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County real estate on the upswing

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By Sam Hickman

 SUPPLY— Homes are more affordable than they’ve been in the last five years in Brunswick County, said Steve Candler, CEO of the Brunswick County Association of Realtors.

Candler and other local real estate leaders spoke about this topic and more at the Association of Realtors’ Media Luncheon on March 18 in Supply.

Board president Wilson Sherrill presented the State of Brunswick County Real Estate to a group of more than 100 Realtors and real estate agents in the conference room at 101 Stone Chimney Place.

“Right now, we’re open for business,” Sherrill said. “It’s a great time to buy a home. The inventory in Brunswick County is down, but we’re certainly not out. It’s not as bad here as it is in other areas.

“We’re definitely on the rebound. There are plenty of homes for sale, there are great investments out there, there are great buys out there.”

Candler said he can’t remember a time in the last five years when homes were more affordable than they are right now.

“Things are a lot more stable,” he said. “The market is more predictable. Of course, anything can change that, but as of right now, it’s more predictable than it’s been in years past.”

Affordability is at a level Brunswick County residents and vacationers haven’t seen in quite some time because interest rates are historically low, Candler said.

“The market has opened up to more people,” he added, noting many of the county’s distressed properties are off the market.  “We’re hoping to see significant, steady growth in the next three to four years. The prices have moderated, and that certainly helps.

“It’s a great time to move from the snowy, cold Northeast, down to the beach. It’s absolutely a great time to buy a home.”

The luncheon also included presentations by six of the seven people vying for Congressman Mike McIntyre’s seat, as well as a presentation by County Manager Ann Hardy about the sales tax referendum on the May primary ballot in Brunswick County. The Association of Realtors’ board will vote Thursday, March 27, whether to support the county’s plan to add a quarter-cent sales tax increase if it’s approved by voters during the May primary.

 

Trends

Sherill noted several trends in 2013 based on numbers from the National Association of Home Builders and National Association of Realtors.

The average lot size has declined from about half an acre in both 2009 and 2011, while homes built in the Brunswick County region have are on average about 100 feet less than the peak in 2009.

Sherrill said the cost of constructing a home has changed significantly in the last few years. In 2013, a Brunswick County home was constructed on an average cost of $399,532 — up more than 25 percent from $310,619 in 2011 but significantly lower than $454,906 in 2007.

Finished lot costs dropped from 22 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2013.

Sherrill said many of the trends he has studied nationwide correlate with the market in Brunswick County.

For instance, single-family home sales in the United State have risen in the last three years from 3.7 million in 2011 to 4.5 million in 2013, according to the National Housing Statistics. The North Carolina Association of Realtors statistics show the Tar Heel State sold more than 40,000 single-family homes in 2013, an increase that mirrors the national trend.

In Brunswick County, Realtors and real estate agents sold almost 700 more single-family homes in 2013 than in 2011, but the prices dropped from an average of $240,228 in 2011 to $226,267 in 2013.

Statistics show that in this region, eight of 10 recent home buyers consider their home purchases a good financial investment.

“That’s great news,” Sherrill said. “It’s easy to see that people in this area, especially owners of second homes, see this as a business investment, not just a home.”

Eighty-seven percent of buyers 33 and younger viewed their recent purchase as a good investment while 74 percent those 68 and older felt their purchase was a good investment.

Sherrill said one of the most positive notes he took away from the 2013 outlook on real estate in this area was the number of young people buying homes.

Millennials, or people born between 1980 and 1995, comprised 31 percent of recent purchases in Brunswick County. The millennials have an average age of 29 with a median income of $73,600.

“It’s great to see these people buying homes,” Sherrill said. “This is one of the most positive trends.”

Members of Generation X, people born between 1965 and 1979, made up 30 percent of recent purchases and typically bought homes larger than those of the millennials.

Young boomers, born between 1955 and 1964, comprised 16 percent of recent buys, while older boomers, between 1946 and 1954, made up 14 percent of recent buys.

Sherrill said the silent generation, people born between 1925 and 1945, made up 9 percent of recent purchases.

“A lot of times you’ll see members of the younger generations building or buying multigenerational homes,” he said. “This is because lots of times in this area they’ll build an add-on or an annex in case one of their parents lives with them, situations like that.”

This contributes greatly to the fact 14 percent of all recent purchases were multigenerational households.

“You see that a lot in retirement communities,” Sherrill said.

 

Legislative goals

The Brunswick County Association of Realtors also outlined its goals for the 2014 legislative year. The association supports preserving the current-law provisions affecting real estate, given the role that real estate plays in the nation’s economy, Candler said.

The association is focused on preserving and protecting real estate tax provisions. It also supports the National Flood Insurance Program, which experienced major losses during Hurricane Katrina and was further damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The association also supports other disaster insurance programs because if owners can no longer afford insurance, taxpayers will still be on the hook for federal disaster rebuilding assistance, and more uninsured properties will require federal assistance.

One of the association’s chief legislative goals for 2014 is to ensure access to affordable property insurance.

In 2012, 27.6 percent of homeowners statewide agreed to consent-to-rate requests.

Charging rates that exceed the approved ceiling is permissible under state law if the homeowner signs a “consent to rate” form agreeing to the higher price. Insurers that ask consumers for such agreements invariably refuse to renew the policy unless the homeowner agrees to pay the higher rate, which in some cases has been more than 50 percent above the state-approved maximum.

Private property rights are also a major concern for the board, Sherrill said.

 

Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.