Sales of new homes fell off a cliff in May, the government announced last week, strongly suggesting what many had feared: A federal home buyers tax credit prompted a wave of purchases in the spring, but the end of that credit on April 30 knocked the legs out from under the market.

Well now we know.

Sales of new homes fell off a cliff in May, the government announced last week, strongly suggesting what many had feared: A federal home buyers tax credit prompted a wave of purchases in the spring, but the end of that credit on April 30 knocked the legs out from under the market. Granted, new homes are only a fraction of the housing market, but this is a pretty strong indicator. Nationwide, the Commerce Department reported, new-home sales fell 32.7 percent.

In Eastern Jackson County, the picture is a little less clear. Builders took out fewer permits for new single-family homes, but the numbers are too small to declare much of a trend. Thirty permits were issued in Eastern Jackson County in May, compared with 33 in April. Independence showed a jump – four to 12 – while others showed declines: Blue Springs, five down to three; Grain Valley, four down to one; and Lee’s Summit (Jackson County portion), 19 down to 10.

Across the metro area, builders took out 202 single-family home permits in May, off slightly from April’s 205. Those figures are reported by the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City, which tracks eight counties: Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass on the Missouri side and Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Miami on the Kansas side.

Backing up the microscope lens just a bit, 2010 is still looking better than the brutal 2009. In Eastern Jackson County, most cities are seeing gains:

 Independence, 29 permits in the first five months of the year, up from 12 in the same period of 2009.

 

 Grain Valley, 17, up from three.

 

 Lee’s Summit (Jackson County portion), 59, up from 20.

 

 Blue Springs has seen a slight drop, from 19 to 17.


Looking at the entire eight-county area, 1,030 permits have been issued so far this year, a healthy 37 percent jump from the first five months of last year – but still 62 percent lower than at the same point in 2008 and 80 percent lower than in 2006. In other words, the market is one-fifth of what it was just four years ago. Individual cities would sometimes issue 200 permits in a month, and now it takes the whole metro area to hit that mark.



Bye bye, old favorites

Face it: What parent is above a little bribery from time to time?

In my son’s case, all it took was blue Jell-O. When he was little, I would take him Christmas shopping – one grueling morning, get it all done, pretty much a guy thing – with the promise of lunch at Luby’s Cafeteria when we were done. It worked. The blue Jell-O seemed exotic when he was 6. Ah, simpler days.

But Luby’s left Independence years ago, and some of us still miss it. How many others – Boston Market, the Black-Eyed Pea, Perkins, dare I even mention White Castle? – seem like sure fits for our area but are now gone?

Well, guess who jumped in the other day to scoop up Fuddruckers, which has been under bankruptcy protection since the spring and which recently closed its Independence location as part of its slimming down and reorganization?

Yes, it was Luby’s. The deal is expected to close next month. Luby’s has had struggles of its own and is down to about 100 restaurants, almost all of them in Texas. Fuddruckers also has left the Kansas City market, even though its 200 restaurants stretch from coast to coast, with dozens of locations in the Midwest. Both Luby’s and Fuddruckers are based in Texas, which is a long way from Kansas City. Who knows what it will take to get back on their radar.