diamante homes custom patio designMetrostudy’s  Vice President, US Central Division, Jack Inselmann provided some pretty pleasing news at this year’s San Antonio Housing Forecast.

After a big slide down and a few years in the doldrums, area home builders appear to be heading toward better times.

Home builders are expected to start at least 10 percent more homes in 2012 than they did last year — the first double-digit bump for the industry since the 2006 market peak and subsequent downturn. And the Eagle Ford Shale play in South Texas could provide more opportunity for the local real estate industry.

It’s welcome news for builders, who hit a high of more than 19,000 home starts in 2006, then faced a painful five-year contraction and bottoming.

Although the housing market in San Antonio and other Texas cities weathered the recession better than just about anywhere else, it hasn’t been fun.

“It’s better than you think,” Jack Inselmann vice president of the U.S. Central Division of the housing research firm Metrostudy, told more than 500 builders, developers, bankers and other real estate professionals Friday.

Inselmann spoke at the Greater San Antonio Builders Association’s annual forecast breakfast at the Omni San Antonio Hotel, saying the recovery started in 2011, albeit at a glacial pace that “was almost invisible to the naked eye.”

The 2 percent improvement in building starts in 2011, when builders started 6,843 homes, should be trumped this year. And — barring some outside economic disaster — the good times should keep rolling from there.