unemployment and banks tightening lending, new home construction dwindled and has yet to recover.
Almaroad, one of only 80 people inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Alabama Building Industry’s 57-year history, said he appreciated the recognition.
“It was a prestigious honor for my peers to nominate me,” Almaroad said.
According to an Alabama Homebuilders Association press release, selection into the Hall of Fame is given in recognition of certain outstanding individuals who exhibit significant service to the residential housing industry in their communities and the state of Alabama.
“We don’t do it necessarily every year because the nominees may not be worthy,” said Lisa Watkins, spokeswoman for the Home Builders Association of Alabama.
For Sam Moses, president of the Home Builders Association of the Greater Calhoun County Area and owner of Moses Construction, Almaroad helped him get his start in the industry.
“I think a lot of Sam,” Moses said. “He is a well-respected builder in the state and national level and he’s well deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.”
But like Almaroad, Moses has seen his industry struggle in recent years.
“We really haven’t seen a huge upswing in building this last year,” Moses said. “We’ve been just doing a lot of remodeling all over the county.”
According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate, new home construction in the state has improved little in the past year. The statistics show new home permits in Alabama were up just 3.3 percent in September compared to the same month last year. Also, there was a 0.7 percent decrease in the amount of home permits issued between August and September.
Housing markets in Calhoun County have not fared any better. Oxford’s building department issued 34 new home building permits in Oxford and Talladega so far this year — compared to 27 issued during the same timeframe last year.
acksonville’s building department issued five new residential building permits so far this year, a decrease from the 11 issued during the same period last year.
Almaroad said he faced similar struggles in the industry when he first started in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
“Back in early ‘80s it was tough times — interest rates were as high as 21 percent,” Almaroad said.
In contrast, home loan interest rates have remained at record lows this past year, around 3 percent.
Still, business did eventually pick up, in no small part due to the activity at what was then Fort McClellan, Almaroad said.
Almaroad said the market will recover again like it did after the early 1980s, but it will not be anytime soon — not until more people can qualify for mortgage loans.
“Federal regulators tamped down after 2008 and put more regulations on lending and mortgages so now almost nobody is qualified to buy a house,” Almaroad said. “We’ve got to deal with it.”
Almaroad has been a member of Home Builders Association of the Greater Calhoun County area since 1985 and served three terms as its president. On the state level, Almaroad co-chaired the Home Builders Association of Alabama’s public relations committee, membership committee chair for two years and has been the membership retention co-chair for the past five years.