Improving housing market

Area builders flock to Tour of Homes

‘It makes you feel good about the future,’ one prominent local home builder said; the tour runs through the end of the month

rburris@thestate.comSeptember 16, 2012 

  • If you go WHAT: Tour of Homes WHEN: Weekends through Sept. 30 TIME: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 1-6 p.m. Sundays INFO: Download a mobile tour app at www.columbiabuilders.com or pick up a free tour book at Columbia-area Russell & Jeffcoat Real Estate offices
  • Rent vs. buy It is now cheaper to own a home than rent in all 100 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, including in Columbia, Charleston and Greenville, according to a recent report by real estate search site Trulia. Rising rents, low mortgage rates and available tax breaks for homeowners are the driving factors. COLUMBIA Monthly cost of renting: $1,272 Monthly cost of homeownership: $607 Difference: -$665 Percentage difference: -52% CHARLESTON Monthly cost of renting: $1,643 Monthly cost of home ownership: $753 Difference: -$890 Percentage difference: -54% GREENVILLE Monthly cost of renting: $1,277 Monthly cost of home ownership: $629 Difference: -$649 Percentage difference: -51%

Builders are returning to the Midlands’ annual Tour of Homes as the real estate market makes a rebound in the area.

Home builders new to the Columbia area and some that have not participated recently this year are full partners in the event designed to showcase to potential buyers what is available in the community.

Twenty-one builders have entered 47 homes in the 2012 Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia Tour of Homes, which opened this weekend and continues through the final weekend this month, the trade group said. That’s up from 16 builders last year, officials said.

Strong participation in the tour is another positive sign an economic recovery is under way and that new-home builders anticipate that housing and the Columbia market will be part of it.

“It’s a feeling – just a feeling – but it makes you feel good about the future,” said Clint Galloway, of Galloway Family Homes in Irmo, which entered one new home in the tour.

“Even with suppliers, they feel good. And they haven’t felt good in years,” he said.

Home sales in the Columbia area rose 22 percent in August, compared to the same month a year ago and increased 37 percent from two years ago, according to a report last week from the S.C. Realtors Trade Group.

The Tour of Homes includes homes in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties, and the five featured communities are Hunter’s Run in Blythewood; Lake Carolina, The Park and Woodcreek Farms in Northeast Richland; and Saluda River Club in Lexington County.

Billed as “Columbia’s Largest Open House of New Homes for Sale,” the 47 homes on this year’s tour offer something for virtually every potential home buyer, according to association executive director Earl McLeod, with prices ranging from less than $150,000 to more than $700,000.

Still, the average price range for homes in this year’s show has drifted upward, McLeod said, to between $250,000 and $400,000. The average was closer to $250,000 last year, he said. That reflects data that the housing bust bottomed out about a year ago in Columbia when sales began to show year-over-year increases, inventories began to drop and prices started a slow rise.

Those trends are likely to continue, experts say, as the Federal Reserve last week disclosed plans to make monthly mortgage bond buys aimed at loosening up lending. The Fed also said it would keep record-low interest rates low through mid-2015, making home buying more affordable.

Some of the builders participating in this year’s tour, such as Blue Ribbon Homes, originally of Evans, Ga., are new to the Columbia area, having been in the local market just six months or so, McLeod said.

Other builders and communities on the tour such as Essex Homes and Mungo Homes, mentioned perennially among the top builders in the area, and Saluda River Club, touted as one of the best communities in the country, have had steady presences on the homes tour.

Entering the 2012 Tour of Homes was a “no-brainer” said Galloway, of the family-owned Galloway Homes. The builder is showing a five bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, all-brick house located in Lexington’s Scarborough Terrace.

“We like the neighborhood that it is in,” Galloway said. “We wanted to promote the neighborhood as well as that particular plan, which is unique. It’s a difference we have as compared to our competitors.”

The house, on a corner lot in Scarborough Terrace, features more than 3,400 square feet of space, with master bedroom suites on both the first and second floors, a 10-foot by 30-foot porch accessible from the second floor master, hardwood floors and granite countertops. It is priced in the upper $200,000s, he said.

Another builder showcasing homes on this year’s tour, after downsizing during the Great Recession, is McGuinn Homes, also a family-owned business located in Lexington, said Craig Connelly, McGuinn Homes marketing manager.

The builder, returning to the tour as business starts to pick up again, is showcasing homes ranging in price from $94,900 in Eagle Park near Percival Road and Forest Drive, to a 2,834-square-foot house in Lake Carolina, selling for $172,900. McGuinn won several recognitions for its designs in judging for this year’s Tour of Homes.

“This is the first time we’ve been on the tour in a few years,” Connelly said.

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