October home building surges in Visalia

John Lindt

Seventy-nine permits were issued in October for single-family homes in Visalia

VISALIA – Visalia home builders got the memo in October- it’s time to ramp up construction of new homes while the market is hot.

Visalia permitted 79 new single-family homes in October 2020. The highest number in this COVID impacted year. The value of these new homes topped $20 million compared to $13.6 million in October 2019.

Nationally the market is strong as well. U.S. government figures show building permits in September were 5.2% above the rate in August, and 8.1% above the rate September 2019. Historically low interest rates added to the trend as demand for homes has spiked due the pandemic. New buyers include more renters who have now decided to buy. One study shows almost half (46%) of current renters say they would now prefer to own versus rent. That is equal to, potentially, 7.4 million new homebuyers in the U.S. The majority of them are younger (millennials and generation X groups combined), ranging in age from 25 to 44.

Another trend nationally matches what is happening locally—more renovation of existing homes. In Visalia in October new residential remodels were valued at $4.5 million versus $3.6 million the same month a year before.

Builders busy in Visalia include the top five—DR Horton, Beazer, Woodside, San Joaquin Valley Homes and Lennar.

Valencia plantings fail to keep up with the surge in demand

Tulare County grew more than 30,000 acres of juicy Valencia oranges in the mid-1990s. Back then, tangerine acreage was under 2,000 with lemons grown in Tulare County just 4,000 acres.

Now looking at the latest data from the 2019 crop report, Valencia trees have dropped to 13,800 acres in Tulare County—less than half from several decades earlier. Meanwhile growers have gone all-in for varieties of tangerines—now near 32,000 acres. Lemon plantings too have boomed with 2,350 acres of new trees and total lemon acres now standing at 13,250—a three-fold increase since 1995.

Clearly growers have been responding to market signals that consumers were loving those “easy peel” seedless tangerines/mandarins. Now lemons come seedless too. But they have pretty well forgotten the long standing Valencia fruit.

That was until this summer when bags of Valencia fruit have been flying off grocery shelves as COVID-19 jolted consumers into remembering the primal need for vitamin C. One Valencia orange can offer 70 to 100 milligrams of Vietnam-C: the daily requirement. Valencias are a summer fruit that ripens in Tulare County orchard coming off the trees around April and through the summer and available into November when the county hits the navel season.

Good prices

Growers selling Valencias in October were rewarded with higher prices for the fruit fetching $24 a carton for 138 size compared to $15.50 on the same date in 2019, according to Citrus Mutual.

As of 2018, growers here clearly had no inkling of how robust demand would get for juice oranges with just 44 acres of new trees in the ground.  Farmers here planted more young grapefruit than Valencias. New plantings of lemons including the new seedless variety are hot with new acres of trees recently planted adding up to to 2,350 with 10,900 bearing acres.

Sunkist convinced

In a recent consumer survey, Sunkist learned that the most important factor when buying citrus is the high Vitamin C content.

“Consumers are always interested in keeping their immune systems strong, and citrus is one of the easiest ways to consume this powerful antioxidant,” Julie DeWolf, Director of Marketing Operations at Sunkist Growers said.

“The research also divulged that consumers greatly prefer purchasing domestically grown products when they are available, so we have developed a ready-to-go marketing campaign to continue to support the citrus category and to keep the U.S.-grown promotions going strong.”

High in vitamin C, Valencia oranges are the only U.S.-grown orange variety in the summertime, earning its title, “The Official Orange of the American Summer.”

As to new plantings of the Valencia oranges, look for more young trees going into the ground this winter.

Residential trash overflowing with COVID

Tulare’s residential trash volume spiked this year according to a city report. With more people remaining at home and working there due to COVID-19, residential tonnage of trash collected by the city is up nearly 19% in September compared to the year before. Meanwhile the city’s commercial routes collected less tonnage in September: down 3.2%. Overall tonnage numbers were significantly higher at 5,279.6 tons, an increase of 11.9% compared to September 2019 (4,717.2 tons).

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