It’s no secret the housing market has been in the toilet for a while now. In 2010, as I was working as a fresh-out-of-college community journalist in the Detroit metropolitan area, where I wrote more than one story about the drastic decline in building permits issued, even in the wealthiest of suburbs.

In one particular township, which is home to some of the biggest and most expensive homes in southeast Michigan (I was actually riding with a sheriff's deputy as he pulled over a well-known Detroit Pistons player for not using his turn signal outside his mansion ), the number of permits issued in 2010 was less than 10 percent of what it was five years prior. Half-developed subdivisions sit with streets leading to nowhere. Plots are overgrown with weeds and grass. Even the rich and fabulous refrained from new construction.

But, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, that’s all changing. Slowly. Finally!

New unit construction rose 12 percent from November to December of last year and was up 37 percent from one year ago. Single-family housing starts are up 24 percent over a year ago, and multifamily housing starts are up 30 percent from a year ago. The numbers still aren’t comparable to their pre-recession levels, but still – it’s an improvement.

So, what does this mean for contractors? Well, I may be new to the HVACR scene, but I’m smart enough to know that new homes need furnaces, air conditioners, controls, a plethora of other HVACR-related products and services, and, of course, a trustworthy contractor to call in case something goes wrong.

Each new family that moves into those new homes is a potential new customer. If you play your cards right, you may not only bring in a little extra business – you may make a customer for life.

How do you plan on taking advantage of the increase in residential new-build projects?