In May, planning boards reviewed plans for hundreds of new residential lots, but a housing-market recovery is far from certain.

Also in May, the Johnson County planning board in North Carolina approved 124 new lots, including 85 in the proposed Crystal Creek subdivision, and Clayton's planning board temporarily tabled a proposal for 107 new lots in Cobblestone subdivision.

At the height of the boom, those numbers wouldn't have impressed anyone, but they are something of an improvement.

The seedling subdivisions were a sign of confidence among developers, who are frequently among the first to take risks in an improving market, according to Bernard Helm, a real estate market analyst.

Johnston County doesn't yet have a shortage of new homes, but a well-aimed and well-positioned new development could sell.

Buoying their business with a small portfolio of less-expensive properties, the developers of Crystal Creek have rode that demand for lower-priced housing through the recession.

Demand for inexpensive homes likely helps Johnston County's real-estate market, according to Helm.

Compared to last year, recent metrics show more movement in Johnston's market, but developers' interest could be plateauing or falling.

The county inspections department issued permits for 70 new homes this March, more than triple the number from March 2009.

In April, that number decreased when 38 permits were issued.

Worth up to $8,000, that fall-off could have stemmed from the April 30 expiration of a federal tax credit for first-time buyers.

In April, developers may have cut back on new homes, thinking that several potential buyers had already made their purchase.

Planning director for Clayton, Skip Browder, stated that the spike his department saw early in the year had already started to level out.

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