Optimistic - but guardedly so - is the buzzword for the local housing market.

After a brutal period since 2008 that devastated the housing industry, things are looking up this year, if only slightly.

In Brookings and throughout Curry County, house sales are up, the number of building permits issued has increased, and the mood is generally optimistic among those in the industry, from realtors to contractors.

"Things are definitely improved this year," said Rosann Hamilton, who works in the Curry County Department of Public Services. "Not as good as years back, but way better than it once was. It's showing signs of improvement."

From July 2012 to June 2013, 25 applications for single family dwellings were filed in Curry County. This is an increase from 2011-2012, when there were only 15 permits, and 2010-2011 when there were 17. In 2008-2009, there were 38 applications for single family dwelling building permits with the county.

It's the same story in Brookings, with slightly more single family dwelling applications than last year, up to three from only one a year ago. This is after five years of slow activity. The three single family dwellings constructed in Brookings have ranged in estimated construction costs from $110,000 to $300,000.

LauraLee Snook, who works in the building department for the city of Brookings, said a big part of the comeback has been in a couple of lower-income housing projects in the city, as well as several non residential projects over the last few years.

'Guarded optimism'

Things aren't as bleak as they have been, but David Frazier, president of the Curry County Home Builder's Association, said he is looking at the improvements with "guarded optimism."

"It's like we're on a teeter totter, and we are currently at that balanced point. It could really go either way," Frazier said. "It could go back to how it was in 2009 or tip to something positive."

When houses aren't built, it not only hurts contractors and subcontractors, Frazier says it also hurts the suppliers and everyone else in the chain.

"We lost a lot of contractors in the county because of the recession," Frazier said.

Frazier said the banks need to loosen up their lending policies, perhaps not to the extent they were before the crisis but some loosening would help the industry.

Housing sales increasing

"It started to recover in January of 2012," said Bryan Tillung, president of the Curry County Board of Realtors. "We saw the same results volume in sales in 2012 as we did in 2007. And in 2013 we are on track with 2012 and anticipate it will be better."

While Tillung said sales are up 5.6 percent over last year, the area is not seeing the robust sales that have started to take off in other areas of the country.

"Prices aren't declining but they are not increasing either," Tillung said.

But with economic growth, Tillung said prices will start to increase slightly over a period of several months, if not longer.

The median price for homes in the area is between $250,000 to $280,000.

When looking at historical sales performance, Tillung said that the market in Brookings tends to lag behind what is happening in California, Arizona or Medford. He said that in 12 months, the same sort of real estate transactions that are happening there will begin here.