Construction jobs booming, but recent spike could level out

SEATTLE -- Years after the real estate bubble burst across Puget Sound, home prices and construction jobs are on the rise again. But there are warnings that the recent spike could level out and that some contractors might take advantage of customers.

From a massive apartment complex under construction downtown and giant cranes dotting the skyline in South Lake Union, to old home renovations in Queen Anne, construction around Seattle is booming.

It's better news than last year for concrete truck driver "Ox" with Stoneway Concrete.

"It was really bad," Ox said. "There were people who lost their jobs, laid off."

And for smaller contractors like Ron Carter, it's a life-saver.

"This area just seems to be booming again," Carter said.

Last summer amid the aftermath of the real estate bubble, Carter and hundreds of workers like him turned desperate for any job they could get their hands on just to pay the bills.

"I wasn't necessarily turning down jobs last year," Carter said.

This year, Carter's calendar is booked solid. However, contractor Paul Stoner says more construction jobs attract more fly-by-night, cash-only workers who are not licensed, bonded or insured and that could lead to insurance companies refusing payout if needed.

Then there are questions about what's driving the boom. An increase in demand for new homes and a low supply of construction materials means money galore right now, but what happens if that flip-flops and more people want to sell their homes as the market improves?

In other words, in the last two years, the median price for homes on the Eastside jumped up 16 percent to just under $600,000. Seattle is up 19 percent with the median price a little more than $450,000 while north King County is up 22 percent to a median price around $375,000.

Carter and others hope as more homes hit the market, the construction boom doesn't go bust.