The Washtenaw County Home Builders Association has lost about 10 percent of its membership since the real estate bubble burst. “Some felt it was a good time for retirement,” says CEO

Maureen Sloan. “Some left the area with their spouses who were Pfizer employees. Some of the trades [people] moved down South—
of course, the South is hurting now too.” Yet Sloan remains optimistic: “We think it’s bottomed out.”

Jim Haeussler says that at the height of the boom, his Peters Building Company was selling eighty new homes a year. But demand dropped more than 50 percent between 2005 and 2006 and since has slowed almost to a standstill. But Haeussler, too, sees “rays of hope out there.”

No one needed to build when the resale market was glutted with bargains. But now, he says, the “Pfizer homes have worked through the market, and as for foreclosures, properties very attractive to purchasers—ones that don’t need major renovations—those are gone in Saline and Ann Arbor.” Starting around Thanksgiving, he began hearing from people who are thinking about building new homes. “We haven’t turned them into sales yet,” Haeussler says. “But we’ll sure try.”