After struggling through some harsh years in the residential construction business, builders are feeling more upbeat as traffic to model homes picks up and people buy more newly built homes than at any time since the housing crash.

2016 was the best year for homebuilders in the Chicago area since the housing crash and a national measure of builder confidence, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index, reflected the highest optimism in 12 years this month. The housing crash hit in 2008.

“It’s a lot better than it was, but it’s still slow,” said Pat Cardoni, secretary of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago and managing broker for Cardoni Real Estate Development. He said business is still being held back by a lack of confidence among buyers and lenders.

There were 6,800 newly constructed homes sold in the Chicago area in 2016, according to Metrostudy, a real estate research company. That remains tiny compared with the 36,000 sold in 2006, but represented a 13 percent improvement over 2015 and a huge improvement from the recessionary period when housing construction almost stopped.

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