Construction activity in the Morgantown metropolitan statistical area (MSA) hit the doldrums in early 2008, with a modest increase in single-family house prices and lower levels of construction starts, according to a new publication issued by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. The Morgantown MSA includes Monongalia and Preston counties.

Single-family house price appreciation in the Morgantown MSA hit 1.5 percent from the first quarter of 2007 to the same quarter of 2008,said George W. Hammond, associate director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER).That was well down from the 10.9 percent rate of the previous year and was below the state rate of 2.5 percent. Nationally, house prices were unchanged during the past four quarters.

In addition, the value of construction starts is down during the first five months of 2008, compared to the same period of 2007, according to data from FW Dodge,Hammond said.

That remains true even after removing the effects of the massive run-up in construction starts, due to the initiation of power plant projects in 2007.

“In particular, residential activity is currently running below 2007 levels due largely to fewer apartment starts, although single family activity is also running below 2007 levels,Hammond said.

Overall, while activity slowed in the Morgantown MSA in early 2008, the local area is likely to miss the worst of the national housing correction,Hammond concluded.

Morgantown house price appreciation was far higher than the outright house price declines posted by the Washington, Winchester and Hagerstown-Martinsburg metropolitan areas during the past year.

The June 2008 edition of the Morgantown MSA Economic Monitor contains the full analysis of these trends. The Monitor is a semiannual publication of the BBER . Copies of the publication can be found at http://www.bber.wvu.edu. ;